“Curvy. Thick. Brick house. Bootylicious. Voluptuous. Phat. These are some of the words commonly used to describe black women’s bodies, but rarely do we hear about black folks’ complicated relationship with food.”

These are the words of Clutch’s talented editor Britini Danielle, who posted a video from the thought-provoking Black Folks Don’t … series. This particular episode tackles the taboo issue of black folks and eating disorders.

Self-medicating with food is definitely an issue in all communities, especially in a society that subsidizes all the cheap, tasty salt-fat-sugar combinations, but — and there is a large “but” (no pun intended) — we are hearing the same discourse concerning eating disorders that perpetuates the myth of the weak woman that falls victim to a ever-encroaching white standard of beauty. (In the piece, apparently, the term “African-American” was an euphemism for black girls, as not one man admitted or was featured as suffering or recovering from an eating disorder.)

As we continue to exclude the myriad of differences and experiences in each eating disorder case for a more easily digested model, the roots of the problem will stay simplistic — “oh, I hung out with white people too much,” or my favorite, “we eat too much soul food.”  This allows our cultural dialogue to be reactive instead of proactive.

No one broaches the subject of black psychology from a non-scientific or scholarly standpoint. Most black folks who will watch this type of video have already heard or read about W.E.B. DuBois’ groundbreaking theory of double consciousness, but when are we going to ask if our minds are inherently programmed for destructive, suicidal behavior? For heaven’s sake, we live under the constant, imminent threat of nuclear war: this proves without a shadow of a doubt humans are intrinsically psychotic on some level.

Additionally, as long as black folks dismiss that the importation of cheap, legal consumerist ideologies in the form of fast-food diners and bargain-based material depots bludgeons the fabric of black culture and communities, regardless of class or rural area or cityscape, we will continue to witness the disappearance of effective methods to stop the institutional assaults on our collective body.

Well, enough of my rant. Take a look at the video and tell us what you think.

Black Folk Don’t: Have Eating Disorders from NBPC on Vimeo.

around the web


  1. For too long this has been an issue ignored by the black community. People often associate an eating disorder with a “skinny” body, which is so not the case. Often times, even bulimi white women have a “normal” size body, and eat in front of others, which leads to people not questioning their eating/food behavior. The problem is there is a wide range of eating disoders including binge-eating, purging, overeating, disordered eating, anorexia, etc. Psychologists and treatment professional don’t even have names for the different ways in which eating disorders manifest themselves. I am someone who has sought different methods of help for eating habits and have become friends with plenty of whomen, white, black, asian etc. who are overweight, normal sized, or even skinny, who deal with issues with binging, purging, overeating, undereating and more. You don’t know by looking at someone what happens behind closed doors and I really wish we could finally move past the black people don’t get eating disorders mentality because it is simply false and keeps people suffering in silence.

  2. eating disorders are so misunderstood because the people who are going through it have a hard time articulating what they are feeling and why and how they got to that point.

  3. If you have not already, please check out the release of Byron Hurt’s newest documentary “Soul Food Junkies”. He explores whether or not black folk have addictions to soul food, questions why, even though most of us know that post-industrial soul food is not good for us we do it anyway. He talks about his father being incredibly traumatized by a horrific event that happened and how his father used food as a comfort to deal with a trauma. his father was overweight for a very long time and eventually died from pancreatic cancer.

    Queen Afua , a black raw foods vegan, has hinted that black women have ‘disordered eating’ (overeating of junk food or just ‘bad food’) to deal with the legacies of racialized colonialism (racism, normative whiteness, etc) that have never been remedied at the structural level in the USA. Check out her stuff.

    Thanks Shane.

  4. Oh, and the last chapter of Doris Witt’s book “Black Hunger” also talks about black women ‘over-eating’ to deal with the pain, stress, and discomfort of sexism, classism, and racism. The chapter “How Mama STarted to get Large: Eating Disorders, Fetal Rights, and Black Female Appetite.”

  5. How LOOOOOONG?? Seriously how often and how much longer are we going to continue to lump and dump us all in. It’s like our big dirty secret we are ashamed and believe in stereotyping. You don’t know me and the term “Black Folks” doesn’t mean anything. I’m not your Auntie Netta and you aren’t my Madea. I don’t have any Ma-dears this isn’t a family reunion. Who are you really talking about specifically? Try to reach them with some respect. So done with these black shame blog title gimmicks.

  6. I need a drink after this article. My 1 year old destroys everything he can get his hands on so there is something to this argument but I would like you to flesh it out some more, see where it takes you. Interesting post to say the least

  7. The first thing we need to get rid of is the idea that skinny=anorexia. That you can’t be any bigger than a twig to have an ED….and ED is an unhealthy feeling towards food.

Leave a Reply