Cultural Influences On Eating Disorders.

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There are many problems with the portrayal of ED's in the Western media, but at least there is portrayal - and we, here at Project-ED are doing all we can to correct inaccuracies and misinterpretations. However, in many other cultures - and particularly ethnic minorities - there is not even recognition of a problem, let alone any chance of a resolution. There are many cultural expectations that you are expected to rigidly follow and going against them - or 'doing things differently' - is surrounded by this massive negative stigma that is unfortunately unshakeable.

Many of these cultures are close-knit communities with emphasis on family honour and interdependence rather than independence. Growing up in this confined, sheltered way, there is so much pressure from all angles to conform and be the 'perfect product' of parenting - a heteronormative, straight-A, attractive example of offspring - and if you don't, then you have let your family down by 'shaming' them in front of the wider community. In a way, this is an intricate web of emotional abuse that is very hard to escape.

In regards to ED's {and many other mental health disorders}, there is this backward way of thinking that denies logic:

- » Firstly, in many of these communities, the worst thing you can be is fat. Fat-shaming is so incredibly common - and the worst thing is, many of the people who are called out on their weight are completely healthy. Take me as an example - I was always the 'chubby one', the one who got a snide comment or look for taking more food - now, the most I've ever weighed is about 45kg and I'm just over five foot - AND THAT IS COMPLETELY NORMAL FOR SOMEONE OF MY STATURE. And now, I'm at the point of being underweight - and yet still get this running commentary about my food intake. It's completely ridiculous and unnecessary.

- » The irony is that most of these cultures are centred around food and good cooking - there are guests coming around and you have to make a good impression - show off your cooking skills! Parties, get-togethers, weddings - it's all about food, food, some gossip and more food. But you can't be fat.

- » There's the ideal that being thin is attractive and fatness is ugly, by default and if you are fat then "no one will want to marry you" - this makes me so angry and I refuse to accept that people believe that. Fat people are beautiful and I'd marry them all. BEAUTY CANNOT BE DEFINED, GODDAMMIT. But no. Nope. "If you're fat, then you're destined to a life of loneliness" - this is what people are told in this cultures and particularly the females {'it's alright for the men - they're the breadwinners, no-one cares if they're ugly' - argh, don't even get me started on gender roles and double standards!} And come on - is fat really as bad as vindictive, jealous, abusive?!

- » The biggest problem is lack of understanding. We can't particularly change the whole way these cultures think, but if there is some access to therapy or a way to move forward, then perhaps recovery can be initiated. However, the saddest thing is, that most non-Western cultures see therapy or admitting you need help as shameful and it is looked down upon, particularly as most involve some form of religion as well. Accessing help from outside the community is a weakness and you have failed; and it breaks my heart that people believe this and are taught this and are suffering alone and in silence.

This is one of the main reasons I wanted to join Project-ED. I want to help people who are not just stigmatised for having an ED/mental illness, but those who are further minorities, be in ethnically, part of the LGBTQ+ community, etc. Everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard and an opinion that matters. You are not alone.

Thanks for reading!

- thefineideayoucrave

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