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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Breaking Eating Disorder Perceptions

    When people think of eating disorders, they often associate it with white women. Although most women who develop eating disorders tend to be white, many women from other ethnicities are affected as well. The sorority Zeta Phi Beta sponsored a program entitled ‘Black Women with Eating Disorders’ to illuminate this problem.
    Many students that attended the event seemed to believe the same misconception of eating disorders as being a white or suburban problem, but growing evidence indicates that African-American are also falling prey to these disorders. One question that arises is concerning why many women of color are falling prey to eating disorders. A panel consisting of experts from the Women and Gender Resource Center included Smita Majumbar, a post-doctoral resident, and Michael Bombardieri Ph.D. Dr. Bombardieri stated, ‘Research indicates, that it seems as African American women assimilate into the majority culture, they begin to internalize the same way as their white counterparts, so black women begin to develop the same issues about food and body image.’
    Majumbar explained that women who suffer from eating disorders develop disoriented images about themselves. Women of color are torn between identifying with two body ideals: the ideal desire by the dominate culture to be extremely thin and the historic appreciation for women with curves.’
    These women are often unable to receive the help they need because eating disorders are considered taboo in their community. Angelica Jones, an African American woman who suffered for bulimia and anorexia, recalls the first time her parents were notified about her problem, she states, ‘My parents reaction to my eating disorder was ‘here’s a burger and eat. You will be alright.’ And after that we never spoke about it.’
    According to the National Eating Disorder Screening Program, 15 percent of all young women have substantially disordered eating behaviors. Of that number, some two to three percent develop bulimia and about one percent becomes anorexic.
    In the words of one speaker, Mari Hall, ‘It starts with the younger generation, and we need to encourage them to be their own people. Tell them that they are beautiful and teach them to have mental strength.’

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