When you hear the words “eating disorder”, what is the first visual that comes to mind? Is it the stereotypical pop culture image of a super skinny young white woman? Well, the image that has been imprinted in most peoples mind regarding what an eating disorder looks like, usually is not racially diverse. What we all must realize though is that eating disorders are quite complex mental health problems that transcend gender, race, culture, and ethnicity. Eating disorders don’t discriminate and due to the stereotype of it solely being a “white” problem, they are grossly underreported and undertreated especially in developing African countries. The stigma associated with mental health problems such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa ultimately engenders an environment in which those from African nations may suffer in silence and not receive the help they require. Nonetheless, it is time that more awareness about eating disorders and mental health problems in general be brought to light in African countries like Nigeria.
Check out my BBC podcast interview (hyper link below) with the wonderful host Emily Thomas of #BBC #BBCFoodChain #BBCWorldService for my expert analysis on the growing problem of eating disorders in Nigeria and developing countries.
Also, pay close attention to the stories of some of the black women who have struggled with eating disorders for some truly eye opening and insightful perspective on the topic in this #BBCDocumentary.
Here are some common questions about eating disorders answered below:
A serious psychiatric illness that may be life threatening typically characterized by disturbances to ones behavior and attitude towards food, eating, and weight. The three major categories of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating.
What are some red flags you may have an eating disorder?
-You are terrified of gaining weight
-You’ve experienced a significantly dramatic change in your weight
-You believe you are “fat”, when you may in fact be underweight
-You feel extremely guilty whenever you eat
-You spend most of your time thinking about dieting and innovative ways to shed more pounds to look skinny
-You don’t like to eat in front of people
-You adhere to an extreme exercise regimen to burn as many calories possible (oftentimes you hide how much you are exercising from others)
-You wear oversized clothing to draw attention away from the actual size/shape of your body
-You are constantly weighing yourself
-You have irregular periods or no period at all
An eating disorder is a mental health problem and there is a lot of stigma that still surrounds mental illness in Africa in general. Over time with more public awareness about the condition, hopefully more resources will become available for those who need help in African countries.
Remember, there is no shame in getting the help you need! If you are battling an eating disorder, there is help available. Remember, eating disorders can be life threatening illnesses.
-Talk to a medical professional about the problem.
-You can also contact the National Eating disorders hotline for more information,support, and resources about the topic:
Watch this informative interview on the talk show Hello Nigeria in which I discuss how the condition may affect your health.