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Nalgonas Unite: How Eating Disorders are Dismissing Women of Color

By Estefani Alarcon

There is a myth that eating disorders are only associated with young white women. However, it targets and affects everyone. Women of color are being ignored and are not receiving the appropriate help they need because they are not understood. The lack of treatment and attention needed is not available for minorities as their disorder is not addressed.

The most common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. There is an increase of women of color developing eating disorders, according to National Eating Disorder. Those numbers don’t necessarily indicate that there are more women of color who have eating disorders but rather more women of color are reporting their eating disorders.

Gloria Luca, daughter of Mexican immigrant parents, began binge eating at the age of 10. By 17, she had bulimia nervosa which meant she would intake large amounts of food and then purposefully make herself vomit. It was something that her family didn’t consider a health issue as they weren’t aware of the seriousness behind it.

“I knew what I was doing was not okay yet I didn’t have anyone that reflected my issue, so I didn’t know how serious it was,” said Luca. “We are not taught about these things correctly in school or in society.” It wasn’t until she was 23 that she learned how severe bulimia nervosa was and how she wasn’t recognizing that she had a health issue.

In some cultures, seeking for help and treatment is taboo and aligned with being weak. In other circumstances treatment and medication is simply not affordable for families. “Treatment can be an obstacle for many folks of color because of the fact that it’s not accessible.”

When the search for representation and understanding failed, Gloria decided to start an online organization called Nalgona Positivity Pride (NPP) to provide young girls and women with what she didn’t have. NPP provides eating disorder awareness, education on cultural affirmation and body decolonizing. Through her organization she shares her knowledge about colonialism, historical trauma and how that plays out with eating disorders. She explores European standards of beauty and their connection with body insecurities. “I wanted to create what I wish I had when I was struggling with bulimia,” she said. “I want women of color to know they are not alone.”

NPP has been around for three years and has gradually expanded since. They will soon provide support groups for the community free of charge. Gloria now visits colleges and universities where she holds discussions and workshops. Although she is still on the journey of her own healing, she believes her own education has contributed to her journey of self love.

“We cannot heal what we do not know. I don’t see my healing as something that will end but I recognize that it is ongoing and that allows me to commit.”

You can support by donating to NPP’S crowd funding account, shopping from NPP’s Etsyor simply by following NPP on Instagram and sharing the knowledge with others.

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