CN: discussion of eating disorders, weight loss, and weight fluctuations; mention of bodily fluids
It is well-known to us that an increasing number of young people, especially young women, are suffering from various eating disorders. Bulimia, anorexia, and other eating disorders are on the rise, and there is a growing and inescapable pressure to have the “perfect body”, displayed both in the general media and social networking sites. However, why is it that within the black community it is not something that we often talk about? Why is it that, stereotypically, when we think of eating disorders we don’t think it’s enough of a “black people problem” for us to go out and combat it? It may not seem as though black women face these issues but the reality of it is that we really do. I can state this because I am one of the many women who has battled with her weight, food, and perception of food for many years.
Almost five years ago, I was gaining a lot of weight and was not doing anything about it. I can admit that despite being the bubbly character I have always been, I was extremely self-conscious and ashamed of my body to the extent that I could barely look at myself in the mirror. However, one day everything changed dramatically. I woke up and it was as though a fuse had snapped in my brain, and I was completely put off food. To this very day I do not know how to explain this or make clear sense of it, but my body just refused to take food. All of a sudden food began to make me feel sick. I could take one bite of something and be full for the rest of the day. The smell of food in general made me feel nauseous and every morning I would wake up to throw up. After a few weeks of this happening, as I was not eating anything and therefore not storing fat, sugars, protein, etc. (all the basic things a human body needs) I began throwing up phlegm. In addition to this, I was losing so much weight and became so bony that it would hurt when I sat in the bathtub, due to the bones in my bottom becoming so prominent. Please excuse the graphic details, but this was my reality for just over a month. For this entire period I was throwing up and not eating. And this is the sad part of it all: I thought it was okay. I knew that what was happening to me was not normal, but because I was losing a vast amount of weight in such a short space of time I was just glad to finally be shifting it. I didn’t care how it was happening, therefore I didn’t seek help, and I certainly didn’t speak to anyone about it. All I knew was that I was losing weight – that was always the dream, right?
However, it may have been my dream but let me take you back once again to my reality. The reality of the situation was that I did not have a healthy relationship with food. As a young woman I allowed myself to get so engrossed with the idea of losing weight that I was not concerned about my actual health. How is it possible that as a young woman I was not eating for over a month and felt that it was okay? Essentially, I was depriving myself of all the things needed for any human being to live and function well, and the worst part of it all was that not one person asked me what was happening, everyone just saw that I was losing weight and was “so happy!” that I was making progress. At the end of this period it was as though this fuse simply came back together and, just as suddenly as this entire journey started, I stopped throwing up and I could eat again. However, from that point on everything about my body completely changed. I was unable to eat large portions and even to this day I still have days where I just don’t want to eat anything. Furthermore, in losing so much weight I became both weak and bony, with one of the worst consequences being that I was left with a lot of excess skin, which I am still ardently working to get rid of.
Essentially this was and remains, even now, my reality. And it is a battle I continue to fight. In the years after this period, my weight continued to fluctuate. But the older I get and the more I have been learning to love myself, the better I have become at maintaining my weight and establishing a better relationship with food. My perception of food is completely different and I have now been able to make the conscious decision to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle. However, to return to my initial point, why is this issue something that women of colour just don’t seem to talk about? Why does it seem as though we completely gloss over issues of food and eating habits and simply see the black girl with the small waist and big bum? Well I certainly admit that I have neither, but one thing I do have is a story and an experience, one that I am sure that many black women also share but for whatever reason don’t seem to speak up about. The reality of it is that we do face these issues and it is up to us to be fully conscious of these things to ensure that we help those around us, especially the younger generation.
Millions of people suffer from eating disorders or issues with food on a daily basis and I can guarantee that a large percentage of these people are women of colour. The first way to solve this problem is to admit this to ourselves and then to be confident enough to talk about it. Then it is our duty to encourage each other to see that being healthy and simply losing weight are two distinctly different things – something I wish someone had said to me during this process. However, I have been able to come out the other side and use my story as a means of motivating and encouraging young women to see this difference. Of showing women how important it is to go on healthy weight loss journeys and, especially, to do it for themselves first! It is important that we see the realities behind the issues, and it is especially important that we tackle these problems in whatever way we can, and that can be as simple as spotting that something might be wrong and asking.
Please do not suffer in silence, if you or someone you know is going through any form of eating disorder, it is important you seek help. It is not worth it in the long term, please believe me.
If you want to know a bit more about my weight loss journey please do watch the videos on my YouTube channel – both parts 1 and 2 – and make sure you subscribe to my channel: