Why This Eating Disorder Support Group for Only Black People Saved Me
If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.
I have been on a journey this past year as it relates to my body image and weight struggles. I learned that I did not need to diet anymore, I can be healthy at my size, I can move my body joyfully, and that I was acceptable just the way I am.
I have been on a diet most of my life. Either dieting or planning to diet. Never satisfied with how I looked or what weight I was at. I was not born to be dissatisfied and hateful of my body; I was taught this. Society said to me (through my mother, family, media, friends, and school) that my Black body was unacceptable. That how I presented in the world with big lips, big belly, thick thighs, kinky hair, loud voice, and dark skin was inferior. So, I set out to make myself acceptable. To make myself something that was impossible, even though everyone said it must be done.
So, I lowered my voice, permed my hair, and crashed dieted. I made myself small around boys and tried to blend in with those with power who looked nothing like me.
What I did not realize was how damaging all this assimilation was, and how challenging it was to my mental health. How I loathed the skin I was in, and the self-hatred dictated how I coped in the world.
After discovering that I was a victim of diet culture and anti-Blackness, I began to search for help to cope and overcome what I was brainwashed to believe about myself. I turned to an eating disorder therapist, and she had some good core information and support but I found her limited in her whiteness. The perception those with an eating disorder or disordered eating can be treated the same way as each other is misguided. I discovered because of the anti-Blackness of diet culture and messaging about body image, the treatment model for disordered eating for white women is inadequate for Black women.
I was struggling in eating disorder therapy. I knew I was missing something in my treatment; I just did not know what. I knew the treatment was insufficient and that I needed treatment that spoke to my Blackness, and all that I needed with a holistic approach. All the books and Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts are mainly geared to white straight-sized women. I found a few accounts that spoke to my Blackness, but they are few and far between. I needed more. I needed a community to whom I could relate and who could relate to me.
In one of the Facebook groups that I am a part of, it was mentioned that there was a free group of Black folks discussing eating disorders and body image. I was so excited; had I found what I was looking for? The first night was so amazing. This was the first time for me that I was in a group of varying ages, sexualities, gender expressions, locations, body types and sizes, and varying stages of recovery. I felt at home. I felt accepted without even speaking a word. I felt at peace.
The folks laughed and cried together. Cheered each other on and shared in pain together. We took an hour just introducing ourselves, discussing our preferred pronouns, whose native lands we are occupying (hometown), what brings us to the group, and how we were in our body that day. I was so moved to be among kindred spirits. The pain the folks expressed was immense. How cruel society is to us was palpable.
It is so important for Black people to have a community home where it is safe. Where you do not have to speak to be understood. Where you do not have to explain your Blackness to be heard. Every night I go to the group, I cry. I am so overwhelmed with emotions that I cannot contain myself.
See, when I speak with my white friends and treatment team about my need to be free from diet culture, they seem to be in shock that I am no longer trying to make myself smaller. They mean well with their comments, but I know secretly that they are waiting for this mindset to pass as a phase. That I will once again see the value in dieting in the name of getting healthy. They do not understand that I was starving myself. That I was looking in the mirror every morning and cursing the body I was in. That I was feeling the brunt of society bearing down on me and I was taking it all in as a punishment. They just saw me on a diet for six years and lose a substantial amount of weight. They cheered me on all with a message that “you were not acceptable before and now, you are more acceptable. Now, you are worthy of good things in life.” My friends and treatment team are victims of diet culture too and I try to keep that in mind, but it still hurts.
I am so grateful for this Black-only group. I have personally struggled to find my place in the Black community because of my upbringing, but now I am at home. My queerness, my fatness, my Blackness, my disabledness all are welcome without judgment or condemnation.
I wish this group for every Black person. We deserve a safe place we can shed diet culture together and work to heal our body image. We are strong and incredible human beings, and we have the right to live free of anti-blackness. We deserve to be happy in our own skin and to be celebrated just the way we present in the world. We also deserve to love ourselves and no one should be able to take that love away from us.
Our superpower is the ability to love ourselves.
You are Mighty just the way you are!
Here are some anti-diet, Black-centric, body positivity or neutral resources I have discovered; I hope they can help you too:
- “Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia” by Sabrina Strings
- “The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love” by Sonya Renee Taylor
- “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight” by Lindo Bacon
- “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole
- “When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies: Freeing Yourself from Food and Weight Obsession” by Jane R. Hirschmann
- “Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat: A Story of Bulimia” by Stephanie Covington Armstrong
- “Through THICK and Thin and Thick Again: A Black Woman’s Journey with BED” by Nettie Reeves-Lewis
- “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” by Roxane Gay
- “A Hunger So Wide and So Deep: A Multiracial View of Women’s Eating Problems” by Becky Thompson
- “Fat Girls in Black Bodies: Creating Communities of Our Own” by Joy Arlene Renee Cox
- “Fattily Ever After: A Black Fat Girl’s Guide to Living Life Unapologetically” by Stephanie Yeboah
- Dr. Kera Nyemb-Diop
- Sonnalee Rashatwar, LCSW
- Virgie Tovar
- Nicolette Mason
- Dr. Lexx James
- Arielle Estoria
- Stephanie Yeboah
- Lauren | Barre | NASM CPT
- Leah V
- Ericka Hart, M.Ed.
- CeCe Olisa
- Marie Southard Ospina
- “It’s Time to Correct the Narrative Surrounding Black Girls and Eating Disorders” by Anissa Gray.
- “When Black Girls Hear That ‘Our Bodies Are All Wrong’” by Mikki Kendall
- “Black Women Suffer from Eating Disorders too, Stop Pushing Us out of Those Conversations” by Clarkisha Kent
- “Women of Color: The Eating Disorder Survivors who Suffer in Silence” by Achea Redd
- “Beyond ‘Eating Disorders Don’t Discriminate’” by The Emily Program
- “How Whiteness Killed the Body Positive Movement” by Kelsey Miller.
National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Blogs
- National Eating Disorders Association: Black Lives Matter Resources
- “Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat” by Stephanie Covington Armstrong
- “Perspectives on Diversity and Being Marginalized from Both Sides of the Couch” by Christina Ojeda, LMFT and Reasons Alumna, Yari Hall
- “The Problematic Whitewashing of Eating Disorder Recovery” by Lakesha Lafayett
- “Unlearning ‘Perfect’ As a Woman of Color in a Racist World” by Lakesha Lafayett
- “When You Don’t Fit the ‘Eating Disorder Mold’ As an African American” by Celeste Saddler
Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash