Check out the video at the bottom of this blog titled “Black Folks Don’t: Have Eating Disorders.” I first saw it on YouTube a while ago, and a friend/colleague just brought it back to my attention. I am an African American woman (in case you all were wondering), and I am recovered from Bulimia Nervosa. The comments in the video are so skewed, as I would expect, and unfortunately demonstrate the lack of knowledge and education about eating disorders within the black community.
“It’s rare. … There’s no ultra skinny model types around here. … We never stop eating.”
It appears as though most of the people in the video think an eating disorder looks like someone who is stick-thin and does not eat – someone who is anorexic. But eating disorders encompass a wide range of disordered eating habits, from restriction, vomiting, abusing laxatives and diuretics, to compulsive exercise, smoking to avoid eating, and more. The most common one is over-eating/binge eating, which seems to impact the African American community a great deal. However, no one seems to know that binge eating is a disorder, and instead make the association, “eating is love in our families and community.” And if there is a concern it is talked about as obesity, which is not an eating disorder and may simply be the way someone is genetically meant to be.
Additionally, this video sheds some light into how African Americans may see eating disorders and body image in a unique way. As described in the video, a black person who may have an eating disorder, particularly anorexia, is trying to be white and trying to live up to standard of beauty that is no congruent with the standard of beauty in our community. The young lady in the video who was a ballet dancer felt that her curvy body at a young age made her think something was wrong with her body because she didn’t look like her white counterparts in dance class. I can completely relate.
I had a similar experience at 7 year old when I started gymnastics and felt like a freak of nature because my leotard refused to cover my behind like my white teammates. What was wrong with me? Was I too fat? Was my body gross? I definitely felt like the answer to those questions was “yes.” My body had betrayed me, and I was flawed for having the same voluminous behind as my great-grandmother.
Eating disorders do indeed have a face, and that face can be anybody’s face. White. Black. Hispanic. Asian. Male. Female. Transgender. They impact all races, all socioeconomic backgrounds, gender, or any other classification you can think of. The fact of the matter is that Black folks do have eating disorders. And it’s okay to get help.
“Black Folks Don’t: Have Eating Disorders”
*other relevant video(s):