Eating Disorders Among Asian-Americans the Term Paper

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(Hall, C.C. 1995).

This fact is proven by studies of Asian women outside the United States. For instance, studies in Korea and China point out that a high rate of eating disorder cases are being recorded in these countries as a direct result of economic change and the influence of Western culture. (Park, E. 2000) in Japan as many as 1 in 500 women have shown signs of an eating disorder.

3.2. Marginalization and Stereotypes

The fact that Asian-American constitutes a marginal population group within the Unities States also place psychological and cultural strain on their

Marginalization... 11 sense of identity. This is worsened by the fact that in some instances prejudice and discrimination can create feelings of low self-esteem and lead to symptoms of eating disorders. "... It has been suggested that the pressures of discrimination, trying to blend into Western society, and certain stereotypes compound the problem for Asian-Americans.' (Park E, 200) central problem that is often the cause of eating disorders in general, is the projection, through the media, of the stereotypical view of the ideal body shape. Comparison with this ideal in the media tends to create a feeling of inferiority and this can lead to an eating disorder. This is compounded when the male or female belongs to group which is already prejudiced against in terms of stereotypes. The following view from an interview by Park illustrates this point with regard to Asian-American women. "Karen says, 'When people looked at me, they always said five words I hated: 'Big for an Asian girl.' What does that mean anyway? At 5'3" and 115 pounds, I was considered normal among American girls, but when someone thrust me among Asians, I became suddenly obese.' " (ibid) This pressure to conform to stereotypes is intense and can result in serious eating disorder problems such as Anorexia Nervosa. "Researchers have posited that if, or when, persons of different racial groups internalize the Caucasian norms ofthinness as the ideal, then greater degrees of disordered eating and Marginalization... 12 body dissatisfaction emerge. (Pate, Pumariega, Hester, & Garner, 1992)." (Grey, J. 2000)

The following quotation summarizes the view that people in a new society have, such as Asian-Americans, and their attempt to conform to stereotypical views and attitudes in an effort to be accepted by the dominant culture.

If people of ethnically diverse backgrounds are constantly bombarded by images of thin women who are portrayed as beautiful and desirable in the media, they may begin to internalize these images, especially if they want to "fit in" with the dominant White culture. The internalization of the thin-is-beautiful ideology may lead some ethnically-diverse women to become dissatisfied with their own bodies and to have lower self-esteem. Some of these women may engage in behaviors that are associated with eating disorders in order to force their bodies to conform to the rarely-attainable ideal physique. (Bowden, H. 2003)

There are also a number of studies which outline the various problems that woman of color experience within American society. This reflects on the dilemma of Asian-American women. These include issues of self-esteem - often resulting

Marginalization... 13 from acculturation pressures. Psychological pressure which may manifest as eating disorder problems can result from the "...silencing aspects of one's cultural self-expression in order to fit in and function effectively within the white culture." (Brooks Gayle E. 2003)

3.3. Role models

Role models portrayed in the media also have an impact of the perceptions of young Asians. Many researchers point out that one of the central causes of eating disorders in this group is the attempt to emulate role models presented by the dominant culture.

A today's younger generation of Asian-Americans is losing weight in an effort to adopt Western standards of the slim, toned professional career woman, an image that has replaced the Rubenesque beauty ideal of the past. Indeed, almost all prominent Asian-American women in the media are bone thin, including celebrities like Lucy Liu, Kelly Hu, Lisa Ling, and China Chow to name a few." (Park E. 2000)

The role models provided by film and other media encourage young Asian's to emulate their body image, which can result in various eating disorders. Poran also emphasizes the point than women often attempt to emulate images that are Conclusion

Conclusion...14 often unrealistic and which can result in a sense of failure and loss of self-esteem. "Women are judged by more exacting physical and sexual standards even though these standards are often based on images that are airbrushed, changed by computer, or trimmed with scissors." (Poran, 2002)

4. Conclusion

The problem of eating disorders manifests itself mainly in Asian-American females. The central cause for the relatively high incidence of eating disorders among this group is cultural adoption and acculturation in a society which has very definite ideals and ideas of the ideal female body image. There are also many other factors which contribute to the high incidence among Asian-Americans. These include factors such as marginalization and stereotyping.

However, one of the most worrying aspects of the situation is the relatively small amount of research that has been undertaken on this topic. The fact that insufficient research has been done in this area is reiterated by a number of researcher and experts.


In the area of body image research, the variations among women's experiences with the body and body representations, as they are affected by racial identity, have not been adequately investigated. Few researchers have even explored Women of Color and their experiences with the dominant beauty standard (Poran, 2002)

This finding is a matter for concern and further quantitative research is necessary to more fully understand the extent of the problem.



5. Bibliography

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Brown, Lora Beth (2002) the relationship between reading beauty and fashion magazines and the use of pathogenic dieting methods among adolescent females. Adolescence, March 22,

Bowden, H. (2003) EATING DISORDERS in MULTICULTURAL POPULATIONS. Retrieved March 4, 2005. Web site:

GRAY, JAMES. (2000) the Eating Disorders Inventory Among Asian-American College Women. The Journal of Social Psychology, August 1.


Hall, C.C. (1995). Asian eyes: Body image and eating disorders of Asian and Asian-American women. Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, 3(1), pp. 8-18.

Harrison, Kristen (1997)

Does interpersonal attraction to thin media personalities Promote eating disorders? Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, September 22, 1997.

Media Not Totally to Blame.(women's magazines' role in eating disorders, USA Today (Magazine), December 1, 2000.

Nhan Truong. Ethnicity, acculturation, and the psychological health consequences of immigrant groups Retrieved March 3, 2005 from the City University of New York. Web site:


Pate, J.E., Pumariega, a.J., Hester, C., & Garner, D.M. (1992). Cross-cultural patterns in eating disorders: A review. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 31, 802-809.

Park E, (2000) Starving in Silence: Eating and body image disorders plague young Asian and Asian-American women. Retrieved march 3, 2005 from Asian Week. Web site:

Poran, M.A. (2002). Denying Diversity: Perceptions of Beauty and Social Comparison Processes among Latina, Black, and White Women. 65+. Retrieved March 5, 2005, from Questia database,

Robinson, T.N., Killen, J.D., Litt, I.F., Hammer, L.D., Wilson, D.M., Haydel, K.F., Hayward, C., & Taylor, C.B. (1996). Ethnicity and body dissatisfaction: Are Hispanic and Asian girls at increased risk for eating disorders? Journal of Adolescent Health, 19, pp. 384-393.

Rowan, P. (2004) Introducing Anorexia Nervosa. Accessed March 3, 2005 from the Priority Hospital. Web site:


Smolak, Linda, Michael P. Levine, and Ruth Striegel-Moore, eds. (1996). The Developmental Psychopathology of Eating Disorders Implications for Research, Prevention, and Treatment. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Story, M., French, S.A., Resnick, M., & Blum, R.W. (1995). Ethnic/racial differences in dieting behaviors and body image perceptions in adolescents. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18(2), 173-179.

Vaughan, Kimberley K., and Gregory T. Fouts. (2003) Changes in…

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