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My Story by Kari Wells

Bravo Atlanta’s ‘Married To Medicine’ And Anorexia

By Kari Wells

Most of the cast members of the Bravo shows “The Housewives of Atlanta” and “Married To Medicine” are African-American. I’m on “Married To Medicine,” also set in Atlanta and I’m not black. I’m about as British and as white as a woman can get. It’s not like I have any choice.

I also overcame anorexia, an eating disorder that I had as a young woman—an eating disorder that Quad, a #married2med cast member, dug up out of my past and flung at me on national television. It’s one of the ways I’ve been able to take control of my destiny, my most important message for women watching the show.

But no matter. Quad’s egregious mistake might be because she thinks anorexia is for white girls of a certain class. The best case for what she did to me on the Bravo show is that she inadvertently has raised awareness of eating disorders among whites, Latinos, and blacks. So thank you for that, Quad.

One of the studies I cited in a previous blog said eating disorders cut across all these boundaries. But another article, also in Psychology Today and written in response to the first, says “eating disorders [are] understudied in African-Americans.” Written by Monnica Williams, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at the University of Louisville, the article insists:

Little was known about disordered eating in Black people until recently. Clinically, African Americans were under-represented in treatment centers and research studies about eating disorders, so it wasn’t clear if they were immune from such disorders or if social and cultural factors were imposing a barrier to treatment.

The National Survey of American Life (NSAL) conducted a comprehensive nationwide study of African American and Caribbean Blacks to answer these and other important mental health questions plaguing the Black community…. The findings matched up with previous research showing that anorexia is rare among African Americans. In fact, not a single woman in the study met criteria for anorexia in the previous 12 months, and there were no reports at all of anorexia in Caribbean adults.

But the same could not be said for bulimia, according to Dr. Williams:

“Lifetime prevalence rates found for bulimia in Black Americans is 1.5% for adults, which is slightly higher than the national average of 1.0%. The average age of onset is 19 years, which is the same as the general population. Thus, rates of bulimia among Blacks may not be as uncommon as once believed.  This finding could be an indication that Black people do feel pressure to conform to the American ideal of thinness, contributing to the higher rate of bulimia, although not to the more extreme level that is connected to the development of anorexia.”

 At the very least, two cast members of “Married To Medicine” on Bravo—Quad and me—can agree on one thing: eating disorders are horrible, vicious diseases, and those who overcome them should be praised and not raked over the coals.

April 19, 2013

© 2013 Kari Wells ♦ All Rights Reserved.