Understanding Oppression: Eating Disorders and Sexual Violence

Information on specific communities', groups', and identities' experiences with eating disorders is shown on this page to help inform prevention and outreach efforts and cultivate culturally informed services. 


Oppression has historically played a large role in the work around eating disorders and sexual violence prevention and response. Stone imageNot all people are valued equally, and many experience discrimination based on their racial or ethnic identity, gender, orientation, age, appearance, or ability. Resources shown here offer information on communities and people that research and practice around eating disorders and sexual violence have traditionally overlooked.

Eating disorders across the lifespan
Eating disorders within specific communities and identities
Eating disorders and gender- or sexuality-based identities


Eating Disorders Across the Lifespan

Previous research findings typically focused on teenage girls as those most affected by eating disorders. However, there is a variety ofFamily Swimming image recent research that describes an alarming increase of eating disorders among young children and people in later life. It is important for treatment providers to understand the range of those affected by eating disorders and the related implications for intervention. 
 General Overview
 Eating Disorders across the Lifespan (webpage) by Edward J. Cumella, Counselor: The Magazine for Addiction Professionals (2005). This article focuses on the emergence of eating disorders within populations including the elderly, males, women in middle age, and pre-adolescent children.  
Clinical Report - Identification and Management of Eating Disorders in Children and Adolescents (PDF) by the American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). This report discusses the recent increase of eating disorders (119%) in children under the age of 12.
 New Study Examines Early-Onset Eating Disorders in Under 13s, UK (webpage) by Medical News Today (2011). This news article discusses a research study in the UK that examines eating disorders among children ages 5-13.
(24 p.) by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2005). Special focus is given to how disordered eating affects the learning process, the importance of early detection, and how the school community can prevent eating disorders.
 Kids and Eating Disorders (online resource) by the Nemours Foundation (2008). This resource is specifically for children and provides an overview of eating disorders in simple language or through audio recordings.
Youth and young adults
Dying to Be Thin (video) by NOVA/PBS (2000). This is a documentary on the increase of eating disorders among young women. This video provides interviews with women who suffer from eating disorders and conversations with treatment providers who are making advances in eating disorder treatment.
Treating Eating Disorders in Teens and Young Adults (webpage) by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care (2009). This is a website for treatment providers that offers suggestions for screening and treatment. Discussion includes the SCOFF questionnaire for detection of eating disorders and how to properly use the tool.
Facts for Families: Teenagers with Eating Disorders (2 p.) by American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2008). This is a factsheet that provides tips for identifying the symptoms of anorexia and bulimia in teenagers.
What’s Up? Information for Adults Who Care About Teens (3 p.) by Washington State Department of Health (2003). This information includes statistics about prevalence, causes, health consequences, and how adults can help prevent and address eating disorders.
An Older Generation Falls Prey to Eating Disorders (webpage) by Tara Parker-Pope (2011). This article discusses the surge of older women who are suffering from eating disorders. It provides an anecdotal account of a woman who sought services in her 50s.
Eating Disorders and Older People (2 p.) by United Healthcare (2005). This information sheet discusses eating disorders among middle-aged women and senior citizens. It provides risk factors, related problems, and information about treatment and recovery. 
Eating Disorders in Middle and Late Life: A Neglected Problem (3 p.) by Kathryn J. Zerbe (2003). This study examines the proliferation of eating disorders in middle and later life. Case studies are used to understand how transitions in middle to later life, loss, and cultural attitudes about aging are related to the emergence of eating disorders.
Food and Weight Preoccupation during Midlife (4 p.) by Merryl Bear, M.Ed. (2004). This document examines cultural, biological, and psychological factors involved when women in midlife develop eating disorders or relapse into disordered eating that began in early life.
People in Later Life


 Elderly Anorexia? (2 p.) by. Myra J. Horner (n.d.). This document discusses the prevalence of eating disorders within elderly populations. Includes information about recognizing the disorders, motivational factors, and treatment suggestions.
Body Image and the Aging Female (3 p.) by Eboni J. Baugh (2009). This information sheet examines how body image problems lead to disordered eating in later life. It includes a discussion about gerontophobia, ageism, and body image across the lifespan.
Laura was Killed by Anorexia: She was 80 (webpage) by India Faulkner-Wiley (2001). This author of this article writes about her grandmother’s death from anorexia. She discusses some of the causes of eating disorders in later life and draws parallels between symptoms in early life and those experienced during the later years. 

Eating disorders within specific communities and identities:

 Couple cooking imageAny person can experience an eating disorder, but research on eating disorders has been very limited in scope. Additionally, some of the populations discussed here have been shown to be at higher risk for experiencing sexual trauma.  The information in this section discusses the experience of eating disorders among populations of people who have historically been underserved.  A person may identify with one or more of the groups discussed in this section. Resources shown here can be useful in a counseling or education setting, or when doing outreach work within the larger community.

People living in poverty or Working Class Identity
About-Face facts on socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and the thin ideal (2 p.) by Liz Dittrich. This resource discusses acculturation, the process of becoming “main stream,” and the impact on eating disorders among various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Association between socioeconomic status, weight, age, and gender, and the body image and weight control practices of 6- to 19-year-old children and adolescents (12 p.) by Jennifer A. O’Dea and Peter Caputi (2001). According to this research article, concerns about weight and body image most effect overweight girls of middle to upper socio-economic status (SES). It also reports that children and adolescents of low SES, particularly boys, do not tend to report a negative body image despite being overweight.
Epidemiological study of the influence of family and socioeconomic status in disorders of eating behavior (7 p.) by A Rodrı´guez Martı´n, JP Novalbos Ruiz, JM Martı´nez Nieto, L Escobar Jime´nez and AL Castro de Haro (2004). In a research study assessing the relation between family dysfunction, socioeconomic status, and eating disorders, the researchers found that socioeconomic status did not have a significant relation to increased disordered eating behaviors.
The Relationship Between Eating Disorders and Socioeconomic Status: It’s Not What You Think (6 p.) by Pat Gibbons (2001). This article discusses the relationship between eating disorders and socioeconomic status, challenging the perception that eating disorders do not affect people of low socio-economic status.
Latin@ and/or Spanish-speaking Identity
NEDA Español (online resources) by National Eating Disorders Association. NEDA presents many of their fact sheets in Spanish, including ¿Qué Causa un Trastorno de la Conducta Alimentaria?
(Factors that May Contribute to Eating Disorders), ¿Qué Me Esta Sucediendo?  (What's Going on With Me), and Diez Pasos Hacia una Imagen Positiva (Ten Steps to Positive Body Image), among others.
No te hagas pequeña Campaign (website) by ShamansDance. The “No te hagas pequeña” campaign is a national campaign designed by Latinas for Latinas to combat mainstream pressure to be thin in American culture.
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Native, American Indian (AI) or Alaska Native (AN) Identity
The Impact of Eating Disorders on Native-Americans Revealed by New Study (1 p.) by the Eating Disorders Coalition (2011). This short article shares the findings of a new research study which found both similarities in prevalence and symptoms compared to white men and women.
Eating Disorders Information Sheet: American Indian and Alaska Native Girls (2 p.) by the Office on Women’s Health. This information sheet provides information on risk for eating disorders, body image, acculturation issues, and preventive actions for AI/AN girls.
Asian American and/or Pacific Islander Identity
Asian American Women, Stereotypes, and Eating Disorders: Feeding on Stereotypes (5 p.) by Devon Haynie (2007). This article discusses stereotypes faced by Asian American women struggling with eating disorders and negative body image. Stereotypes, perceptions, and cultural pressures can lead to harmful behaviors, but common misperceptions make diagnoses by professionals are less likely.


African American or Black Identity
African American Women and Eating Disorders (Audio podcast) by Joy Keys (2010). This radio broadcast includes interviews with experts on eating disorders and the author of the book, Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat, Stephanie Covington Armstrong. Participants discuss some of the unique issues faced by African American Women, including altered body image ideals.
Exploring race, ethnicity, and eating disorders
Eating Disorders and Minorities (3 p.) by Marian Fitzgibbon and Melinda Stolley (2000). This article suggests that Minority men and women are just as affected by eating disorders as Caucasian women, but misperceptions developed because research efforts were limited in the populations studied.
Eating Disorders in Women of Color (2 p.) by National Eating Disorders Foundation (2005). This fact sheet shares some of the factors and information on eating disorders experienced by women of color. Increasing research suggests that eating disorders impact women of color, disbanding the previously held impression the cultural influences about body image may serve as a protective factor against eating disorders. (references)
Multicultural Issues and Eating Disorders by Jacquelyn Ekern (2010). This article compares eating disorders among Caucasian, Latin@, African American, Native American, Asian, and Pacific Islander people. It explores values and cultural norms specific to each ethnic group and identity within the United States.
Exploring better access to care for Minority, Underserved Populations (3 p.) by Mary K. Epstein (2001). This resource discusses challenges faced and actions to take in an effort to increase access to care for minority and underserved populations facing eating disorders. She discusses the impact of media, advertising, and portrayals in popular culture as areas for improvement.

Eating Disorders & gender- or sexuality-based identities

In this section, resources discuss the prevalence of eating disorders among men, young men, and boys and among people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer (LGBTQ). Just as with the sexual violence movement, these populations of people were commonly ignored or overlooked as groups that could develop an eating disorder.

Men, young men, and boys
Boys, Body Image, and Eating Disorders (2 p.) by Chris Haltom (2006). Informing on the experience of eating disorders by boys the author discusses the impact of poor body image during puberty.
Males and Eating Disorders (3 p.) by ANAD, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (2011). Information on this page addresses the prevalence and challenges associated with men and boys who develop eating disorders. It includes personal stories and information for people addressing these issues within the workplace.
Males and Eating Disorders: Research (3 p.) by National Eating Disorders Association (2005). Research discussing gender differences in eating disorders is discussed. Statistics on prevalence, body image, dieting and exercise practices of both male and female respondents are presented in an effort to shed light on the prevalence of disordered eating among men and boys.
Strategies for Prevention and Early Intervention of Male Eating Disorders (1 p.) by National Eating Disorders Association (2005). Many of the recommendations for prevention and early intervention of male eating disorders align with the recommendations for creating social change that will eliminate rape culture. These strategies include encouraging men to explore and value feelings, social and gender roles, and valuing body image and sexuality.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) Identity
Body Image and Eating Disorders within the GLBT Community (1 p.) by William Jarvis and Holly Gomez. This resource discusses the increased rate of eating disorders reported by gay and bisexual men and challenges the myth that eating disorders only affect heterosexual women.
Eating Disorders in Gay Men – Current Issues (6 p.) by Miles Cohen. The article shares information on presentation of eating disorders in gay men, masculine body image, and other unique risk factors. Cohen also discusses what can be done for prevention and early detection of these disorders.
Is Abuse in Childhood a Risk Factor for Eating Disorders among Gay and Bisexual Men? (2 p.) from Eating Disorders Review (2007). This page shares information gathered from a community-based study of gay and bisexual men. The study findings reported that men with a history of child sexual abuse were more likely to have developed an eating disorder.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Teens at Risk for Eating Disorders (1 p.) by Hugh C. McBride (2011). A section of this site is devoted to treatment of bulimia nervosa shares information from a study that found LGBT teens had an increased risk for developing an eating disorder. It also discusses some options for teens seeking help and repeated victimization.
LGBT Youth and Eating Disorders (PowerPoint) by National Youth Advocacy Coalition. These slides, from a presentation addressing eating disorders among LGBT youth, discuss basics of eating disorders, unique factors that influence the development of these disorders among LGBT youth, and barriers to seeking help or services.