National Eating Disorders Association
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People of Color

Stephanie Covington Armstrong doesn’t fit the stereotype of someone with an eating disorder. And that’s exactly why she wrote her book, Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat: A Story of Bulimia. Armstrong is sharing her story in an effort to expand the public’s perceptions of who struggles with eating disorders and poor body image.

We caught up with her to talk about myth-busting, what it takes to gain true confidence, and why she thinks our cultural obsession with celebrity is hurting us.

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National Minority Mental Health Month may be winding down, but the conversation about mental health in marginalized communities doesn’t — and shouldn’t — stop. Mental health issues don’t discriminate. Although eating disorders have historically been associated with young, cisgender, straight, white, upper-class females, they can affect anyone. They don’t choose any one race, ethnicity, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, or any other classification. While anyone can have an eating disorder, minorities tend to face unique obstacles when dealing with mental health issues.

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The acknowledgement of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnic background and cross-cultural differences is necessary and vital to building the therapeutic relationship. All of these things contribute towards one’s identity and, in my experiences as a clinician, are always present in the room with clients.

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Something monumental happened on April 5th, 2017: for the first time in my life, I spoke openly with my mom about my eating disorder. I had returned home after advocating on Capitol Hill for eating disorder parity and called my mom to recap the day. 

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Last Tuesday, we hosted a #NEDAwareness Twitter chat to hear from marginalized members of the body positive and pro-recovery community. The goal of the chat was to gain insight into how food, exercise, and body image issues impact different people in different ways and emphasize the necessity of creating inclusive communities. Here are some of the most important messages from the chat:

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Gloria Lucas is a self-described “chubby warrior, DIY punx educator, and eating disorder survivor” dedicated to increasing the representation within the body positive and eating disorder community. After struggling with her own eating disorder, Gloria felt the impact of cultural differences with the difficulty she felt about speaking out. Now, she hopes to fulfill her mission with Nalgona Positivity Pride, an organization that centers the diverse backgrounds of community members and gives back to her own community. 

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We are shaped by our experiences and our perceptions. Our views of the world are defined by what we see and what we hear and the media has always played a role in that. Throughout history, the media and arguably, our immediate environment, has controlled our self-image, and in the age of technology, we are becoming increasingly aware of the negative impact of what our eyes and ears consume.

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During my teenage years, I was very confrontational. I was also very angry and embarrassed to be in my body. This anger and shame, encouraged me to yell at and hate the strangers I caught staring at me in public places. 

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People of Color and Eating Disorders

People of Color and Eating DisordersEating disorders have historically been associated with heterosexual, young, white females, but in reality, they affect people from all demographics of all ethnicities at similar rates. People of color – especially African Americans – are significantly less likely to receive help for their eating issues.

The first time I heard about eating disorders, I was in middle school. Our health class watched a film on the dangers of extreme dieting, and the implications it could have on mental and physical health. I watched intently as the film portrayed the typical narrative of a middle-class Caucasian girl who was on a dangerous path toward starvation. At the time, it was inconceivable to me that I could ever develop an eating disorder. I was just an average sized African-American girl who loved food. 

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