Recently there have been numerous news stories about the increasing rates of eating disorders among populations previously thought to be largely unaffected by ED: women of color, Orthodox Jews, men and older women. There is a misconception that ED doesn’t occur in a particular group or community if it isn’t widely discussed, or if being thin isn’t the standard of beauty by which bodies are judged.
One of the challenges in estimating the prevalence of ED in a particular group is that the stigma may be quite strong, thus discouraging individuals from seeking treatment or speaking out. For example, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) exact numbers of the prevalence of ED among women of color are not known due to a lack of research on this group. However, it is now clear that their rates for reporting and seeking treatment are indeed increasing. The singer/actress Brandy made headlines in April when she revealed that she had suffered from an eating disorder while shooting on the sitcom “Moesha” when she was in her teens.
The good news is that as awareness of ED in these populations is increasing, so too are those who are speaking out and educating others. Organizations like Men Get Eating Disorders Too and individuals like NEDA Ambassador Vic Avon are working to shatter the myth that men don’t suffer from ED. Others like Stephanie Covington Armstrong are fighting for visibility of ED in the African-American community. This year’s NEDA Conference is also addressing the subject, with a specific track on diversity and special issues, including underserved populations.
Every voice speaking out about ED is helping to shatter the stigma and educate, but it is especially vital that the voices come from a range of backgrounds and experiences. ED doesn’t discriminate and can impact individuals, families and communities from all walks of life. Speak out and make the myth of “ED is not in my community” disappear.
From our YouTube channel, an interview with Karla Mosley (actress and eating disorder survivor)