Accepting Your Latina Body

June 20, 2008 at 10:54 am  •  Posted in Healthy Lifestyles by  •  0 Comments

By Maribel Quiala, MSW, LCSW

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa
The Good News



The majority of the Latin women feel especially proud of the culinary riches they have inherited from their parents, especially during times when they gather around a table of full-flavored, high-carb spicy dishes.

Accepting your Latina body, is a subject widely discussed in a recently published book of Bárbara Trujillo-Gómez titled Barbara por Atrás: A Latin Woman’s Guide to Fitness. It talks about the prominent hips of the Latin women, the impact it has in the feminine aesthetic and in the acceptance of the Latin men.

It is the delicious Latin food that often contributes to those “curves” that Latina women exhibit with pride – or in some cases as Barbara explains, they try to hide.

As Latina women live in the United States, it is natural that they will begin to assimilate to the mainstream American culture values and begin to move away from their Latin aesthetic values.
Conflicts may begin to develop between what is considered to be the ideal body and body shape, physical characteristics that reflect genetics and eating habits learned in the family.

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa

It is expected that issues about body image make Latinas prone to inappropriate behaviors, severe disturbances in eating behaviors that are found in eating disorders as Anorexia and Bulimia.

The fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) characterizes Anorexia as a refusal to maintain a minimally normal body weight. Bulimia is characterized by repeated episodes of binge eating followed by inappropriate compensatory behaviors that include self-induced vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, misuse of laxatives, diuretics (“water pills) or other medication.

Fear of gaining weight and their desire to lose weight is driven by a level of dissatisfaction with their bodies. However, in some cases, eating disorders can be rooted in a need to avoid mental pain stemming from childhood trauma, such as sexual abuse or neglect or other self esteem issues.

According to studies conducted by Dr. Suzzette M. Evans, professor of Clinical Neuroscience at Columbia University, food can function in the same way as drugs and alcohol.

Studies also demonstrate that women who suffer these conditions, have less interest in sex than the general population, and less inclined to initiate romantic-affective relations.

When a young woman shows signs of weight loss or weight gain, it is necessary to obtain information from the parents and other outside sources, to determine if an eating disorders exists. It is not unusual for clients to deny that there is a problem and to lack insight or the ability to self mentor.

The Good News

But the good news is that the eating disorders are often not just a problem with food, many times they are only a symptom of underlying problems. Many Latinas suffer from Bulimia and Anorexia when they try to emulate the American Pop culture and copy Hollywood celebrity images. Young Latinas try to look slim and trim and to resemble their favorite stars. But at what cost?

We need to embrace our Latina heritage, our spoken English with an accent and ours “curves”, like Bárbara Trujillo-Gmez  asserts in her book. We must accept who we are and to forge ahead. Love and forgiveness are the fundamental keys to overcoming and acceptance.

We cannot do it alone. We need to reach out to each other.


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