Monday, February 11

MONDAY MOTIVATION: Isn't It Time To Put To Rest The Myth That Black Eating Disorders Don't Exist?

Loving yourself is a difficult journey – but it is a road worth travelling- Chivon John

 Guest post by: Safia Bartholomew

Quick, name a black woman who has openly discussed her issues with not loving her body and described her struggles in battling an eating disorder? I'll wait. Nothing comes to mind right? It's hard to think of many examples (if any), because the narrative in the media, throughout our communities and even in academic research omits the story of the black woman who doesn't love her body and who rejects that old "the bigger the better" myth that has become our story. There is a false idea that black women are more comfortable in their bodies than other races. It's popular opinion in our communities that negative body image is "their issue - not ours". For the sisters who look in the mirror and hate what they see, their battle becomes a journey on mute - unheard of and unrecognized.

The expectations of what a black woman's body should look like has simply become ridiculous with the influence of the media and specifically hip hop. The "coke-bottle" figure has become our unrealistic barbie doll standard of what beauty is. While some women are blessed with natural curves, others find it hard to either "build a booty" or to maintain a healthy weight while trying to achieve a plump, round behind and tiny waist. Not to mention on another note, that many of the top black women celebs that we see are often quite thin (e.g. Halle Berry, Kerry Washington). Unrealistically thin or curves for days, the standard for black women's bodies is often far unreachable and sometimes unattainable to achieve in a healthy way.

I heard wellness advocate and speaker, Chivon John, talk about her journey at a workshop that she held last September and thought that her bravery and openness in discussing her own battle with a negative self-image and eating disorder was inspiring, unique and refreshing. Chivon's mission has simply become to continue to love the woman that she sees in her mirror and to encourage other women to take a look as well. Check out what she had to say below about her story and how she learned to love what she sees.

On her journey to feeling good about her body
My journey of learning to love my body came through battling depression, self-loathing and an unhealthy relationship with food. I didn’t make healthy choices with respect to my nutrition and for years I experimented with unrealistic diets including having bouts of binging and purging and even depriving myself of food. 

If I could go back in time, I wish I could tell myself that I was searching for something that didn’t exist in a pair of skinny jeans. Feeling accepted and worthy won’t appear if you have a six-pack and working out solely ‘to look a certain way’ will never feel right unless you get real about the other issues that are really holding you back.

I silently struggled for years but my turning point came in 2008 when I competed in a fitness competition. It was a way to confront my confidence issues by ironically doing the thing that scared me the most, putting my body on display. I competed for about 3 years but it was never about winning or proving that my body looked the best. It ignited my passion to learn more about fitness, nutrition and how amazing it was to look and feel strong.

Being comfortable with yourself is an ongoing journey and I’m happy to say that my focus continues to be learning to accept my flaws and learning to love myself unconditionally.  

Advice to women who struggle with seeing themselves as ugly / fat   
When a woman has an internal narrative that they are not good enough, they usually will have an underlying feeling that they need to do something to ‘fix themselves’ or that are not worthy. In my advice to them I would say that the only thing that needs to be fixed are their beliefs. Take a photo of yourself when you are baby and ask yourself would you call that child ugly or the other vile things you say about yourself?  Buried beneath the pain is an amazing person that you haven’t met yet because your thoughts create a wall that keep you suffering. Remember that you are a special person even on the days when you can’t see it.  

On black women not being the "face" of eating disorders
Even though there is more dialogue about the body image of black women today, I believe that distorted beliefs still exist about eating disorders. I grew up hearing stereotypes such as ‘black girls don’t get eating disorders’ or ‘that’s a white girl thing’ and learned pretty quickly that it’s probably not something I should talk about or even acknowledge was a problem. I’m happy to see that more people especially individuals in the public eye are being more vocal about their struggle because it gives a voice to those who are suffering in silence. The image of a black woman’s body has a lot of history and still to this day there are so many distorted views of who we are and how we should look like. I think that in order to have more of a voice, we need to stand up and share our stories so it will help the people that need to hear them.

Best tips for loving and taking care of your body
Listen to your body – Our bodies often send us cues when something isn’t right. Things like acne, headaches, sudden weight gain or weight lost are usually signs that something isn’t right. Your nutrition can play a big role with that as well and its important to take the time to understand how your body reacts to certain things and take the steps to eliminate anything that doesn’t make you feel your best.

Create a positive body image manifesto – I created one for myself as a personal reminder that I don’t need external validation and to celebrate the qualities I love about myself. I think it’s a great exercise to create your own and use it as a personal affirmation to celebrate how awesome you are.

Don’t give in to negative thoughts – Don’t let your own negative beliefs or comments from others dictate how you feel about yourself. Say that you are amazing, even on the days when you don’t believe it. 

Connect with Chivon for more inspiration and tips over at

Happy Monday!


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