For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Eating Disorders When Dieting Wasn't Enuf - A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Eating Disorders When Dieting Wasn’t Enuf

Note from Erika: I am not a counselor, a nutritionist or anything other than a woman who writes what she thinks and feels, and rarely proofreads. If you fear being triggered, by all means… please don’t read. I’d rather you protect yourself than feel harmed by what I’ve written here.

I can remember.

Approximately 4 months after I had my daughter, I was starving and didn’t have much food in the fridge… so I decided I was going to order a pizza. I was thankful that they had online ordering, so that I didn’t have to deal with the order taker on the phone remembering the details that go along with my particular phone number.

“Oh, you want the chicken alfredo pizza like you ordered the other day?”

No thanks, dude. I could just place my little order online, and wait to sign the little receipt.

This time, I was acutely aware of the fact that ordering all these pizzas so often was only going to make me fat. (I was already well over 300 lbs at this point.) I knew I shouldn’t be doing all this ordering… but I was struggling with the fact that I was starving to the point where I thought I was gon’ die. Die… do y’all hear me? Die.

So… I made a resolution with myself. I’d order the pizza, eat as much of it as I wanted and then throw it all up afterwards. Okay, cool.

Pizza arrives, and I immediately smash at least half of it. I give myself a little time to recognize what I’ve done, then I go over to the sink and shove a butterknife down my throat.

Nothing happened. I immediately panicked. I shoved it even further down my throat. Again, nothing.

I was completely mortified. My plan was foiled. I wouldn’t be vomiting up any pizza that night. But I’d spend the rest of the night confused and crying about it. I took that as a sign from The Powers That Be that I had no business trying to puke up any food, and that if I was going to lose weight… I’d be doing it The Way That Makes Sense.

Although I want to giggle at the idea of being able to stick a whole butterknife down my throat and have nothing happen, I can only smirk at it because this entire situation reminds me of how desperate I was to get beyond this “fat thing” and how I was so lost and confused about why I’d scarf down [what I'd definitely consider] too much food, only to be starving again a few hours later.

I can remember.

I know what it’s like to live in a world where everyone’s in DC, telling you to “Meet us in Los Angeles,” and not handing you a map. You’ve got a long way to go and no idea how to get there. Sure, you might know to just travel west… but that’s about it. Eventually, “travelling west” isn’t going to cut it anymore… and might leave you just as lost as you were before you began.

That’s what this weight thing feels like. Everyone’s telling me to “get skinny,” and no one’s telling me how. The only message I hear is “lose the weight, it’s disgusting” – and I hear it from everyone around me – and I become even more frantic in my quest to rid myself of this…. this thing that society says is so disgusting and deplorable..

…and then, I feel like I’ve hit the holy grail of logic: If my body doesn’t digest the food, I don’t have to deal with the weight, right? So, I try to starve myself, but then I miss having food in my mouth. I start to miss tasting flavors. I miss the texture of food sliding down my throat. I miss that “full” feeling…

…and then, before I know it, I think I’ve hit paydirt: I won’t starve myself! I’ll eat whatever I want! I’ll just puke it back up and not have to worry about putting on the weight. Boom. Easy. Except… it wasn’t so easy, at least for me.

The number of women who’ve spoken to me and shared with me that they’ve suffered from eating disorders since I’ve began this site is… let’s just say its in the triple digits. At least. And, for “colored girls,” that’s a lot. A lot more than our community seems to acknowledge, especially since every time the topic of eating disorders comes up among colored girls, the conversation is always squashed with “What? That’s white girl shit.”

I do not write this post to stand up on a soap box and proclaim that I have the answer to the problem that eating disorders present… because in my mind (and in my heart), eating disorders are, again, a symptom of a larger problem that no one seems to have the desire to address (probably because no one can make money off of it.) We all hate something that we have no idea how to get rid of… because we’re all listening to people who stand to make money off of keeping us confused and hopeless. (I’m just sayin’ – if you didn’t already know that you could use a container of water, the shake weight might not’ve made those guys millionaires.) We all hate something that we have no idea how to get rid of… even if it means that we wind up hating ourselves in the process. We all succumb to a cycle that profits from our failure… a cycle that perpetuates our failure intentionally.

I didn’t hate myself for being fat – but that’s not because I had this amazingly inflated sense of self-esteem, it was because I refused to hate myself… regardless of how fat I was. I used to tell myself that I had plenty of reasons to love myself regardless of how unattractive society made me feel as a fat woman… and I worked hard to make sure that my community could see my worth even if their first instinct was to devalue me based on my looks. But now, I realize the problem.

The problem wasn’t that I wanted someone to value me in ways beyond my appearance. The problem was that I was compelled to do so in response to feeling as if I was worthless for being fat. What compels a woman to feel so helpless, so hopeless and so worthless that she’d malnourish her body in order to meet the standards of people who don’t know her? Women admit to allowing their hair and teeth to fall out just so that they can remain (or reclaim) thin… women admit to fainting in the middle of workout routines… women admitting to living and thriving on laxatives to “empty out” and hoping to “balance out” at the end of the day… women admitting to binging on food only to vomit it up, feel guilt about the vomit and lick up their own vomit… we’re willing to ignore this as a community because it’s easier to write it off as “white girl shit?” Word?

I already have a problem with the way no one seems to care that little Black girls are growing up not understanding their history, their culture, their feelings and urges, their emotions, their bodies or their place in the world. Now, they cannot understand their desires? Their desire, their need to do the very thing evolution compels them to do to survive? Eat? We can’t teach them how to listen to their bodies? We can’t tell them that our bodies give us signals every day? We can’t tell them that it’s okay to NOT be rail thin, and that that’s never a reason to harm ourselves or treat ourselves poorly or intentionally malnourish ourselves?

The women who’ve shared their story with me, regardless of color, are all fearful of talking about weight. If they obsess over it too much, they fear sliding back into that trap of “fat is bad… must rid body of fat by any means necessary.” How do you change that? Do you start with society? Or do you start with telling individual women to appreciate themselves regardless of size? Or do you tell them that it’s okay to want to look different, to think you could look better… but it’s never worth risking your life or jeopardizing your health? Do we campaign against that hatred and that thing that puts all of a woman’s worth in her appearance?

I mean, all this time that I’ve been saying that women need to put their health first… maybe this will help people understand why. There are a ton of ways to lose weight, but are you jeopardizing your health in the process? Are you killing yourself to lose weight? Do you demonize fat to the point where it hinders your ability to love yourself? There are a billion ways to lose weight… only one way to soundly and sanely keep it off. No one’s talking about that part, though.

I am an advocate for therapy. I don’t care about stigmas – as far as I’m concerned, stupid stigmas compelled me to yo-yo diet and wind up worse off than I’d ever been before – and I don’t care about the opinions of people who don’t care about me… or even know me. I am an advocate for women acknowledging their weaknesses and speaking with someone who is trained to help you develop a sound and sane path to wellness. I’m also keenly aware of the stigma within the Black community regarding seeing a therapist – either it’s “white girl shit,” it’s “for crazy people… and you’re not crazy, you just don’t wanna be fat anymore… that’s not crazy” or it’s “immoral.. you don’t need a therapist, you need to go speak to a pastor.”

With all due respect, every single one of those answers is inappropriate and incorrect.

As I said before, I didn’t write this post to appear as if I’m on a soapbox and looking down at anyone as if I have all the answers. I asked more than enough questions in this post to make it clear that I don’t have the answers… I just have the understanding. I have the confusion. I have the hurt, the fear and the empathy for women who have gone through this and are still going through this… and would rather remain overweight (even though they may still secretely hate fat) than look at the reasons they may have gained the weight in the first place, for fear of re-developing their eating disorder.

I write this for awareness. I write this in the hopes that the mothers who read my site will hug their daughters a little tighter, praise them for being intelligent and loving human beings who may feel uncomfortable with their bodies, but should never see that as a reason to jeopardize their health. Hell, I write this in hopes that the women who read my site will hug themselves a little tighter, praise themselves for being intelligent and loving human beings who may feel uncomfortable with their bodies, but should never see that as a reason to jeopardize their health. I write this hoping that we will realize how we’ve let this fat hatred push us to a painful desperation that causes us to risk our lives to be thin. I write this in the hopes that we will create environments that will encourage women to (a) no longer hate themselves for not wanting to change, (b) no longer hate themselves for wanting to change but not understanding why it’s so hard and (c) no longer feel compelled to hate or shame other women for being in different places in their journey.. because we all know the pressures involved with weight in this society. Black, White, Latina, Asian, whatever.

I write this for all the Black women I know and love – even the ones who e-mail me that I’ve never met – who are just done with the dieting, done with the pain, done with the self-hatred, done with the pressure, done with it all. I’m writing this for each woman who is ready to stop and just… find God within herself… and love her… fiercely.

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

45 Comments

  1. Mitzi

    November 23, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    Wow…this is a great post. I’ve dealt with an eating disorder myself, and it’s amazing noone seems to understand that it’s not just a “white girl thing” but it affects all women. Very thought provoking, thanks for sharing your story.

    • Erika

      November 23, 2010 at 12:20 PM

      Thank you for sharing yours!

  2. Eva

    November 23, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    Great piece. The thing is people make money over women hating themselves. If we all loved the way we look, no one would make a dime.

    When I was a little girl, I used to like this Heinz Ketchup commercial. It was the slow ketchup because it wasn’t so watery. My mom took me aside and said that commercials used trickery to get you to buy things. She said that the Heinz Ketchup bottle was probably in the refrigerator for a few hours, while the other ketchup bottle was left out, then when you pour both bottles, it looked like the Heinz was coming out slower. I have never forgotten that conversation (it happened about 45 years ago too!). So when we see stuff on TV telling you that this diet is “the one” or this food is great, it’s all nonsense. All these companies want you to do is buy, buy, buy.

    And nothing makes money money than women hating themselves.

    I have to accept that at 51 I wouldn’t look good at 100 pounds the way I did when I was 21. I have to accept that it’s harder for me to lose the weight now. I don’t have to like it, but I have to accept it, I have to eat less, exercise, not eat so much if not any junk food, that I have to drink water, eat fruits and veggies. It’s not easy but I’ve seen women my age who are 100 pounds and they don’t look very good.

    Therapy does help, as far as therapy being a “white girl thing.” When someone tells me that I tell them, “Oh, so I guess you shouldn’t go on that cruise next month, aren’t cruises a ‘white folk thing?’ That usually shuts them up.

    • Erika

      November 23, 2010 at 12:22 PM

      “And nothing makes money money than women hating themselves.”

      *lays flat out on the ground… because that line right there killed it*

      But wait – let me add two more words to it:

      “And nothing makes money money than women hating themselves… and each other.”

      • Shaina

        May 30, 2011 at 7:57 PM

        I think that is one of the key issues. Self hate and hate of each other. Not just among women but in the black community as well. Well said

  3. Madame: The Journey

    November 23, 2010 at 11:42 AM

    I never felt like I had or could admit to having an eating disorder. One, because I was black and two, because I was big girl when it developed. Nobody would believe me. It’s thought that those suffering from an ED fit one body type and ethnicity – which is beyond false.

    Although laxatives and ipecac syrup were a part of my daily destructive routine, it was my way to lose weight. As, like you, there was no one around to teach me about health … I was only bombarded with the message, of “You’re getting to big. You need to lose weight.”

    You wrote this for me (someone still fearful and slightly ashamed to confront that phase in my life) … and I hope it reaches someone in the midst of this struggle, to realize that there is a better way.

    Thank you, Erika, for your courage and your voice.

  4. Nicole

    November 23, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    Thank you for writing this. I fight everyday with my weight. At one point in time felt it easier to take laxatives to “get the bad food out” when I would gorge on things I should not have. Not the right way. This has been so helpful for me, and is a life process. I am getting fit for life, not a fad diet.

    Thank you for sharing your story, it helps more than you know.

    Nicole

    • Erika

      November 23, 2010 at 12:52 PM

      See, and that’s the thing I wish we all could understand a little better – we all “fight” with it, but the hate and the pressure that comes with it… it’s just too much to put on a woman and expect her to be 100%. It’s just crazy.

      *big hug*

  5. Eva

    November 23, 2010 at 12:50 PM

    My silly keyboard, what I wanted to say was: “nothing makes MORE money than women hating themselves.” But I guess nothing makes “money, money, money than women hating themselves” is true too.

    • Erika

      November 23, 2010 at 1:01 PM

      Strangely enough, I knew EXACTLY what you meant. LOLOL

  6. Biolobri

    November 23, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    Thanks, Erika. While I’ve never had what I considered to be an eating disorder, I saw Jenny Schaffer speak at my alma mater about her experience with eating disorders. I was shocked by how much of it hit home.

    I remember at one point she asked if anyone had ever gained weight in an elevator. Maybe when you got in the elevator you were the thinnest person, and you congratulated yourself, feeling good about your weight. Then a skinnier girl got the on the elevator and suddenly, suddenly you gained 100lbs and were disgusted with how fat you are. For shame! I had definitely felt this way at times.

    I had all the same thoughts and feelings, and though my habits were never in the depths of an eating disorder, the restriction, laxatives, and over-exercising were all there in some capacity.

    I ended up buying her book that evening, “Life Without Ed” which talks about how she approached her eating disorder essentially as an abusive relationship and was able to overcome it. Framing those negative thoughts as an abusive boyfriend’s comments helps to be able to stand up to them and fight back. I would never take that kind of talk from someone else, why do I take it from myself?

  7. Nannette Wade

    November 23, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    Thanks so much for this article. I cried while reading it because I know the pain that causes overeating and eating disorders and the pain that comes from being fat. I’m hugging myself and loving the God in me that has made me more than either my pain or my fat. Lately I’ve been so focused on being fit and healthy and some days doing the right thing and some days eating too much or not exercising because my knees hurt and my work schedule is crazy, that I forgot I am more than a fat colored girl. I am the creative expression of God, here to give and receive love. There is more to me than the rolls of fat. Thanks to you, today I celebrate being me and my accomplishments.

    • Tanisha

      August 9, 2012 at 5:52 PM

      “I’m hugging myself and loving the God in me that has made me more than either my pain or my fat.”

      I love this line Nannette, and I love this post and website E. Thank you both for your honesty, insight and wisdom. Today, “I’m hugging myself and loving the God in me that has made me more than either my pain or my fat,” is my new mantra.

  8. Trina

    November 23, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    Wow, I’m just trying not to cry..I have had so much trouble with wrapping my mind around this. I’m trying to remain positive but I just feel like I fight about this weight thing all the time. I am even afraid, so afraid that after I lose the weight its all going to come back. Even as I have changed my eating habits and they have stuck, I’m still so scared.It’s something I’m beginning to seriously working through, which is good, but man this is hard and all of society neglects to say that as a disclaimer after their ‘She Lost The Weight In Two Weeks!!’ crap. Thanks for writing this, I really appreciate it.

  9. Tameika

    November 23, 2010 at 2:36 PM

    wow! Thank you for being so honest and open with this post. No one will ever have all the answers, but with this post you’ll open many minds and hearts. I’ve never struggled with an eating disorder than I’m conscious of, but yes I battle with my food and weight demons all the time. Not sure where that comes from either. Society? Childhood? Who knows? But I’m aware of it. And I consciously make the effort every day to be in control of choices and content with the good and bad choices. And “check” myself on dangerous behaviors like overexercising or overindulging and as well underexercising and deprivation. And to not have ridiculous expecatations. I’m me. What works for them may not work for me and vice versa. Balance and self awareness is in order for me because both extremes are wildly dangerous. Thanks again for making me think about my own battles in a much larger context.

  10. TruBeautyPrsprs

    November 23, 2010 at 3:52 PM

    I just shed a tear. I needed this, right now. Thank you.

    • Erika

      November 23, 2010 at 4:19 PM

      *big hug*

  11. Naomi

    November 23, 2010 at 5:00 PM

    This post was exactly what I needed today too. I have tried so hard to be that girl who was curvy and proud of it. And the idea that I “refused to hate myself” is EXACTLY what I have been doing all these years. I could see I was bigger than other girls, but most of the time I was okay with that… or so I thought. I started realizing that I use food as a comfort and tend to eat my feelings. I realized I had never ever lost weight in my life, but instead just steadily gained, especially when my stress-eating habits got worse in college.

    I went to the doctor last week, had high blood pressure, TMJ (from grinding my teeth when I sleep) and had topped 200 lbs (since I’m very short, that’s a lot). My doctor straight up told me I needed to deal with what was causing all these things–the way I respond to stress. And food has always been my comfort, and now it’s terrifying to me. Every time I eat I feel guilty and I’m incredibly scared of what will happen this week at Thanksgiving. I want to love my body as much as I used to, but embarking on this journey seems so difficult right now. I’m going to try to remember to love myself fiercely, just as I am.

  12. sabrina

    November 23, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    this is absolutely beautiful, thank you for sharing your journey with others.

  13. Yolanda

    November 23, 2010 at 8:50 PM

    Been there, done that, wrote the manual.

    You haven’t developed real food issues until you’ve been told that you can’t have what other family members are eating because you’re too fat–I was twelve at the time!

    I’ve since moved past that; however, family members can still be a problem. For the past year I have been slowly transitioning to a raw vegan lifestyle. My mom acts as if my decision to become a raw vegan and exercise at least 30 minutes everyday is a personal attack on her parenting.

    • Erika

      November 23, 2010 at 9:56 PM

      “You haven’t developed real food issues until…”

      I feel you… and we’ve all had it bad and realistically speaking, the whole “the family fed me rice cakes while everyone else ate food!!!” thing is more common than we all think, too. I think that’s why it’s so awesome that we can come together and talk about stuff like this… because maybe we can come up with better ways and spread the word.

      Ohh, and shout out to raw foodies! Life is always so much simpler as a raw foodie! LOL!

  14. Kimberly

    November 23, 2010 at 9:53 PM

    The timeliness of this posting is unbelievable. For the past 3 weeks, I’ve been in an intensive outpatient program for an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). The irony? I had a gastric bypass surgery last year and dropped 150 pounds. I still have another 50 pounds to go, so I decided it was ok to calorie restrict and exercise 5 days/week. I quickly learned that eating 1,000/day and exercising for 60-75 minutes leads to dizziness, low blood pressure, irritability, and anxiety. (I’m supposed to be eating 1,500 calories/day). I thought there was no way those “white girl” counselors were going to understand. As I sit through the group meetings, I realize that we all have personality traits in common that got us to this point. Perfectionism, overachiever syndrome, etc…

    The missing cultural element from the group, in my opinion, is that i don’t view my body the way the white girls do. I don’t need to be a size 4. I’d be happy at an 8 or a 10. However, before the surgery, I said my ideal size was a 14/16. I’m now at an 18…and that 8 seems reasonable, or maybe even a 6, and so forth and so on. My outpatient treatment team has said repeatedly that anorexia is extremely difficult to treat. I just didn’t think that someone who weighs 200 pounds could possibly suffer from it. I realize that I have many, MANY anorectic markers (not a typo, the term anorectic is used frequently) and that if I don’t give up trying to control every calorie I eat, my life is going to be consumed by it. It’s nearly 9pm and I’ve only had 800 calories, barely half of what I’m supposed to have. It will be torturous for me to eat another 300-400 calories before bed (and that still is not reaching my recommended caloric intake).

    Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating: these are PERSON diseases, not WHITE person diseases.

    • Chasing Joy

      November 9, 2012 at 7:17 PM

      Kimberly I just said a prayer for you that God helps you through your recovery process. I hope that you were able to finish your calories for the day. Thank you for your honesty.

  15. Cyndi

    November 23, 2010 at 10:39 PM

    Wow, E I dont know were to begin, but I will just say I thank God for your power for words and knowing when and what to say and I needed to hear all of this THANK YOU and the mirror is a powerful thing as well as our community, only if we continue to feed off of it in a negitive way and in so many days through out this jounry I struggle with today is a good day but the next day sucks.. And then your post gave me hope on a whole different level ..The things that are often not spoken are because no one really wants to listen to the whole heart of others, but you do and ( behind tears)Thank you soooooo very much . To all lets pray that God to continues to let us fellowship thru Ericka and this site because I have been blessed by alot of your storys and encourgement…

  16. Kate

    November 24, 2010 at 1:40 AM

    Thank you for this post. I’m still sorting out how I feel about my body since I gained a good amount of weight a few years ago.

    Its so hard feeling lost within all these various messages. I just want be myself as best I can.

  17. Athena

    November 24, 2010 at 4:44 AM

    I can relate to your binge episode. I thought the same way if I don’t digest it, it won’t count! Unfortunately I was successful in purging but after the first episode I couldn’t do it anymore it really HURTS! I’m glad to say I’m at a much better place but it wasn’t easy to look in the mirror and tell my reflection your not perfect but I love you! And it may seem a little strange to stand in front of a mirror and say I love you but thats how I start everyday! Learning to love the imperfect being that is me! If I’m 250 or 150 I am loved.

  18. Nora

    December 6, 2010 at 4:34 AM

    I agree that ED’s are definitely not a white girl thing, but time and time again people would dismiss me or act surprised and think that somehow my dark skin made me immune.

    Unfortunately I feel like I couldn’t see myself in this post. Perhaps it is because I am so immersed in my eating disorder relapse and I am deep into my restricting, overexercise, and purging. This time around it was never about how I looked. Yes, I was slightly overweight (I guess now I’m not technically thnx to the recent lbs lost), but I was never called too big.

    I guess at the end of the day it still ends up being about self-loathing. Hating myself and what has happened to me and hating the inability to be able to change things…except that number on the scale. I cant control that no one wants to hire me or believes that i was abused, but I can control the amount of calories I consume.

    Sometimes I wish I was doing it because of body image or pressure. I feel like it’d be so much easier to handle. But for me, it is just torturing myself in a way that is therapeutic and dissociation that makes life marginally more bearable. Perhaps it is just merely a slow suicide attempt.

    • Erika

      December 6, 2010 at 10:57 AM

      I think that EDs are multi-faceted, just like they’re represented (unfortunately) in every minority.. writing this was ambitious, but not so much that I expected to be able to cover everyone in 1500 words.

      Just as many women have shared here and added a more personal perspective to eating disorders, your perspective brings awareness to the idea that it isn’t always about appearance, and it can be just as much about “control.” It isn’t a problem for only the underweight or the overweight… and the problem doesn’t always result in only being under or overweight. I’m so thankful that you shared that.

      At any rate, I hate that all I can offer you is a digital hug and a little hope that you can find someone in your life that you can talk to about this. I was lucky enough to have a friend who was a therapist who offered me some very pointed words of wisdom… maybe you have someone like that in your life similarly situated? I hope for the best for you, and that you can find the peace you need to overcome.

      • Nora

        December 7, 2010 at 1:47 PM

        Thanks for the e-hug. Unfortunately I think the main reason I relapsed is that I have no friends who will support me. People “don’t know what to say” and they suddenly stop responding to your texts or IMs. For now, this makes life somewhat tolerable.

        I wish I had a supportive friend, I really do. That’s something I ache for everyday. So I dull that pain with hours of exercise and starvation, unfortunately.

  19. candace

    December 6, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    it’s wonderful and tragic to read so many people relating to this post. Myself included… thanks for sharing.

  20. Glynnis

    April 29, 2011 at 10:19 PM

    Beautiful post. There is a stigma with therapy and it’s wonderful of you to encourage people to see past what others will think of it and take care of themselves. Therapy gave me tools to help deal with my own issues [eating and other] and it has helped alot, learning to take the time to self reflect and change attitudes towards myself is something I wish more women could learn.

    I wanted to say more but words have escaped me because your post was wonderful.

  21. Sondra

    June 8, 2011 at 12:46 AM

    Thank you so much *tears*

  22. Joy

    June 8, 2011 at 1:11 AM

    Hi Erica, I’m a new fan to your website, and I LOVE it so much because it’s not the typical “do this exercise, follow this diet for weight loss, it’s really easy!” type of site. I appreciate that you look at heath, self-esteem, and weight loss as issues with multiple layers, all while positively encouraging your readers to be more proactive about their health.

    I found this article to be dead-on for me; it was almost like looking in a mirror. I got teary around the 6th paragraph. For many years, especially since college, I engaged in binge eating whenever I was under a tremendous amount of stress (juggling full-time work, full-time grad studies, worrying about money/bills, and a train-wreck relationship), or felt sad, lonely, or anxious. It was during grad school when I started trying to throw up my food because I’d feel so guilty after a binge session. I also tried the butter knife method; when that didn’t work, I got some ipecac syrup. And in a sick way, I considered it a “success” to be able to get rid of the Little Caesar’s pizza I would have just devoured – after I while I got to hear , “Oh, you look like you lost some weight?” instead of the typical jokes, put downs, and snide comments I’ve had to endure since middle school. I never told that to any of my family or friends; besides, who would believe a 300+ pound woman if she said she had an “eating disorder”? And I can relate all too well to the whole stereotype about black folks and therapy; I did end up scheduling a visit with the counselor’s office at school when I felt like I could not handle things anymore. I’m glad I did, but would have been humiliated if anyone found out. Still, it was the best decision I ever made.

    Although I still struggle with my weight and my eating habits, I thank God I no longer do any purging. After work I’m out at the gym or on the walking trail at the park, trying to do it the old-fashioned way.

  23. Amanda

    August 18, 2011 at 11:40 PM

    Girl, thank you for this post. Thank you for this blog. I’ve often felt on the verge of an ED, even did the chew and spit thing. Thank you for sharing your gift and your journey. I’m going to end this now before it gets too simpering.

  24. Nichelle

    February 22, 2012 at 2:10 PM

    Although, I do not suffer fro and ED, I do have food issues. There is a negative voice that tell me to torture myself because I am overweight. This post helped me find words to shut that little voice up! Thank you.

  25. Lynne

    February 23, 2012 at 5:46 AM

    Thanks for your honesty, as I read the replies I realize there are so many women like me who struggle with acceptance and loving themselves completely on a daily basis. Today I will pray for us all. Be blessed!

  26. Meighan

    August 12, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    Although I enjoyed this post, I think I need to mention. that overeating like that is already an eating disorder. It is compulsive overeating, sometimes called food addiction or binge eating disorder. Insurances used to cover treatment for it but many stopped when they realized how hard it was to treat. It is still recognized as an ED by many, however.

    I also feel I need to mention that finding sound nutritional advice is not going to help everyone, because for many people eating disorders are not about food.

  27. Tina

    November 3, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    A couple of years ago I attended some Overeater’s Anonymous meetings. In the midst of a struggle to figure out whether I had an eating disorder, I at least figured out I practiced disordered eating. I longed for a space absent racial bias where I could explore my feelings and be encouraged by the experiences of others. I never quite found that in the places nearest to where I lived, but I am grateful for this website, which even when I don’t agree 100% challenges me to name my struggle, actively work to do better by myself, and love myself all the while.

  28. Rutendo

    November 8, 2012 at 8:34 PM

    lm choking on the pain l felt on my throat while reading this article.lam so glad l stumbled upon this page.
    l will surely use this to my own advantage after living years in self inflicted misery.
    Great work!!
    Thanks ever so much.

  29. Chasing Joy

    November 9, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    This was a great post. I have been at the point of looking over the toilet bowl but never was I able to bring myself to throw up. It is a sad, scary, and lonley place. Thank you for your honesty.

  30. Alexis

    February 22, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    Perfect post! :)

    Thanks so much for writing and sharing your journey!

    It is very inspiring that you’ve tackled a tough and often taboo topic and are motivating people to change for the better.

    I could relate to this post, completely.

  31. Deborah

    April 28, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    This is too close to home, I remember being so distraught about my weight that I bought cakes muffins everything and ate it all in one sitting, and then tried to make myself throw it back up…nothing happened. Then I just cried myself to sleep being even more frustrated at myself. I thought, there’s no way I can have a disorder because I’m fat, how can I have the “characteristics” of someone with bulimia if I couldn’t even make the food come back out?
    Although I havent made myself sick, that line of thinking is still a constant, even though now I have joined the gym and trying to eat better, when I see all these slim girls I just want to go home and binge, but seeing this article (and just how widespread it actually is) has given me some strength that I can get through it, I don’t want to turn twenty and still be plagued with these bad eating habits.

    Thank you for the article and sending love from across the pond :)

  32. Kami

    May 13, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    i also went through therapy for eating disorder but i was also dealing with a traumatic incident that brought it on. Now I a, trying to heal my body from the inside out. It is important to have an supportive person though. I am also trying to lose weight the healthy way and build a better image of self.When people hear that you suffered from an eating disorder they dismiss the fact that you want to lose weight ie. therapist, dietitians, and doctorsI dealt with many people who said you are just meant to fat and black. In the end I decided to find a supportive therapist to deal with my recovery from trauma instead of the eating disoder. It is a long process to find the right people and I hope that I meet my goals.

  33. Gail

    May 14, 2013 at 7:52 AM

    Thanks for this sensitive, timely post, Erika. It reminded me of trying to stick something (including my finger) down my throat and vomit up the dreaded binge. I couldn’t “get er done” either. I felt the shame of another failure. I thought I was the only one.

  34. Erikka

    November 5, 2013 at 9:36 PM

    Thank you, Erika for this post. I too am a woman of color, a child psychiatrist, and I work in an eating disorders treatment center for adolescents. I am so grateful for your post, because there is such stigma surrounding eating disorders and mental illness in our community. Most people do not realize that eating disorders affects women (and men) of color – we are just not included in the studies, we are not referred for services, and we do not have access to the same care. As an advocate for mental health awareness, and specifically eating disorder awareness among women and children of color, I am grateful for your transparency in sharing your experience with eating disordered behaviors. Thank you!!

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