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People of Color in the Paling Disorders Literature

As previously mentioned, EDs have been long documented to rarely occur among women of color in the United States because they are less likely to be exposed to key risk factors such as a thin beauty ideal or societal pressures to be thin (Chao et al., 2008; Nicdao, Hong, & Takeuchi, 2007; Root, 1990, 2001; Smolak & Striegel-Moore, 2001). However, the presence of increasing ED symptoms among women of color (Arriaza & Mann, 2001; Chao et al., 2008; Nicdao et al., 2007; Shaw, Ramirez, Trost, Randall, & Stice, 2004; Taylor et al., 2007) has prompted researchers to reconsider the belief that cultural factors protect women of color. Furthermore, the increased presence of racially and ethnically diverse celebrity female and male role models in the media may contribute to a rise in the rates of body and eating disturbances among women and men of color (Chao et al., 2008; Kempa & Thomas, 2000; Phan & Tylka, 2006; Smolak & Striegel-Moore, 2001).

African American Women

African American women are the most studied group of women in the ED literature, with the majority of research studies comparing African American and White womens disordered eating attitudes and behaviors (Grabe & Hyde, 2006). Several researchers have argued that African American cultural factors may serve a protective role in the development of EDs among African American women because social pressures surrounding thinness may not exist in the African American community (Abrams, Allen, & Gray, 1993; Lynch, 2004; Rubin, Fitts, & Becker, 2003; Rucker & Cash, 1992; Smolak & Striegel-Moore, 2001; B. Thompson, 1994). Moreover, obesity may not be stigmatized in African American culture as in the dominant White American culture because, from a historical standpoint, being overweight was viewed as sign of wealth by the African community (Kumanyika, Wilson, & Guilford-Davenport, 1993; Smolak & Striegel-Moore, 2001).

Other researchers have noted that, from a historical standpoint, African American women have been exempt from traditional gender roles and have taken on the roles of caregivers, providers, and survivors as a result of the absence of husbands or male figures during the eras of slavery and post-Reconstruction (Malson, Mudimbe-Boyi, O'Barr, & Wyer, 1990). Consequently, African American women have been socialized to take care of others before taking care of themselves (Greene, 1994; Thomas, Witherspoon, & Speight, 2004; Villarosa, 1994). Understanding the portrayal of African American women as strong, resilient, and self-sufficient can potentially explain the additional stressors they may experience and the potentially risky eating behaviors (binge eating) they may use to cope with these stressors (Greene, 1994; Kempa & Thomas, 2000; Talleyrand, 2006).

Research studies have consistently supported the notion that African American women are, in general, less likely to be concerned about their size and body shape, less likely to view themselves as overweight, and less reliant on dieting or weight control behaviors, allegedly because of African American cultural beauty standards that support heavier body ideals (Ar- riaza & Mann, 2001; Chao et al., 2008; Grabe & Hyde, 2006; Kelly et al., 2011; Kronenfield et al., 2010; Roberts, Cash, Feingold, & Johnson, 2006; Root, 1990). However, several recent studies have suggested that prevalence rates of ED symptoms, in particular binge eating behaviors, among African American women are similar to or higher than rates among White women (Shaw et al., 2004; Striegel-Moore, Wilfley, Pike, Dohm, & Fairburn, 2000; Taylor et al., 2007). In addition, some researchers have claimed that Black women do experience pressures regarding beauty and body esteem, yet the traditional methods of evaluating these factors (e.g., use of weight, body parts) may not capture the real body appearance concerns of Black women (Kelly et al., 2011; Poran, 2006; Roberts et al., 2006). That is, additional factors such as hair, skin color, and social comparisons with other Black women may be more relevant when evaluating Black women's body esteem (Poran, 2006). Moreover, the high rates of obesity and binge eating behaviors among African American women highlight the need to look beyond traditional EDs (i.e., anorexia and bulimia) when working with African American women who struggle with problems with eating, weight, and shape.

 
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