Black women and eating disorders

I’ve always been a chubby girl. And if I’m being honest, I’ve hated that fact for a very long time now. I have battled with my weight since I was 8-years-old; constantly dieting, trying to lose those last ten pounds, yet never succeeding. There was a time I equated beauty with thinness. The feelings I have about my weight and body grew from my environment. Books, and the media especially, have had a deep impact on my opinions about thinness and my body because thinness, the ‘’ideal’’, surrounds me. Though, for me, as much as the television and film have affected me, the biggest factor was family; mainly my mother and grandmother. I feel awful for admitting this because I don’t want them to feel bad, or come off as if I’m blaming them or throwing them under the bus. I know they love me. Yet, it’s the truth and the truth hurts–a lot. I can look back on my younger years when I was a 6-year-old little girl and remember my bathroom chats with myself. I would look in the mirror and ask myself, ‘Why are you not as thin as your cousins?’ ‘I’m not thin enough to wear the cute clothes mama wants to buy;’ ‘I’m not thin enough, so when people call me pretty I don’t believe them.’ ‘I want that piece of fudge, but mama says I’m too big.’ There was a time I believed the best compliment anyone could give me was, ‘Oh Lei, you’re losing weight’. That was always the goal, not only to look and be thinner—but to have others notice the changes in my body.

This is hard to discuss, so please bear with me. My issues with my weight took a turn for the worse. I had reached a point that when I would gain weight or hit a plateau in my weight loss journey I would have food binges. I would secretly walk to the Whataburger after school before the bus arrived, grab a Whatachick’n Sandwich, a medium fry, and a vanilla milkshake. If I wasn’t feeling Whataburger, I’d go to the bread store, grab four Hostess Cupcakes, the biggest bag of powdered donuts, and I never forgetting grab a cold coke to wash it all down. Once I got home, I’d go to the bathroom and try, often succeeding in hurling. When dinner time came around, I would eat rabbit sized portions, pretend I was full and head to the bathroom to make it come back up. It was my routine. It was my secret. That was my reality throughout middle school and high school, and although I still feel shame around it, I’m learning to work through it. If I’m being honest, I’m afraid of this illness. Binge eating ruined my childhood and my self-esteem. I decided I was ready to change, work on my relationship with my body and how it impacts my relationship with food. And though I told myself I was ready for the battle, I had to realize and understand it will be a lifelong challenge. I am proud to say that I no longer binge eat and I no longer force myself to hurl after eating. And more importantly, I no longer stare into the mirror and call myself ugly or chubby. I’m not ugly. I am not chubby. I’m not plain or inadequate. I’m beautiful just the way I am.

I wake up each morning and affirm my beauty and my worth, and it’s hard but I’m starting to actually believe it. I decided I will not let this take over my life. I’m still not thin, and I’ve since gained weight. And I won’t lie and say I’ve realized I no longer desire a thinner body, because, honestly, I do. It’s an ongoing struggle. The difference between then and now is I work on being healthy, not thin. I am learning each day that there are healthier, less damaging ways to improve and change the things I want to change about my body. My body and health are more important than numbers on a scale, and size on my jeans. To the girls who believe they just have to lose a few more pounds–you are divinely beautiful. No matter what the world may tell you– you are beautiful. You are valid. You are enough. And for those of you who are still suffering with their relationship with food, and have not yet raised their head from the ground to the sky, I know it’s hard, it hurts, and you don’t know if you have the strength to overcome your complicated relationship with food…I hope you find the strength within and support you need to make it to the other side.

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with food disorders, there is help available. You are not alone. The National Eating Disorders and Eating Disorder Hope provide resources for those seeking help with disordered eating.

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