Content Notice: this article discusses poverty and eating disorders.
It’s easy to find ways poverty negatively affects someone. As one of many examples, it affects education, which limits job opportunities, which often leaves financial stability as nothing but a dream. The root of many of these problems is people believing that those who have been dealt the shittiest hand when they were born, somehow already deserved it.
But there are also more subtle things it can cause, such as a predisposition to eating disorders.
Growing up poor is, to be frank, complete and utter shit. I could go on for hours about all of the various ways it’s shit, but let’s talk about food. Poverty affects your food choices. Poverty affects your eating habits. Through these two things, it can affect how your body processes food, and how your brain interprets hunger.
Your meals will tend to consist of the most cost-effective food you can get — or, if you have the money to spare, the second most cost-effective. Now we’re gettin’ fancy. But here’s the thing: You are often literally getting the food that was not deemed high-quality enough to go with the “normal” food. You are getting the rejects and the junk food, because that’s what’s in your budget. Next time you’re in a grocery store, look around: what is the cheapest food? What is the most expensive food? If you compare these, you’ll often find that the cheapest food is typically of lower quality or considered “junk food,” and the most expensive food is generally higher quality or “healthy snacks.”
Food becomes harder to come by, so you tend to eat whatever you can get your hands on. You disregard whether or not you’re hungry at that very moment because fuck you, I am not going to be hungry tonight. A refusal to be hungry can lead to problems processing whether or not you are hungry.
Those who grew up in higher socioeconomic households exhibited normal consumption behavior—eating when they were hungry, saying no thank you to the snacks when they were full. Those who grew up in lower socioeconomic households, meanwhile, ate no matter how hungry they were.
Sometimes, you wind up simply not eating. You skip meals in an effort to afford other necessities such as transportation and housing. Or maybe you can afford none of that, and you’re just completely and utterly fucked. (Hi, been there. Many times.)
When you skip meals, you tend to eat larger meals afterwards. Doing this repeatedly can sometimes result in a vicious cycle, where the duration between meals and the amount you eat at each meal both grow considerably, to the point that it’s unhealthy.
Being poor can directly influence the quality of food you have access to, how you understand hunger, and in some cases, whether or not you eat at all. In this way, living in poverty makes developing an eating disorder considerably more likely.