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News Flash: Women of Color Get Eating Disorders Too!

Who would of thought that an eating disorder, would come knocking on my door, yet it did! I’ll never forget the time when I received the phone call informing me that my little sister had pass out in school. I was living in NYC at the time and was really confused as to what was going on. It was discovered that her passing out was due to low blood sugar, due to the fact that she wasn’t eating a lot, or enough. Following this incident she was officially diagnosed with an eating disorder. This same scenario would occur several times throughout her high school years, until she received the needed assistance from a professional. With all that was occurring, it’s as though I was viewing scene right out of a Lifetime movie, because that’s how it felt.

How on earth could this happen? There were no signs of it when I last saw her. Although she did disguise her weight loss pretty well, by wearing over sized clothing. I can recall at that time she was really adamant about the raw vegan diet she was pursuing. In my mind, I  didn’t think anything of it, but what started out as a raw vegan diet would soon turn into a full on battle with anorexia and bulimia.

My family couldn’t understand; why couldn’t she just eat. Only if it were that simple. Eating disorders are serious illnesses that can be life-threatening. They are also extremely complex illnesses, arising from a variety of biological, psychological and social factors. Up until that point I didn’t know much about an eating disorder, or the different types.

There are tons of misconceptions about eating disorders, and it is not necessarily about being thin. Eating disorders are conditions defined by abnormal eating habits that may involve insufficient or excessive food intake to the detriment of an individual’s physical and mental health. There are many forms of eating disorders, but Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia are the two most common forms. There are other forms of eating disorders not otherwise specified, for example binge eating disorder.

I found it difficult to empathize with my sister, because like most I didn’t think an eating disorder was an issue for women of color! But, low and behold, they can suffer with concerns about body image and undergo anxieties like any other women. The assumption is that women of color, no matter the size, are comfortable with their body image. However, there are some women that struggle with body image. It has been uncovered that many eating disorder cases remain hidden, not talked about, or unknown within black and Hispanic communities. These cultures associate the development of eating disorders and other psychological conditions with dysfunction and failure. For this reason, many cases of eating disorders go untreated. Another thing to consider as well, is medical providers are missing or ignoring eating disorder signs, amongst women of color.

My little sister means the world to me, and the only think left for me to do was to be supportive in her recovery, and that was a major task. Now I must admit in the beginning I may have been a little insensitive to her issue, but when it escalated to life threatening levels is when things got real. I reached out on a daily basis to help uplift her self-esteem, and affirm my support. At times, hearing her discuss her warped perception of her body was a bit much for me. I literally wanted to shake her up, to make her realize what I and everyone else saw.

Recovery was an uphill battle for my sister, and it took 2 stints in rehab and loving support from our family to get to the place she is today. The driving force behind her recovery was a 3-month stay at Renfrew Center, in which she allowed herself to receive the help as opposed to resisting it. Her recovery didn’t end there, as it will continue to be a life long process. She currently attends one on one counseling sessions; including group counseling sessions to reinforce her progress. Sustaining her recovery is necessary, considering there is always room to relapse, and she can’t afford to slip back into that dark period.

As of today, I’m so delighted to see her empowered, and in positive place with her body image. Nowadays, as a person who has recovered, and still is recovering; she volunteers her time to help out the Alliance for Eating Disorders. It excites her to give back and support others with their battle with eating disorder. She has even gone on to speak about her story and recovery, with other young women going through the same experience.

There is a lot to learn from this experience, and it can be concluded that eating disorders has no boundaries. Regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or class, it can affect anyone!

Prior to this article, did you have stereotypical ideas about people with an eating disorder? Why?  Do you acknowledge eating disorders as a serious medical condition, or disregard it? Why? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.


Shawna Kay ( Blissed Out Belle )

Kay is a Lifestyle & Empowerment Enthusiast, and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Blissed Out Belle™. Connect with her on Facebook here, and follow her on Twitter @BlissedOutBelle

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