Living F.R.E.E. Lab, Family Group Photo

Food holds a profound significance in the Black community. Food symbolizes resilience and a sense of community, and is the centerpiece for celebratory gatherings. Despite the rich culture that food embodies, there is a complex and often overlooked issue – eating disorders. These disorders, though prevalent, are frequently silenced and misunderstood, which creates a barrier to safe spaces for discussion and healing.  

While there is positive cultural significance, the relationship between food and eating disorders in the Black community is complicated.. This relationship is influenced by various socioeconomic factors like: limited access to nutritious food and healthcare and exacerbated risks of disordered eating. These factors also contribute to the way disordered eating presents most frequently in Black communities. Binge eating and bulimia are more common in the Black community, but because research focuses more on white women and their experience, the Black experience is often overshadowed.1 Historical trauma, heavily rooted in systemic racism and slavery, has also contributed to attitudes toward food and body image.5   

Culturally competent care is essential in treating eating disorders in Black communities and takes form in many different ways including: tailored treatment approaches, awareness of barriers to care, and respecting the cultural factors that play a role in eating disorders.2 More representation in research and providers is necessary to achieve this, as well as an emphasis on community support and advocacy. These efforts will empower people struggling to seek help and access resources. Education and awareness are crucial to challenging stigma and promoting understanding within the community.  

Eating disorders in the Black community are a complex and misunderstood issue influenced by historical, cultural, and socioeconomic factors. Creating safe spaces for discussion and healing are essential to increase awareness, support, and access to resources. By addressing these obstacles, we can work towards a future where everyone has access to the care and support they need.  

National Eating Disorder Association Resources:  

NAED Helpline:  

Call 1-866-662-1235 

Monday – Friday, 9:00 am – 7:00 pm  

Treatment options: https://map.nationaleatingdisorders.org/  

Support options: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/free-low-cost-support 

References:  

1.Eating disorders in the black community are more common than you think. (n.d.). Retrieved February 18, 2024, from https://uncnri.org/2022/11/10/eating-disorders-in-the-black-community-are-more-common-than-you-think/ 

2.Anderson, S., Anderson, Y., Carter, C., Mbengue, A., Merriman, M., Jr., Roberts, C., Ssettimba, H. D., & Taylor, O. (2023, March 2). Binge eating disorders among black women are going undiagnosed. https://healthcity.bmc.org/population-health/binge-eating-disorders-among-black-women-are-going-undiagnosed 

3.Food from the soul: A history of African American culture and nutrition. (2022, December 1). The DO. https://thedo.osteopathic.org/columns/food-from-the-soul-a-history-of-african-american-culture-and-nutrition/ 

4.Nair, L., & Adetayo, O. A. (2019). Cultural competence and ethnic diversity in healthcare. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Global Open, 7(5), e2219. https://doi.org/10.1097/GOX.0000000000002219 

5.Awad, G. H., Norwood, C., Taylor, D. S., Martinez, M., McClain, S., Jones, B., Holman, A., & Chapman-Hilliard, C. (2015). Beauty and body image concerns among african american college women. The Journal of Black Psychology, 41(6), 540–564. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095798414550864 

By Wehazit Mussie

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