Posts Tagged ‘Bulimia’

Understanding Eating Disorders in the Hispanic & Latinx Community

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Our society continues to perpetuate the myth that eating disorders are an issue primarily affecting young, thin white women. While research on eating disorders in marginalized groups has improved, our society has a long way to go to truly understand the scope of eating disorders within underserved populations.  For example, though rates of binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa in the Hispanic community are often the same or greater than in non-Hispanic white communities, they often go undetected due to stereotypes about eating disorders (Alegria et al., 2007).

Racism is embedded in the world at large and trickles down to national and state levels, institutions, policies, procedures, and systems of care. Its presence also heavily predicts both mental and physical health outcomes. By educating ourselves on the lived experiences of Hispanic and Latinx Americans and learning how racism operates within the systems that provide services, we can build our collective cultural humility and ultimately improve access to care and health outcomes for this community.

Read on to learn the prevalence of eating disorders in the Hispanic and Latinx population, the factors that influence the development of these illnesses, and the barriers to treatment for this community. 

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How Healthcare Providers Can Identify Eating Disorders in People of Color

Woman using computer on couch

Eating disorders have stereotypically been associated with slim, white, young, heterosexual, cisgender women. In reality, eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of how they look or identify. Eating disorders are brain-based biological illnesses that have complex causes and require specialized care. However, the stereotypical idea of someone with an eating disorder has serious ramifications on who is diagnosed and who then receives proper treatment.

Consequences of the Thin, White Woman Stereotype

Historically, there has been a misconception that eating disorders affect only thin, young, white females. Early research was conducted on only white women, which led people to believe eating disorders were only a white woman’s disease. Despite most providers now knowing that this is false, the initial belief had serious implications for eating disorder treatment today.

This initial stereotype became ingrained in the larger society, with both patients and healthcare providers working under the assumption that eating disorders only happened in certain individuals. Not only did this lead to providers missing eating disorder diagnoses in people of color, but it also caused people of color to question if they really had disordered eating that was worthy of treatment.

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Physical Effects of Bulimia Nervosa

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What is Bulimia?

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by bingeing and purging. People diagnosed with bulimia frequently binge on food, eating thousands of calories in a single episode. Feelings of shame and disgust often accompany these binge eating episodes, leading to purging behaviors such as vomiting, laxative abuse, over-exercising, and/or fasting. This compensatory behavior is a tell-tale sign that an individual is suffering from bulimia. Despite attempts to lose weight by purging, those with bulimia generally maintain a body weight that is normal or slightly above average.

According to the DSM-5, the following criteria must be met for an individual to be diagnosed with bulimia (please note that if all of the following are not met, an individual may still have a serious eating disorder that requires treatment):

  1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
    1. Eating, within a two-hour window, an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances.
    2. Lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that you cannot stop eating or control how much you are eating).
  1. Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications, fasting, or excessive exercise.
  2. The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur, on average, at least once a week for three months.
  3. Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.
  4. Binging or purging does not occur exclusively during episodes of behavior that would be common in those with anorexia nervosa.

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What is Purging?

A woman in a bathroom stares at herself in the mirror

**Content warning: This post includes discussion of purging behaviors. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.

A characteristic of certain kinds of eating disorders is a behavior called purging. The act of purging is often used as a way of compensating for food intake in order to influence body weight or shape. Purging is not specific to one kind of eating disorder and can occur in those experiencing bulimia, anorexia, and OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder). This behavior is very serious and requires professional help.

In this blog, we will discuss different types of purging, warning signs, physical effects, and treatment options.

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Episode 69: Mindful Self-Compassion with Erin Werner

Erin W

Episode description: 

Erin Werner is a mental health administrator, student, makeup artist, and ordained minister who enjoys being present with her family, cooking, and baking. In this episode of Peace Meal, she shares her eating disorder experience, including the factors that contributed to her illness, her process of seeking help, and the power of mindful self-compassion in her recovery.

Erin recounts her struggle with multiple eating disorders, illnesses that were characterized by bingeing, restricting, and purging throughout her adolescence and into her 20s. She then explains how, with the help of her parents, she started therapy and learned to identify the factors and co-occurring issues that were masking and influencing these conditions. Over time and with professional help, she learned the skill of mindful self-compassion, which was critical to her recovery. She shares how she has developed better coping mechanisms through the practice of self-compassion and overall feels more at peace with herself, her body, and food. In addition to finding a passion for cooking, she can now see food for what it is, fuel for the body. 

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Strategies for Grocery Shopping in Eating Disorder Recovery

A person selecting produce in a grocery store

The average number of products in a grocery store tops 28,000, according to the Food Marketing Institute. It’s enough to overwhelm any shopper. For those with eating disorders, the tremendous selection can further heighten difficulties with food and make grocery shopping an errand that is anything but enjoyable.

Food is a common preoccupation and trigger in eating disorders of all types, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and OSFED. Thoughts of food often consume the day, as do rules of what, when, and how much should be eaten. The abundance of food at the grocery store can exacerbate these thoughts, sparking significant anxiety, fear, and distress upon entry. Factor in the store aisles awash with food labels and fellow shoppers commenting on food, and it’s no surprise that the grocery store is a highly stressful environment for those with eating disorders.

In this article, we provide several strategies for grocery shopping in eating disorder recovery. Learn how to navigate the shelves in person or virtually, and ensure you check out with items that serve your recovery.

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