According to research, the Hispanic and Latinx community and culture may contribute to disordered eating behaviors. A study using a nationally representative sample has reported that within the Latinx population, the rates of anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorder are comparable to non-Latinx White people.1 However, the prevalence of bulimia nervosa is higher among Latino men than non-Latinx White men.1 The data may have looked different if it had considered the diversity of the Latinx community (Mexicans, Peruvians, Cubans, etc). As a result, prevalence data may not provide an accurate picture and could easily be skewed. Additionally, eating disorder assessments may be biased as clinicians may not recognize their own bias and stigma, possibly hindering Latinx individuals from seeking treatment.2 Therefore, eating disorders are a significant public health issue within the Latinx community, and understanding Latinx community and culture may help aid with future eating disorder interventions. 

Belonging to a family and being proud of one’s ethnic identity is important within the Latinx community. Familismo (familism in English) is a central Latinx cultural value that emphasizes family unity and loyalty.3 One study found that at high levels of familismo, the relationship between acculturation to mainstream U.S culture of “thinness” and eating disorder symptomology (loss of control eating, body dissatisfaction, and restrictive eating) was weakened.4 Thus, having strong family values may help one to stay true to oneself, even when exposed to the American culture that promotes thinness as beautiful.  Further, interventions that have incorporated familismo have been found to improve treatment engagement and health outcomes for Latinx patients with eating disorders5,6.  

Having an ethnic identity has been shown to be a protective factor among Latinx youth for positive mental health outcomes.7 However, a study among Mexican adolescent girls demonstrated that one’s ethnicity may not be protective against the thin ideal internalization, subsequent body dissatisfaction, or eating disorder symptoms.8  Regardless, future research should still consider ethnic identity and its relevance, especially among Latinx youth, considering the limited research available. 

Future interventions should also explore the language used within Latinx cultures as they may encourage disordered eating. Among some Latinx families, it may be common to hear family members commenting on another’s size or body type by giving nicknames such as “gordita” that may be received offensively. Since familismo is a central Latinx cultural value, the family should be incorporated into culturally tailored interventions for this population. By doing so, eating disorder triggers such as weight-related comments may be shared and addressed among family. 

Eating Disorder Resources for the Latinx/e Community:  

https://yourlatinanutritionist.com

https://www.nalgonapositivitypride.com/eating-disorder-harm-reduction-community-circle-1

https://healthyhispanicliving.com/mental_health

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/find-help-support?gclid=CP_7zanvob0CFY1xOgod920ANQ

https://nceed.3cimpact.com/resources-family-members-friends

References 

  1. Marques, L., Alegria, M., Becker, A. E., Chen, C. N., Fang, A., Chosak, A., & Diniz, J. B. (2011). Comparative prevalence, correlates of impairment, and service utilization for eating disorders across US ethnic groups: Implications for reducing ethnic disparities in health care access for eating disorders. The International journal of eating disorders, 44(5), 412–420. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.20787 
  1. Becker, A. E., Hadley Arrindell, A., Perloe, A., Fay, K., & Striegel-Moore, R. H. (2010). A qualitative study of perceived social barriers to care for eating disorders: perspectives from ethnically diverse health care consumers. The International journal of eating disorders, 43(7), 633–647. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.20755 
  1. Valdivieso-Mora, E., Peet, C. L., Garnier-Villarreal, M., Salazar-Villanea, M., & Johnson, D. K. (2016). A Systematic Review of the Relationship between Familism and Mental Health Outcomes in Latino Population. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 1632. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01632 
  1. Bettendorf, S. K., & Fischer, A. R. (2009). Cultural strengths as moderators of the relationship between acculturation to the mainstream U.S. Society and eating- and body-related concerns among Mexican American women. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56(3), 430–440. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016382 
  1. Reyes-Rodríguez, M. L., Baucom, D. H., & Bulik, C. M. (2014). Culturally Sensitive Intervention for Latina Women with Eating Disorders: A Case Study. Revista Mexicana de trastornos alimentarios, 5(2), 136–146. https://doi.org/10.1016/s2007-1523(14)72009-9 
  1. Reyes-Rodríguez, M. L., Watson, H. J., Barrio, C., Baucom, D. H., Silva, Y., Luna-Reyes, K. L., & Bulik, C. M. (2019). Family involvement in eating disorder treatment among Latinas. Eating disorders, 27(2), 205–229. https://doi.org/10.1080/10640266.2019.1586219 
  1. Serrano-Villar, M., & Calzada, E. J. (2016). Ethnic identity: Evidence of protective effects for young, Latino children. Journal of applied developmental psychology, 42, 21–30. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2015.11.002 
  1. Austin, J. L., & Smith, J. E. (2008). Thin ideal internalization in Mexican girls: a test of the sociocultural model of eating disorders. The International journal of eating disorders, 41(5), 448–457. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.20529 
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