More than 30 million people in the US and 1.6 million people in the UK alone are affected by eating disorders. Eating Disorder Awareness Week was set up to shed light on the issue and dispel myths about EDs. But based on the many stories published this week on those struggling, argues Salma Haidrani, you might think that all of these millions of people are white. This is a dangerous myth.
“Pieces on eating disorders — be they thoughtful think pieces or ‘diet by day, binge by night’ clickbait — are more often than not accompanied by the obligatory stock image of a white woman (and typically an affluent-looking one at that),” says Haidrani.
Celebrity self-help and research, too, has largely erased the experiences of women of color. Little to no research on EDs has been conducted with participants from racial and ethnic minority groups.
“All of this is particularly troubling,” notes Haidrani, when you consider that EDs among women of color are actually on the rise.”
This failure to acknowledge that non-white women are also affected by eating disorders leads to invisibility and more shame. It’s hard enough to ask for help.