Eating Disorder Book Excerpt
I was asked to ghostwrite a book about eating disorder (ED) sufferers who did not fit the traditional stereotype. The author conducted research among online ED communities, and this is an excerpt from the book that talks specifically about EDs within minority or unexpected groups.
|Eating Disorders in the Trans Community
One factor that greatly increases the risk of eating disorder is being transgender. Trans people are frequently forced as children and teens to live as a gender that feels “wrong” to them, and they develop a sense of hatred for their bodies at an early age. For trans men who had to endure puberty as a woman, the fat deposits of puberty around the breasts and hips can be especially troubling. And since trans people are more likely to endure sexual violence than cis people, trauma can also play a strong role.
Once transition begins, trans people are more likely to focus intently on the condition and appearance of their bodies. This focus can easily inspire or feed an eating disorder. Trans men may be trying to lower their body fat so that their breasts and buttocks will shrink. Trans women may be trying to lower their weight so that they’ll be perceived as being “attractive” (skinny). In any event, the early body hatred and feeling of being out of control of the bodily processes of puberty can create an eating disorder that can last a lifetime.
Eating Disorders among People of Color
As with trans people, eating disorders in people of color may stem from early childhood feelings of being out of control of their bodies. People of color raised in primarily white societies may have a sense of feeling “different” from an early age. Racism (both overt and subtle) can play an important role in encouraging disordered eating with people of color. There may be pressure to “look white”, which encourages everything from skin lightening to hair extensions to trying to be “skinny”. And there is societal pressure on people of color to “look white”, which is reflected in media and marketing.
Non-white models and actresses tend to have more Caucasian features: a narrow face, a slim body, long and straight hair, and lighter skin tones. While media doesn’t necessarily feed eating disorders, it does express a societal version of what is “pretty”.
In addition to racism, people of color are more likely to be victims of personal violence, which can lead to trauma-based eating disorders.
Eating Disorder among Men and Boys
Men and boys are usually considered to be exempt from eating disorders, but nothing could be further from the truth! Socially, muscular men are considered to be more desirable, but even these muscular men tend to have very low levels of body fat. As one male sufferer said, “It’s a lot easier to get laid when you have a six-pack.”
But male ED sufferers are not always looking to get laid, and to attribute eating disorders to an effort to attract a mate is short-sighted and inaccurate. Male ED sufferers among the gay community are common, in part due to some of the same factors that encourage ED in trans people (discrimination, abuse, trauma, body image, etc.).
Even heterosexual men can suffer from eating disorders. Men have body image issues, too, and men also suffer from depression, anxiety, trauma, OCD, and other mental illnesses that are generally comorbid with EDs.