Eating Disorders Part 5: Eating Disorders among Latina Women

By: Abby Erasmus

Latina women are caught between two cultures and are therefore at risk of experiencing acculturative stress (a term discussed in “Eating Disorders: Part 4”). As mentioned previously, increased acculturative stress is linked to an increase in eating- related pathology, thus disordered eating patterns are not uncommon among Latina women. The rate of occurrence of eating disorders among Latina women is equivalent to the rate of the general population of U.S. females; however, anorexia nervosa (AN) is rarely noted in Eating Disorder (ED) studies in regard to Latina women. This does not mean AN does not exist among Latina Women, AN is just thought to be the least prevalent in the community. Researchers have found that bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge eating disorder (BED) are the most common, with lifetime prevalence rates of 2% to 2.3-2.7% respectively. Further, researchers have identified key differences in the presentation of both dietary restriction and drive for thinness in comparison to European- American white women. Latina women are less likely to engage in dietary restriction, and if they do, it is often followed by a binge- eating episode. Latina women also find themselves caught between the thin ideal belonging to Western culture and the curvy but flat- stomached ideal belonging to the Latinx community, and these conflicting body image ideals can result in disordered eating behaviors. Additionally, and quite similarly to Asian American culture, food is the love language of the Latinx community, yet, similarly to Asian American women, these women will be scrutinized for gaining weight. Latina women also experience the paradox, and providers should keep this paradox in mind to understand root causes of EDs within the Latinx community.

Binge eating within the Latinx community is associated with significant levels of distress as well as psychopathology, and is often accompanied by obesity. Despite reporting significant levels of distress, the majority of Latina women do not seek treatment, and when they do, they often refer to primary care doctors in which obesity is the only thing that gets identified. Their ED goes unnoticed. In order to correctly diagnose EDs among Latina women, providers must understand the high prevalence rates of BED, BN, and binge- eating behaviors within the population which, in turn, can result in obesity. Once the ED is addressed, obesity can be addressed. Again, with cultural competency added into the equation of treatment, Latina women’s EDs will be correctly diagnosed and they will receive proper treatment.

If you or someone you know is seeking therapy for an eating disorder, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit


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