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It’s meaningful that a white woman can turn on a TV and find a broad range of characters, but Asian Americans are portrayed the same way over and over again. For someone struggling with self-esteem issues, this reinforces the feeling of invisibility.

By

Dr. Teresa Mok, a clinical psychologist who treats Asian American college women with eating disorders.  

Eating disorders are often seen as a “white woman’s issue,” she says, a stereotype reflected in the lack of research on this topic among women of color. And interestingly, race not only ties in to how eating disorders are portrayed, but also how they develop. From the Asian American clients she sees at her private practice in Urbana, Ill.,Mok discerns a common theme that lies at the root of many eating disorders, albeit subconsciously.

“It’s not just about weight. There’s always a racial component to it,” she said. “There’s a general body dissatisfaction with eye shape, hair color, breast size, nose,” but, she added, “No client [overtly] says, ‘I want to be white.’”