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Eating Disorders in the 2SLGBTQIA+ Community
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What you need to know and what you can do as an ally

Eating disorders in the LGBTQIA2S+ community

Eating disorders have been inappropriately stereotyped as a disorder impacting cisgendered, heterosexual, middle-upper class white females. This is wrong.

We see eating disorders across all ages, classes, sexual orientations, and gender identities. What we have learned is that the prevalence of disordered eating and eating disorders in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is disproportionally high in comparison to other subgroups of the population. The focus on young white females created errors in the diagnostic, prevention, and treatment approaches for eating disorders. 

Keep reading to find out just how prevalent eating disorders are in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, the risk factors to be aware of, and what you can do as an ally.

The Numbers Don’t Lie   

The prevalence of different eating disorders do vary across gender and sexual identities. While further research is warranted, we already see some dangerous trends.  For example, 20% or more of gay and bisexual men in the United States report engaging in eating disorder behaviours as a means to attempt to control their weight, while only 5% of heterosexual men report the same behaviours. There seem to be higher rates of binge eating in lesbian and bisexual women. The transgender community reports the highest rates of eating disorder behaviours, 30% or higher, when compared to any other gender or sexual demographic. Yes, this includes young heterosexual females.

Factors to Consider 

Knowing the numbers can help us bring our attention to an underserved population. In addition, we explore factors that may be elevating the numbers.   

The pressure to fit a body ideal is ever present and may even be heightening in this population due to body dissatisfaction or social pressure. The body image concerns can vary from those historically assumed to be a risk factor for developing an eating disorder, such as the thin ideal, and should be explored further with each individual. Additionally, transgender individuals are more likely to experience body dysphoria which is feeling internally conflicted between the physical body and the gender to which they associate.  

The 2SLGBTQIA+ community is more likely to experience minority stress caused by social stigmatization. Social stigma can lead to discrimination, alienation, violence, and excessive stress. Mental health plays a huge factor in the development of an eating disorder. If individuals within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community are not well supported and accepted than they are more likely to struggle with mental health concerns and eating disorders. 

Health Care Screening  

In no way does this mean that simply because of an individuals sexual orientation or gender identity, they will develop an eating disorder. However, due to the elevated risk, health professionals should ensure to screen for the presence of disordered eating behaviours.  

The challenge is for health professionals to look past the eating disorder diagnostic standards. We know that for many individuals, risk factors such as low body mass index (BMI) is completely irrelevant. Individuals who live in a larger body or who may be pursuing a bigger, more muscular body instead of a leaner body, are missed. Disordered patterns can include rapid weight changes, hyperfocus on the body, obsessive patterns with food, excessive supplement use, steroid use, or other harmful strategies to manipulate the body.

Additionally, health professionals need to recognize that gender affirming surgeries and hormone therapy can directly impact a person’s weight status, body composition, blood pressure, blood sugars, and some blood work values. These changes must be taken in context and individualized medical assessment should be completed. That means that any approach or intervention taken should align with the stage of medical transition and duration of hormone therapy.  

If an eating disorder is identified, the multidisciplinary approach has been shown to be most effective. The multidisciplinary team should include a medical doctor, registered dietitian, mental health professional, support persons, and any other health professional indicated for individualized treatment.

As an Ally

As an ally, here is what you can do!

  • Advocate! Teachers, parents, coaches, health care professionals, and community members will benefit from additional education and awareness related to the heightened risk of eating disorders within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
  • Engage in awareness campaigns.
  • Demand more research to determine the evidence-based approaches for screening, prevention, and treatment of eating disorders within this population.
  • Create an inclusive space that advertises your desire to support the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.  

If you are concerned about your own eating patterns, or those of someone you care about, please reach out to the qualified eating disorder dietitians at Health Stand Nutrition here as we would be happy to support you.  

Looking for an Eating Disorder Dietitian that “gets it”? We can help.

If you are seeking support for an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, ARFID or disordered eating behavior we can help.

We have Eating Disorder Dietitians on our team that can help provide you with the confidential supportive care to meet you where you are at and work with you to progress recovery at a pace you can manage.

We also work collaboratively with your physician and therapist to ensure we are helping you move forward with the right type of support needed to assist you.

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Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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