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.