Eating Disorders Are The "Addiction Of Choice" For Jewish Teens

Illustration for article titled Eating Disorders Are The "Addiction Of Choice" For Jewish Teens

Here are some good statistics about Jews: 77% voted for Barack Obama! And now here are some totally depressing ones: according to an online survey conducted by Jewish Women International, half of Jewish educators and social workers have encountered disordered eating among the teens they work with. According to the Huffington Post's Leslie Goldman, eating disorders are the "'addiction of choice' among Jewish girls." Goldman notes that Jewish Women International was not shocked by the high incidence of eating disorders among Jewish teens because of their "prevalence among upper middle class, high achieving populations." However, as a former Jewish teen, I have another possible explanation.This is entirely unsupported by evidence beyond anecdotal, but I wonder if eating disorders among Jewish women are high because we're trying to attain a beauty ideal that we can almost capture, but not quite. I've experienced that many Jewish women feel that being told they "look Jewish" is not often meant as a compliment. Traditionally Semitic features — prominent noses, dark curly hair — are not considered beautiful by the American culture at large. However, by being exceptionally thin, Jewish women have one way to be closer to that narrow idea of attractiveness. Obviously the causes of eating disorders are far more multifaceted, but perhaps that plays into part of it. Then there's this news about Israel's "Fat And Beautiful" contest. On one hand, it's great that these women are reveling in their figures, but on another hand, isn't the ghettoization of women over 80 kilograms (the minimum weight to enter the pageant) just reinforcing the idea that their beauty is "other"? That it's sort of a sideshow instead of promoting the idea that a wide range of looks are beautiful? Jewish Vote: Obama 77-22 [JTA] Jewish Girls And Self-Destructive Behaviors: By The Numbers [HuffPo] "Fat And Beautiful" [Reuters]



As a Jewish woman myself, I can also add that the Jewish female body type tends towards the hourglass: Big Boobies, Big Hips, teeny-weeny waists. That figure hasn't been the desired standard of beauty for a long time, and it's very difficult for Jewish girls to cope with that.

Especially with our hips. Because, let's face it, big boobs can be a huge assent (pun only kind of intended). But big hips — well, instead of being an erotic symbol of femininity, hips are the standard of "fat" in the US.

Pair that with anxiety over our noses and our hair (although, lucky me, I got golden California waves and not the dark brown JewFros the rest of the women in my family have — thanks Oma!), and you've got fertile breeding grounds for serious eating disorders.

Also, I don't know if anyone here watches Scream Queens (I hadn't until a few evening ago), but I caught an episode in which Sarah, the one (and obviously) Jewish contenstant, was arguing with another girl in the competition, who said this VERBATIM: "Do you know how ugly you are, and how Jewish you look?"

It was the single most disgusting thing I've seen on TV in a long time.