How Anti-Fat Bias in Mental Health Contributes to Severe and Enduring Atypical Anorexia Nervosa for People in Larger Bodies

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Serra, Dawn
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Eating disorders are on the rise and pose a significant threat to mental health due to their potentially devastating outcomes. Anorexia nervosa is a restrictive eating disorder often represented by emaciated young white women, however only 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosable as "underweight." Anti-fat bias in mental health often obscures and invisibilizes the suffering of people in bigger bodies with eating disorders, particularly atypical anorexia nervosa. As a result of this bias, people in bigger bodies can struggle for decades with restrictive eating while simultaneously experiencing the ongoing violence of weight stigma. This paper explores the prevalence and severity of atypical anorexia nervosa, the growing population of eating disorders in midlife and beyond, severe, and enduring eating disorders, and how anti-fat bias in mental health leads to this underserved population of people in midlife with severe and enduring atypical anorexia nervosa. As people in bigger bodies (classified as "overweight" and "obese") now form most Canadians, counsellors will be faced with clients who are navigating weight stigma and struggling with disordered eating. This paper puts forward ways to combat anti-fat bias in counselling and weight-inclusive approaches to identifying and supporting those with atypical anorexia nervosa.
anti-fat bias , atypical anorexia nervosa , eating disorder , weight stigma , fat liberation , severe and enduring eating disorder , restrictive eating disorder
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States , openAccess