Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Black vs. White Women And Eating Disorders

I asked a black female friend if her group suffers from eating disorders, similar to white females. She laughed and said, "yes, we eat too much!" I said no seriously? Again, she said yes, black women do all the crazy things white women do - anorexia, bulimia, binging and purging, but "we mostly binge, with no purge". She went on to say black women have the same body image hang-ups as white women.

After a bit of digging, I think my spokesperson may have been right on the money, even as she joked. It seems that there are some researchers who believe over-eating, or binge-eating, to be a disorder on par or greater than various earlier recognized eating disorders. Unreconciled anxieties can drive people to either starve themselves or over eat. But it also seems that over-eating may have a socio-economic/cultural influence tied to obese tendencies and negative childhood experiences related to weight, as well as poor dietary habits. (here)

So, as I see black women (and men) morbidly leading the obesity parade, I will think twice of the role mental health plays, and the need for improvement. America is literally eating itself to death.

James C. Collier


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Anonymous said...

I just don't undrestand. Why is it soo hard to do some exercises and watch what you eat?

James C. Collier said...

The Q&D answer. Childhood trauma breeds fear breeds anxiety breeds behaviors, sometimes constructive often destructive.

Dr. Nina said...

As James said, trauma has a lot to do with why people turn to food. Eating disorders aren't about willpower. A common misperception about disordered eating is that the behavior – whether it involves restricting, bingeing, or bingeing and purging – is only about food.

Those behaviors are “symptoms” of underlying problems, although they definitely seems like “the” problem.

Just as you cannot get rid of a weed by just pulling it out of the ground, people cannot fully recover from an eating disorder without getting to the root of problem.

Therefore, it is important to identify and work through the conflicts and emotions that lead to the behavior with food, rather than focusing on the behavior itself.

As a psychoanalyst/psychotherapist specializing in disordered eating, I am very aware of the erroneous ideas out there, and appreciate blog posts like this, which correct the assumption that EDs only impact young white girls/women. They affect everyone, all racial backgrounds, all genders, all ages! Thanks for getting the word out!

Nina Savelle-Rocklin, Psy.D.

wickedwisdom said...

Its not ALL about what you eat and how you exercise.
OR even underlying anxiety & trauma. Though those things do play a role.

I think part of the problem is often lower socioeconomic people have less access to healthy & affordable food. Or information about access to healthy & affordable food.

I go to the Farmer's Market on the weekends and I rarely see another minority.

And my college town has a lot more minorities than any other place in this Blood Red State.

There's a Native American university here, University of Kansas is here.

You can even use your Vision Card at the Farmer's Market & get tokens that all the vendors take.