Words from Dr. Michi

I have been a longtime reader of thickdumplingskin – they helped my body image issues as a thick Asian American woman. Recently, a close family friend (a 14yo girl) was diagnosed with a serious eating disorder. Unfortunately, the family’s insurance does not cover regular therapy and at least one of the parents is convinced all they need to do make sure the girl eats regularly. Do you have any recommended resources on eating disorder education for AsAm families? Thank you so much.

Dear “Longtime Reader of thickdumplingskin,”

Thank you so much for your inquiry. Glad that http://www.thickdumplingskin.com/ has been a source of support for you.    Your family friend is fortunate to have someone such as you who is knowledgeable and concerned for her well-being. Sorry to hear that the family isn’t fully aware of how to help their daughter, but this is also not uncommon.    

A related conversation thread recently came up on one of my professional listservs and some of my trusted colleagues recommended resources that have been helpful to their patients and their family members.  In no particular order of    preference, they are listed directly below:

·      The Body Positive is an incredible organization and resource center. Under the resource tab on their website, you will find wonderful goodies. – recommended by Elizabeth Gadomski, Psy.D.

·      NYT writer Harriet Brown, called Body of Truth. Harriet wrote Brave Girl Eating about her experiences with her daughter’s anorexia, and since has gotten quiet interested in body image issues in general. Her writing is great to read, and there is a wealth of material there, plus resources. – recommended by Lizbeth T. Binks, Ph.D.

·      The Body Image Workbook by Thomas Cash – recommended by Steven Walfish, Ph.D.

Aside from mainstream resources, I know there is the cultural aspect of the scenario you presented that most resources may not necessarily address.  For Asians (Americans), the most important cultural factors that may prevent someone from getting the help they need are stigma and/or loss of face. To combat this, it would be essential for family members to gain awareness by receiving as much information as they can obtain.  It would be important for them to understand the statistics and potential underlying reasons for eating disorders to develop.  For example, there have been some correlations between Asian American women, perfectionism and anorexia.  Also, for the Asian households that express love through culturally acceptable means, such as food, a rejection of food could also be a rejection of care and concern.  Bottom line is that finding the help of a professional may be necessary to deal with the underlying issues, whether it be perfectionism, rejection of expression of love, body image issues related to the media, etc.  

If insurance is an issue, there are some agencies that offer therapy regardless of payor and there are also therapists who are willing to take on pro bono or sliding fee cases. I’d suggest looking up the local services for the family and providing them with a list of such resources when sharing the other information.  Best of luck to you and wishing you well.  

Regards,

Dr. Michi Fu

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Dr. Michi Fu is a clinical psychologist licensed in Hawaii and California.  She specializes in working with Asian American children and women.  She has published articles and book chapters regarding play therapy, cross-cultural psychology and Asian American mental health issues.  She is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Alliant International University and is the Statewide Prevention Project Director of Pacific Clinics.  She also has a private practice devoted to working with those who can benefit from her Taiwanese and Mandarin language skills.