About 29 million Americans experience a clinically significant eating disorder during their lifetime, reports The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness. But of that significant number of people, only one-third who struggle with eating disorders will ever receive treatment.
The numbers are staggering but they’re the result of a bigger societal issue. In a world that more often than not prefers for women to alter their bodies, their appearance, and drives us to feel insecure about our body image with every single social media app, advertisement, or photoshopped image we see, it’s no surprise that our mental health continuously suffers for it.
This week marks National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February 22 through Sunday, February 28) and here at HipLatina, we wanted to uplift and share the voices of Latina and Black women who have in the past bravely opened up about their struggles with an eating disorder. Read more about their journey below.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, contact the National Eating Disorder helpline for support, resources, and treatment options. Helping volunteers are trained to help you find the information and support you are looking for. For crisis situations, text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at a Crisis Text Line.
Starla Garcia, M.Ed, RDN, LD, is a registered dietitian based in Houston, Texas. She works to help fellow runners stop restrictive dieting and find “food freedom.” On her Instagram account, she shares a myriad of resources about intuitive eating, healthy eating habits, and her journey as a runner.
Garcia has also been open about her struggle with an eating disorder and how that’s influenced her identity as a Latina. In an essay, she wrote in 2018 for PopSugar, Garcia detailed that from ages 17 to 22, she lived with anorexia and that she was diagnosed when she was a sophomore at the University of Houston.
“My issues started with patterns of disordered eating (such as a self-inflicted restriction of carbohydrates) and I didn’t even notice that I had lost 10 pounds until a teammate pointed my weight loss out to me. I had been running faster, so I viewed my weight loss as a good thing that was helping me in this regard,” she wrote. “My behaviors worsened in college when I was competing on my university’s track and cross-country teams.”
Garcia added that it was her track and cross-country coach that helped her out when they noticed what was going on with her. She writes, “He connected me with a dietitian and psychologist who I could regularly see on campus. I was also fortunate to get financial assistance from my university’s athletic department for my care.”
Iris Beilin, a Panamanian makeup artist and YouTuber, shared a powerful video in 2018 where she opened up about her struggles with depression, drug addiction, dieting, and an eating disorder. “I have gained so much weight, that it put me in a deep depression,” Beilin said in the video, detailing that her weight gain caused her mental health to deteriorate. “I didn’t know who I was anymore and I wouldn’t even get out of my house.”
“All my life, I have struggled with eating disorders and this is a very sensitive subject, I don’t like talking about it because it’s hard,” she added. Throughout the video, the YouTuber described that her eating disorder and body image issues led her to become addicted to diet pills, which at one point, sent her to the hospital due to an overdose.
With over 1 million subscribers and 700,000 thousand followers on Instagram, Beilin not only shares beauty and makeup content and tips, but she also continues to share her health and fitness journey while inspiring others.
Style, make-up, and beauty expert, Samantha Maria, shared a video on YouTube to discuss how she overcame her eating disorder in 2018. The content creator told fans at the time that she struggled with bulimia for quite a while. “For as long as I can remember, from like teen years, I always felt a little bit uncomfortable with my body. I always felt I was a little too big, I always felt I could be better, body-wise,” she shared.
The YouTuber described how during her relationship with her current partner, she began to feel insecure about the way she looked because of the type of women he followed on social media. She also explained that in order to lose weight, she began restricting herself and very small amounts of food.
She added that her restrictive diet led her to develop a complicated relationship with food: “If I ate anything that wasn’t [healthy] food, I would feel really, really guilty about that and beat myself up so much that I ate something bad. I was just so particular about what I ate and how much, and then I guess, that led to me purging […] it was very easy for me to hide it and do it when I felt I had had too much food.”
The London-based 31-year-old continued to speak on the unrealistic beauty standards we see in the media. Further, she described that we, as a society, should be careful and mindful before commenting on someone’s weight because we don’t know their full story or journey. After seeking therapy and various other resources, Samantha said she learned how to her body once again, “at least I’m healthy.”
Rosci Diaz, the 39-year-old Honduran-American television and radio personality, first opened up about her battle with anorexia while working as a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight in 2013. During the segment, Diaz had visited a treatment center to interview a 16-year-old who was struggling with anorexia, and she opened up to the young woman about her own journey with the eating disorder.
“When I was in high school and in junior high, I used to starve myself, I was a cheerleader and I was completely obsessed with trying to be skinnier and skinnier,” Diaz said during the segment. “I can’t tell you that it’s been easier, being in this industry, being in Hollywood, hasn’t been easy… but when you learn you never want to go back to that space you and I know, it’s life-saving.”
Diaz also shared her experience while she was a co-host on the BET program 106 & Park from 2006 to 2012 to shed light on how eating disorders impact women from Black and Latino communities. In 2015, she also went on The Meredith Vieira Show to discuss her struggles with body image. “I think the more we speak up about it, the more courage they have to face it as well,” she said during the segment.
Jazmin Gonzalez first shared her eating disorder journey in 2015 through a YouTube video, detailing that she would starve herself in order to lose weight after her classmates would make unsolicited comments about her body. “It was off and on, I would stop eating and then I think that’s when I started purging too [during my sophomore year of high school], like more often,” Gonzalez said. “In junior year, everything just went downhill, I stopped going to school because I would stay home from school just so I can binge, just so I can throw up, like all day. And I started losing friends, I stopped talking to everybody. I would hate for someone to go through the sh*t I went to, it just sucks.”
The 25-year-old YouTuber added that once her mother began noticing what was going on with her, she began to frequent doctors and that, because she was underage at the time, she was sent to treatment facilities. Gonzalez also opened up about suicidal thoughts that she experienced because of the toll her eating disorder took on her mental health.
Gonzalez uploaded another video to her YouTube channel in 2016 titled, “What Is Bulimia? ED Awareness” where she further expanded on dealing with the eating disorder and told followers that she has gotten better over time. “I want to bring light to [my eating disorder] and talk about it,” she said. “There have been so many hard days […] but then there’s also those good days when I’m glad I’m still here. That’s another reason why I wanted to start a YouTube channel, to show people that you can get better. You can be happy after being so sad for so many months, for so many years, maybe.”