Young Latinas at high risk for eating disorders

LatinaLista — In light of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we must ask: When is a girl too flaca (thin)?

When you can see her huesos (bones).

To many of us, eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia affect other ethnicities – not us.

After all, it was only last summer that a report was released citing how of all the children in the United States, Latino children are the most likely to be obese.

Not to mention that obesity runs high among Latino adults as well.

Yet, guess what?

Latina girls, along with Caucasian girls, are the two highest groups to experience eating disorders according to a 2005 research study titled Eating disorder and depressive symptoms in urban high school girls from different ethnic backgrounds.

Whether we like it or not, young Latinas are like those peers in search of what they think is the perfect body.

Luckily, some countries, like Spain, are understanding the confusion in young girls who aspire to be pretty and trendy and can only emulate the models they see in their fashion magazines.

So Spain has banned all skinny models from their catwalks.


Spanish model in 2005 show.
(Source: msnbc.com)

Unfortunately, the message is failing to catch the proper attention on this side of the Atlantic.

But it’s time it did:

“We know seeing super-thin models can play a role in causing anorexia,” says Nada Stotland, professor of psychiatry at Rush Medical College in Chicago and vice president of the American Psychiatric Association. Because many models and actresses are so thin, it makes anorexics think their emaciated bodies are normal, she says.

The promotion of the thin, sexy ideal in our culture has created a situation where the majority of girls and women don’t like their bodies,” says body-image researcher Sarah Murnen, professor of psychology at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. “And body dissatisfaction can lead girls to participate in very unhealthy behaviors to try to control weight.”

It doesn’t help either when professionals in the fashion industry make comments like
Clothes look better on thin people. The fabric hangs better.”

One woman who would take issue with the above statement is Lauren Greenfield.

A photographer, Greenfield spent six months at a Florida treatment center following four women, ages 15-30, who suffered from anorexia nervosa.

The results were a stirring, heartbreaking portrait of what women will do to achieve their definition of a perfect body.

From that time spent with the women, Greenfield created the award-winning HBO documentary THIN, a web site with resource information on eating disorders, a book and an unique traveling photo exhibit.


Traveling exhibit of Thin subjects
(Source: laurengreenfield.com)

As part of a larger educational effort to bring the film, THIN, and Lauren Greenfield’s photographs to communities throughout the United States, Lauren Greenfield and The Women’s Museum in Dallas are working together to produce a traveling exhibition of THIN.

This exhibit incorporates large-scale portraits, documentary images, recorded voices, videos, narrative texts, journal, educational information and resources in an effort to illustrate the reality of this devastating illness on those afflicted.

The exhibit runs through April 22, 2007 at the Women’s Museum in Dallas, Texas.

But the issue is so important and every minute counts when trying to save young girls from a fate far worse than just a growling stomach that HBO is making the film available for educational screenings.

HBO has also developed a free curriculum to go along with the photo exhibit.

The exhibit is still looking for sponsors to take it to other cities to show young girls that starving themselves is far from pretty.

To find out about getting an educational screener, the curriculum or to help bring this exhibit to your city, check out Lauren Greenfield’s site.

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