Eating Disorders Don’t See Color

By Stephanie Covington Armstrong

Until I found myself battling with bulimia then anorexia, I had always assumed as an African-American woman, my skin color and precarious socio-economic status granted me immunity from eating disorders. Every book and article I read reinforced the stereotyped eating disorder patient as a rich, white privileged female – the exact opposite of me.

In 2009, years into my recovery, Michelle Goeree, an economist at USC released a study conducted with her team over a 10-year period that found poor, African-American girls were 50 percent more likely than their rich white counterparts to develop bulimia. Had I known this information years before, it would have changed my life and made me feel less isolated.

Today there is a wealth of information reinforcing Michelle’s study that eating disorders affect all; up to 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (bulimia, anorexia and binge eating disorder). An estimated 10-15 percent of all men have eating disorders and woman over 40-years-old are in the eating disorder community.

Growing up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn teetering on the poverty line we didn’t talk about sadness and certainly not depression. There was no permission to grieve or feel sad over the painful trauma I’d experienced at the hands of my uncle. Instead I discovered food could be used as a drug to numb uncomfortable feelings and stave off thoughts of suicide. For years I stayed trapped in the cycle of bingeing and purging even adopting another form of bulimia: laxatives abuse (in the form of pills), diet teas and diuretics.

When I finally hit bottom my family was not supportive. It was contradictory to the strong, black woman archetype. To them seeking help was an admission of weakness and failure, but to me taking control and getting the help I needed saved my life. In therapy I was given tools to help me heal and a set of coping skills to replace my food addiction. I could have never recovered on my own.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder please get help. Here are a few resources:

  • National Eating Disorders Association –
  • Eating Disorders Resource Center –
  • Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders –
  • Overeaters Anonymous –
  • Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders –
  • Eating Disorder Hope –
  • Signs of an eating disorder –