National Eating Disorders Association
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Dichos and Latinidad

How Culture Can Play a Role in Promoting Body Acceptance

Rocio Avila, LCSW

“Pero quiero mas a mis ojos, Pero quiero mas a mis ojos, porque mis ojos te vieron” (But I love my eyes more, because my eyes saw you). I heard this saying or dicho growing up many times. In the Latino culture it is common to use idioms or sayings in times of hardship, joy, and as an everyday expression. 

The prevalence of eating disorders and disordered eating in Latina/o/x is ever increasing and while this is due to a variety of reasons including migration journey, food insecurity, acculturation, and assimilation to western standards, it is important to consider and debunk myths that may contribute to the idea that Latina/o/x do not suffer from eating disorders or body image distress. 

Research found that daughters with mothers that were less acculturated to U.S. or Western standards and ideals reported less body image distress, and reported lower thoughts of wanting to engage in eating disorder behaviors such as extreme dieting and restriction. In fact, mothers’ “ideal” image of their daughters were significantly larger ideal body sizes than their daughters selected for themselves. In some Latino cultures curvier bodies are accepted and the norm, however more acculturated Latina/o/x feel some of the same pressures as their Caucasian counterparts and are impacted by western image ideals. Latino/a/x come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and sabores (flavors). “El sazón del Latino/a/x es único” (The seasoning of Latino/a/x is unique). The “ideal” narrative is changing, be it related to body image, acculturation, Latinidad or Chicanidad, we are celebrating our individuality and honoring our roots and bodies as we see in ourselves our diverse heritage and mestizaje. 

This past month we honored Hispanic Heritage/Latina/o/x Culture and as we move to honor what our bodies do for us and share in gratitude for our abilities during NEDA’s Body Acceptance Week (October 24-28), we must also remember that eating disorders and body image distress impact many individuals. Despite all of the work that is needed to be done. I also want to recognize that I am reminded of the great love and appreciation in the words and dichos Mexicanos (Mexican sayings) I have heard. 

“Pero quiero mas a mis ojos…” 

The gratitude and appreciation for our self might come from our whole self, parts of ourselves, our eyes, or maybe from the eyes of another. Unapologetically, unequivocally, flawed, raw, imperfect we are changing the “ideal” narrative. Courageously we are showing up and in the journey we are learning to accept and love. 

Rocio Avila is a bilingual and multicultural therapist who has dedicated the last 13 years of her career to working with those struggling with mental health in the central Texas region. Rocio earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Texas State University San Marcos, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. Rocio’s experience includes managing clinical operations at multiple levels of care, including acute inpatient psychiatric, and outpatient clinics. She has also served on various hospital and company committees including bioethics, diversity inclusion and belonging, and speciality therapy committees. Rocio has extensive experience in working with individuals with severe mental illness, complex trauma, eating disorders and disordered eating, and acute crisis intervention. Rocio is passionate about working with Latina/o/x individuals and family systems and strives to educate, support, and empower others to promote healing.