Social Commentary No. 4 “Is Dis-ordered Eating and Body Dissatisfaction the New Black?”

 

There has been a long held belief that Black women readily embrace their thicker, larger, and more voluptuous frames, which assumes that Black women all want to look one singular, particular way. Or that all Black women love the skin and bodies they’re in.

However, there is some truth to this narrative due the perpetuation that being ‘thick’ or ‘slim-thick’ i.e. having large hips, shapely thighs, and  a more pronounced derriere, is the pinnacle of Black beauty and physical aestheticism. With the seismic rise in cosmetic surgery (including ‘butt’ implants) and the the popularity of ‘waist trainers’,  many Black women and girls have put themselves in harm’s way to attain a glorified, curvy, hourglass figure.

So to watch this interview and see a Black woman who wants to be ‘thinner’, intrigued me…but not for long!

I was quite disappointed and perturbed by the interview by ABC News and the underlying negative portrayal and type-casting of black women with ‘dis-ordered eating’.

Jenna Lahori  stated that she isn’t comfortable in her own skin (it is not clear from the interview, whether this is because she is a black women, or an over-weight woman or both)She wants to be a much thinner version of herself, but struggles with her eating habits. She says: “I have a love-hate relationship with food. I love to eat food, but I use it in an unhealthy way…that means eating when I’m not even hungry. That means just eating to feel better, eating a lot of bread and cheese and ice cream, just things that will make me feel better immediately.”

We all have insecurities, doubts and fears. And we all deal and cope with them in different ways. Binge eating is not a ‘common practice amongst black women’, as the reporter claims. Our relationship with food is no different than women from other races.

There are many forms of Eating Disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder. Although eating disorders have been commonly referred to as a ‘white girl issue’, recent studies show that extreme dieting is associated with weight dissatisfaction and low body pride in all racial and ethnic groups.

 

We oftentimes turn to food in an unhealthy way, as a means to fill a void. Be that emotional or spiritual. But this is wide-spread, and not unique or typical to Black women solely.  The demand by society for Black girls and women to look a certain way or to maintain a certain body image has and can cause much stress, anxiety, and emotional, physical, and even psychological harm. 

The immeasurable role social, cultural and economic pressures play on our mental health is immense. Black women, by-and-large are the most unprotected, violated and discriminated against racial group. Black Maternal Trauma is real – we lose our babies in the hospitals (due to poor care, and bias medical opinions), and on the streets (due to police-involved killings) – amongst other daily micro and macro aggression’s! It is not uncommon therefore, for us to self-medicate, engaging in risky behaviours just to ‘make it through’.

As the writer Charlotte Gomez put’s it:

“To be a black woman is to receive uniquely targeted messages about one’s body. The black female body is hyper-sexual or hyper-masculine or both, but it is never our own. It is too obscene to be treated with respect but too alluring not to emulate. We are hip-hop vixens, mammies or starving Africans…Our bodies do not deserve to celebrate, to move, to occupy space”.

If you are struggling with your weight, self-image or have adopted negative eating habits, let us know what the catalyst was. What event triggered your behaviour, and have you been able to overcome it?