How We Can Address Eating Disorders in the Black Community

This piece was originally written by Iesha Pompey, a Black Doctor contributor.

When we dismiss an issue that is affecting the Black community as a “white problem,” we lose the opportunity to dissect and gain power over our problems. Many racial and ethnic minorities suffer from eating disorders and other mental illnesses because they aren’t discussed (seriously) within the community. The lack of attention and conversation surrounding eating disorders is causing more harm than good by allowing those who suffer to suffer in silence and suffer alone. It also enables the person who is suffering to hide (or deny) their unhealthy relationship with food.

Ironically, Black women who are constantly underrepresented and picked apart in mainstream media and society (having their natural features praised when they are represented by non-black women, e.g., full lips), aren’t expected to experience body dissatisfaction. According to, due to researchers historically biased presumption that eating disorders only affect white women, many studies lack participation from racial and ethnic minority groups.

While statistics show the number of Black people with eating disorders is on the rise, that could just mean more Black people are reporting that they suffer from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge-eating. Having the support of a loved one can prevent these illnesses from turning fatal.

If you suspect someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, here’s how you can help:

1. Educate yourself.

In order to help someone, you have to be willing to educate yourself about what they are experiencing. Many people, who don’t take eating disorders seriously, think the solution to battling an eating disorder is to eat. But in severe cases of bulimia, the body has learned to reject the food, making it difficult to keep food down long after the person has chosen to practice healthier eating habits. Taking the time to understand your loved one’s experience will show them that you are genuine in your effort to aid them in recovery.

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