Mexican Women’s Perspectives on Self-Help CBT for Binge Eating

Eating issues do not discriminate. They affect women and men of nearly every culture and race. The causes and consequences of eating and food issues may be more apparent in some cultures than they are in others, but they exist globally. For Mexican-American women who perceive food in relation to family, society, and culture differently than non-Mexican women, combating eating issues such as binge eating (BED) presents its own set of challenges. Although cognitive behavioral therapy-guided self-help programs have been shown to be effective in other segments of the population, Munyi Shea of the Department of Psychology at California State University in Los Angeles wanted to know how Mexican-American women would respond. In a recent study, Shea interviewed 12 Mexican-American women with BED and asked them to explain what they thought was beneficial and negative about the CBT program.

The participants reported several factors that were culturally relevant to their eating issues and expressed interest in having these items incorporated in the CBT self-guided program. One aspect of food the women talked about was the significance it had in family gatherings. They also were concerned about feeling ashamed or anxious if they had to limit their food intake at family functions. Because Mexican-American women do not always aspire to thin body image ideals, they are less likely to counteract their BED behaviors, thus putting them at increased risk for obesity. Said Munyi: “Specifically, participants would like to have included in the manual more culturally specific examples, such as interpersonal scenarios, role models, and Mexican food.”

Although the sample was small, it gives a unique glimpse into the challenges that Mexican-American women face when confronting BED and other food issues. Munyi noted that although the women in the sample dealt with criticism and negative feedback from family members, they consistently demonstrated willingness to continue their CBT, even in private. This high level of resiliency should be encouraging for clinicians and clients alike. Munyi believes it is critical to tailor eating and food interventions to different cultural subsets in order to achieve the most effective outcome possible.

Shea, Munyi, Luz Uribe, Ruth H. Striegel, Doublas Thompson, Terence G. Wilson, and Fary Cachelin. Cultural adaptation of a cognitive behavior therapy guided self-help program for Mexican-American women with binge eating disorders. Journal of Counseling & Development 90.3 (2012): 308-18. Print.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Carter


    September 24th, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    “Munyi believes it is critical to tailor eating and food interventions to different cultural subsets in order to achieve the most effective outcome possible.”

    ^^ Spot on! Just as the future of medicines are those that are tailor made for the particular patient,even therapy should be as customized as possible.And if it proves to have better results then why not, right?!

  • Andrea


    September 24th, 2012 at 11:43 PM

    family get togethers are always a problem,be it christmas or any other time.there is always the pressure of joining the others when everybody is enjoying that special dish.and it only gets worse for the hostess as there is the added pressure of the arrangements and a little extra eating may be felt as being justified at that point in time.but later we’ll be left fuming with ourselves for taking that extra bite.

  • Juana


    September 25th, 2012 at 3:36 AM

    I have never given that much thought as to how cultural influences play a role in binge eating and eating disorders for women in my community. It is definitely true that for the women in my family, we have always taken a lot of pride in the food that we prepare and how others respond to that food. There have been times too that I know my family (and I have let it happen!) has gotten me off track with eating right, because they have made me feel bad for wanting to eat better and healthier. They almost shame me into breaking the diet and it never takes too much to get me off track and spiraling into bad eating habits again.

  • Geoff


    September 25th, 2012 at 7:27 AM

    But I don’t think that they should have to worry about being ashamed. If they want to heal then their families should give them what they need to support this.

  • Faith


    September 25th, 2012 at 8:42 AM

    I have a hard time with this simply because when it comes to weight loss and choosing a healthier way of living there are always going to be cultural and societal obstacles that you can say are holding you back. But that can’t become the crutch that you come to lean on when you are searching for an excuse as to why a weight loss program will not or is not working for you. There are times when you just have to let all of that go and decide that this is something that you wnat to do to improve your life so you just get out there and do it. Family life is important for most of us and at some point in all of our lives, mainly those of us who have tried to lose weight and break some bad habits, we have had to be honest with our family and move past their nagging and their ideals. You just have to do what is right for you and find a way to do it while still being able to maintain who you are, be true to yourself, but do it all in a way that does not sabotage your efforts to eat right and get healthier. Those things can work together, you can have one without ruining your efforts. You just have to say that this is your plan and stick to it and mean it.

  • Barbara


    September 25th, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    Women just put themselves under a lot of stress in general when it comes to body and weight issues.Not everybody is blessed with the perfect body and there is just no use fretting over the fact that you cannot look like that model you saw on TV.It would be so much better if everybody gave even half the importance to staying fit and healthy rather than getting slim.That would bring about a real change in not just the health but also in the mental health of all women.

  • val b

    val b

    September 25th, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    if someone is ready to make a change in life, a really sustainable and lasting chnage, then it will not matter to them what their families say- they will soldier on once they have the resolve that this is what they are going to work towards and make happen

  • graham


    September 25th, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    “Because Mexican-American women do not always aspire to thin body image ideals, they are less likely to counteract their BED behaviors, thus putting them at increased risk for obesity.”

    Now this is not totally accurate is it? Yes, not caring too much can hurt but it is just the same at the other far end of the spectrum. Too much can spoil things too. A middle path is what is required. A path where there is no obsession about staying slim yet there is ample exercise and activity incorporated in a normal day!

  • D.F


    September 25th, 2012 at 11:58 PM

    Always good to have insights from people from a varied background.It not just gives us some aspects that are peculiar to that group but also gives us an opportunity to see how that aspect could help the others by modifying it too.

  • Tomas


    September 26th, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    being from the hispanic community, I too can relate to how difficult it can be to go to family gatherings where there is all this food to then have to go in and say, no I can’t have this or that because I am trying to watch my weight
    my own mother would be insulted by this and many of the women from this background are going to feel the same way

  • natasha


    September 26th, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    so hard being a woman,whether mexican,american,or from anywhere else,there is just too much pressure from all directions about our body and weight and looking good.its almost as if they’re saying if you’re not good enough then you don’t deserve to live.its not like women wished for something like this and they did not get to choose all these things.remember,you should never be proud of something you didn’t work hard for and your body type is one such thing.some women are just programmed that way,they cannot be wafer thin but they are still valuable people who have a lot to prove with their skills and not just their bodies!

  • Melainia


    September 27th, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    when food is allowed to become such an integral part of one’s culture then it is easy to see how those from that background would have a difficult time removing it from social settings and not feeling ostracized when they turn down food at these events

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