As the eyes and ears of American society are fixed on dismantling more than 400 years of racial injustice at this pivotal moment in time, the intersection of racial trauma and eating disorders must be part of this broader conversation.
Are you all too familiar with the inner eating disorder voice's monologue which tries to convince you that self-worth can only be achieved with a perfect body? This critical, insidious whisper does not come from you—it's the influence of an eating disorder that aims to control your decisions and undermine your wholeness. But a foundational part of recovery is learning how to both identify and confront the eating disorder voice in your head.
As a college freshman, I was hospitalized for anorexia. It's been almost a decade since then, but no one told me about the pain—and payoffs—of residential eating disorder treatment. I had just embarked on a harrowing three-month process that would stretch, unravel, and change me.
Here is a truth about me that I once believed to be impossible: My eating disorder is not at the forefront of my mind right now—and I love the way it feels. All my mental energy used to be allocated to tracking how many calories I ate, miles I ran, or pounds I weighed. I fixated on these so incessantly, in fact, that I had no stamina and concentration to focus on anything else.
As the United States is ablaze in chaos that has erupted from systemic racial violence, I find myself worried for the mental health of Black men and women because—false stereotypes aside—Black people suffer from eating disorders too.
Convincing myself that I feel poised, satisfied, uninhibited, confident, free, and at home in my own body all the time sounds excellent in theory, but I find it does not always work in practice. For this reason, I maintain that body acceptance is a more realistic goal than body positivity. Of course, it would be ideal to stand in front of a mirror and genuinely admire the curves and contours of my reflection, but this just happens sometimes—it's not an outlook I can manufacture out of sheer obligation to praise my body.
It's been crucial for me to learn how to help others in eating disorder recovery without derailing my own since I both mentor young women with eating disorders and am vocal about my own healing from anorexia. I often find myself on the receiving end of phone calls, text messages, and coffee dates which tend to start with the conversation opener, "I don't know who else I can trust to share this with, but I have an issue with food and body image. Can we talk about it?"
While it has been proven that anyone—no matter their life circumstances—can suffer from an eating disorder, some people who experience acute trauma could be more vulnerable to this illness than others. So, I think it's important to raise awareness for the prevalence of eating disorders in human trafficking victims.
There is a documented prevalence of eating disorders in biracial women--but why? In this video, HealthyPlace "Surviving ED" co-author Hollay Ghadery discusses how her experience as a half Iranian and half white woman plays into these findings.
There is a vicious, rampant correlation between eating disorders and bullying—the epidemic is real, and children of all ages can be vulnerable to the mental and physical ramifications. In the United States alone, 65 percent of those with eating disorders have reported that incidents of bullying caused their behaviors to manifest, and 40 percent of children or adolescents are mocked by their peers for weight-related issues.1 This data, compiled by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), also notes that when bullying occurs, a victimized person will often experience bouts of insecurity, poor self-esteem, body image distortion, and an urge to numb the painful emotions. So in order to protect children from these adverse effects, it's crucial to understand the epidemic scale of eating disorders and bullying.