BED and Non-White Communities Worldwide

by Lizabeth Wesely-Casella

BED and Non-White Communities Worldwide



Today is rolling out the statistics for binge eating disorder (BED) and it’s impact in non-white communities around the world.  And the findings are (drum roll please)…

Meager. (cue slide whistle…)

There simply isn’t enough reporting to make for comprehensive findings about how BED, culture and race impact one another.  Not just a dearth of research in America, but globally.

And that’s beyond sad.

Now to be clear, there’s been research about BED and correlates both in America and internationally.  Enough that we can at least refute the stereotype that this is only an American problem or relegated to upper income, white, women, however, that’s not enough.  We want, we need, more – we need to know how BED weaves its way into the lives of not white, not American, not middle class, not able bodied people too.  Unfortunately, research has been focused in other areas and, though critical to bringing BED recognition and much needed support, it hasn’t captured the cultural pieces yet.

What we know from the international perspective is from the World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health Surveys and a report by Ron Kessler et. al published in 2013.  The study looked at how BED and bulimia (BN) correlate in relation to various mental and social health criteria throughout several countries, using data from over 24,000 adults across 14 countries—Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Romania, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and the United States.  These were predominantly middle to high income countries (only Columbia is considered “low income”) and as you can see from the list, the majority of these countries have caucasian populations.

The study was terrific in as much as it showed that BED is indeed different from BN and equally as problematic, enough to deserve it’s own category within the DSM-5, and for that there is reason to be thankful; however, research on this scale doesn’t happen often and we lost an opportunity to learn so much more.  Brothers and sisters in social science, we need you to take up the mantle!

I know, easier said from a computer with no funding requirements than done…  but still, we don’t have a comprehensive picture of ‘living with BED’ until we have these pieces too.

everything-is-connectedSo when will we be seeing posts from more diverse populations who live with BED?  When will we have an abundance of stories describing what it’s like to have a disorder in secret, or with support and love from a family that is a true reflection of the effected spectrum of people?  When will we be reading what it’s like to battle anxiety and shame while attending culturally rich, exotic food laden events?  How about what it’s like to be the only large bodied person in a family of traditionally small framed people?  Will we hear from the males in Samoa and the females in South America ?  How about the Asian population or those struggling with BED in Africa whose geopolitical makeup contributes greatly to both large bodies to starving bodies every day?  How does shame and guilt play out there?

How about stories from here at home?  American stories from those that are still invisible today but whose “bodies (TRULY DO) matter”?  Can we start lifting up tales from people who we don’t think about having BED simply because we don’t see them in commercials or hear them openly discussing it?

If we don’t have the research opportunities, we can still perform research and outreach on our own.  With the recent awareness campaign supporting BED ( having jumpstarted the national conversation about the symptoms, treatment and resources surrounding the disorder, how about those of us who have been “in the know” for a while, how about we reach out to other cultures to MAKE SURE THEY ARE PART OF THE CONVERSATION TOO!  We can’t depend on any one group to build all the cultural connections and support – we as individuals must play a part too.  

So, what can YOU do?  How can you make sure that we include everyone in the awareness?  Invite everyone to participate?  Represent images and stories of people from all backgrounds and colors and shapes and sizes and abilities?  Talk.  Write.  Photograph.  Speak.  Hug.  Walk.  Talk.  Make sure to use your platform and your voice, like Chicago voting, early and often.  Don’t let this opportunity to create awareness for BED in non-white communities, FOR ALL PEOPLE, pass us by.

Women Holding Hands

Women Holding Hands

1 Comment

  1. #NIMHchats Follow Up, Prevention, and (of course) Genetics | Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D.
    #NIMHchats Follow Up, Prevention, and (of course) Genetics | Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D.02-24-2015

    […] collecting information about how #BED lives in diverse communities. You can read more about that here. Dr. Mae Lynn Reyes has been conducting a study at UNC called PAS “Promoviendo una Alimentación […]

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