Fox 4: Doctors, researchers, patients call for equal representation when addressing eating disorders
By Abby Eden, Emily Burggraf
Eating disorders don’t just affect adolescent or young adult women. People of all ages, races, genders, and sizes can suffer from an eating disorder.
The kinds of disorders and causes are just as varied as the people they affect. But scientific research traditionally hasn’t represented everyone.
Hollywood would make you believe that every person with an eating disorder is a blonde, very thin, white female.
“For years the standard assumption was that white, affluent females were sort of the face of eating disorders. What we know is that eating disorders exist in every ethnicity, every age group, male vs. female, gay vs. straight, etc,” Children’s Mercy Hospital Dr. Kathryn Pieper said.
Dr. Pieper and experts at Children’s Mercy say that misunderstanding is a systemic issue.
“For a long time, people of color and males have been underrepresented because researchers don’t see them as being as at that risk. So, they haven’t sought them out, and there’s a lot of disparity, too, in terms of accessing health and being able to participate in studies, so I think the science has to get better,” she said.
“Stereotypes. It’s bias. It is that racism where it’s just thought of that eating disorders are for white or Caucasian individuals,” pediatric psychologist Dr. Amy Beck said.
“And so, when a patient comes in with symptoms that are eating disorder-like, but if they’re a person of color, it’s more likely that they’re going to be overlooked. If it’s overlooked and not treated, it’s at risk of worsening.”
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Learn more about the Eating Disorders Center at Children's Mercy