The Journal of Adolescent Health published a study of 1,866 eleven to twelve-year-old Latina girls, indicating that the prevalence of eating disorders among American Latinas has grown to match that of Caucasian girls, wherein about one in three young women suffer with eating disorders. As young women with diversified ethnic backgrounds identify more and work to fit in with American culture by embracing the values perpetuated by the media and societal beliefs, one of which is that a thin, curve-less body is the physical ideal. This conformity is incredibly damaging to the American Latina culture as it opens the door to increased body dissatisfaction, a risk factor for developing eating disorders, in which restricting food, severe weight loss, bingeing and purging can become intertwined with depression.
Karla Alvarez, a forty-one-year old Latina telenovela star died at her home early in November, and it has been suggested that the cause of her death was due to complications from anorexia and bulimia. As the Latina community mourn this loss, there is a surge of awareness that eating disorders can and do kill, with eating disorders having the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness.
In our book, Making Peace with Your Plate: Eating Disorder Recovery, we (Robyn Cruze and Espra Andrus, LCSW) challenge that any pressure someone feels to make her body a certain weight or size to fit a cultural ideal is falling victim to the lie that a person’s worth is related to the appearance of her body. We present tools to help readers discover their authentic power, which we believe lies in their individual history, value, and worth and how to create a strategy to free them from the captivity of our culture’s narrow view of what makes people desirable.
As the epidemic of eating disorders continues to increase, it is vital to understand the impact of cultural and media expectations on the beliefs and behaviors of girls and women of all races. Eating disorders are fatal and finding authentic power is key to breaking free from society’s encouragement of eating disorder behavior and the lies that dictate that bodies must be “one size fits all.”