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Eating disorders and the LGBT community

In addition to bingeing and purging there are others who follow extreme “health” trends and can overdo "clean eating."
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While there are some in the LGBT community who eat right and exercise to have a fit and trim body, there are others who obsess over weight and looks which cause them to use dangerous practices when trying to fulfill their image of that “perfect body.”

In fact it is reported that in the LGBT community 42-percent of men who have eating disorders are gay, and gay and bisexual men are seven times more likely to binge, and 12 times more likely to purge than heterosexual men.

In addition to bingeing and purging there are others who follow extreme “health” trends and can overdo "clean eating."

This can also lead to something called orthorexia or the unhealthy fixation to work out or compulsively exercise.

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News reached out to Jamie Frazier, Primary Therapist, at Eating Recovery Center in California to ask a few questions about eating disorders and the LGBT community.

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: What is the number one eating disorder among the LGBT community? 

Jamie Frazier: At this point, there is not enough evidence to substantiate that any one eating disorder is more prevalent among people who identify as part of the LGBTQ community. The community is as diverse as the general population, therefore, eating disorders are just as varied. There is something to be said for the psychiosocial/sociopolitical stressors that can contribute to increased risk for developing an eating disorder, but as we see when treating patients, there are several factors that play a role.  

People judge other people, how can one "fit" in confidently without having to resort to health risks? 

When one comes to accept who they are at the core, self-confidence start to improve. In the LGBTQ community, there is a pervasive struggle with acceptance usually tied to discrimination, feelings of isolation, loss of relationships, homophobia/transphobia, etc. When one begins to base self-worth less on physical appearance/opinions of others and more on their value as an individual, “fitting in” may not be as important. Generally speaking, if one has an eating disorder, being in a social circle that places a lot of emphasis on being thin or looking a certain way, can be detrimental and worsen the symptoms. 

 Can an eating disorder include over-eating without purging, etc.?

Eating disorders take many forms. Binge Eating Disorder specifically involves consuming food to a point where one experiences significant physical discomfort and feels a lack of control when doing so. It is far more severe than over-eating. In general, purging is not associated, or a primary behavior with this disorder.  

 Does smoking figure in to eating disorders at all? Drugs? If so, how?

We see substance use/abuse frequently when treating people with eating disorders. Smoking/drugs, like an eating disorder, can be used as a way to manage anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Smoking and other types of substance use don’t necessarily lead one to have an eating disorder, but they can play a role in the deterioration of one’s mental health. 

How can people overcome their disorders? 

Recovery from an eating disorder can be difficult and, depending on the severity, may take a lot of work and time. It is important to seek out a mental health professional who has experience and knowledge around treating them.   

Some issues about weight came up in the first presidential debate, can public figures influence the way people look at themselves? 

Yes, most definitely. Society reinforces ideals and sends strong messages about appearance and standards of beauty. These standards are fairly unrealistic, and can therefore feed a sense of insecurity in one’s appearance. 

If you have questions about eating disorders or simply would like to know what resources are available, you can visit The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) by clicking HERE.

For additional information about ERC, call 877-789-5758, email info@eatingrecoverycenter.com, or visit www.eatingrecoverycenter.com to speak with a Masters-level clinician.