People from multicultural communities
Eating disorders and body image issues can affect anyone at any time — and from any culture or background.
Being treated unfairly because of your culture or religion, adjusting to a new culture, or wanting to live your life in ways that are not acceptable to your culture of birth can impact your mental health. Different cultures also have different traditions and rituals around food, as well as different body ideals. All these pressures can be extremely stressful and increase your risk of developing a body image issue or eating disorder.
“We’re so influenced by Western beauty. And there are lot of body image issues in non-Western countries. People like me, growing up, have been told that having Western features is the ideal way to look and live your life. We need to show people that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.” -Butterfly focus group participant
There is far from enough research on the subject of multicultural groups, body image issues and eating disorders, but some researchers are beginning the process of learning more.
- The clash between a person’s traditional culture and adopted culture can increase their risk for body dissatisfaction or an eating disorder
- Prolonged exposure to Western ideals of shape and size can lead to low self-esteem and increased risk of developing an eating disorder
- As Western values become more culturally dominant, eating disorders are rising within non-Western cultural groups
- The stress of migration and trying to fit in to a new host culture can contribute to the development of disordered eating
- Cultural and political refugees experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder are at risk of developing an eating disorder
There is never one single risk factor for an eating disorder. More likely the illness is due to combination of causes – discrimination and racism being among them. Read more about risks and warning signs.
At Butterfly we support all Australians with lived experience of a body image issue or eating disorder. We are committed to reducing stigma around eating disorders and encouraging everyone who is impacted to seek help and support.
We also understand that stereotypes about who experiences eating disorders are unhelpful. We’re committed to changing the public’s perceptions.
Facing cultural stigma, or feeling like you don’t fit an Australian ‘ideal’ can make reaching out difficult, but the earlier you seek help, the closer you are to recovery. Our team at Butterfly is trained to serve all people in Australian and is committed to answering your questions, providing referrals, sharing resources, and offering our very best care and support.
The Embrace Project is run by Mental Health Australia and provides a national focus on mental health for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.