Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

Correlates and Predictors of Binge Eating among Native American Women

Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

Correlates and Predictors of Binge Eating among Native American Women

Article excerpt

Among a sample of Native American/American Indian women, this study explored the linear relationship of historical loss, acculturation, racism, and emotional distress to binge-eating behavior and level of obesity as determined by body mass index. Emotional distress, experiences of racism, and feelings about historical loss were significantly related to binge-eating behaviors, with emotional distress being the most significant predictor.

Este estudio exploro entre Indios Americanos la relacion linear de la perdida historica, la aculturacion, el racismo y la angustia emocional con el comportamiento de atracones compulsivos y la obesidad, determinada por el indice de masa corporal. La angustia emocional, las experiencias de racismo y los sentimientos de perdida historica estuvieron significativamente relacionados con los comportamientos de atracones compulsivos, siendo la angustia emocional el vaticinador mas significativo.


Obesity and being overweight, as determined by body mass index (BMI; see Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d.), each continues to be of concern for many Native American/American Indians (NA/AI; Barnes, Adams, & Powell-Griner, 2005; Denny, Holtzman, Goins, & Croft, 2005; Pine, 1985; Story et al., 1999; Wing & Polley, 2001). Either of these health issues may contribute to the development of diabetes, a common health problem in many NA/AI communities (Barnes et al., 2005; Daniels, Goldberg, Jacobsen, & Welty, 2006; Denny et al., 2005). Health complications arising from diabetes contribute to making it one of the leading causes of death among NA/AIs (Barnes, Adams, & Powell-Griner, 2010; Sue, 2000). According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2000), binge eating is excessive eating or consuming large quantities of food over a short period of time and has been associated with psychological distress (Grilo, 2002; Hudson, Hiripi, Harrison, & Kessler, 2007; Loro & Orleans, 1981; Lyubomirsky, Casper, & Sousa, 2001; Womble et al., 2001) often brought on by external stressors, interpersonal conflicts, or lack of coping skills (Loro & Orleans, 1981). Individuals who binge eat may use food as a coping mechanism to gain temporary relief from negative experiences and emotions (McManus & Waller, 1995), such as stress, anxiety, hunger, and boredom (Loro & Orleans, 1981).

NA/AIs have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and psychological distress than people in the general population (Barnes et al., 2010; National Center for Health Statistics, 2005), which may be the result of geography, poverty, or cultural barriers (Barnes et al., 2010).

In this study, we were interested in the current and lifetime experiences of NA/ AI adults that may influence binge eating. We hypothesized that experiences related to colonization and assimilation contribute to the statistics that NA/ AIs are 2 to 5 times more likely to experience severe psychological distress, or to have felt hopeless or worthless, as compared with White, Black, Asian, and Hispanic adults (National Center for Health Statistics, 2005). The emotional distress of these experiences, often referred to as the "soul wound," "historical trauma," or "historical loss" (Brave Heart, 2003, p. 7; Duran & Duran, 1995; Whitbeck, Adams, Hoyt, & Chen, 2004; Whitbeck, Chen, Hoyt, & Adams, 2004), has been passed from one generation to the next with no generation being give the opportunity to heal. Many tribes believe that all things in the universe are connected and in harmony, and from this holistic belief system the essence of the souls of NA/AIs emerge, when this essence was wounded through the practices of genocide, removal from ancestral lands, forced assimilation, and overall destruction of the culture, there was a collective wounding of the soul (Duran & Duran, 1995). Across generations these trauma experiences have led to a "historical trauma response" (Brave Heart, 2003), defined as difficulty recognizing or expressing emotions; suicidal ideation; self-destructive behavior; and feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, and low self-esteem. …

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