Eating disorders prevalent in black community

Beauty and body image acceptance plagues the lives of many college students who suffer from eating disorders.

According to, 85 percent of the time, anorexia starts between the ages of 13 and 20. Florida A&M University has health and counseling services to make students aware that they have somewhere to go for help. 

“We don’t do a lot of eating disorder treatment here on campus, but when we see cases we do offer some medical aid and we make referrals to counseling services, ” said Tonya Tatum, director of Student Health. 

Eating disorders among young women of color may go underreported because seeking professional help for emotional problems is not a common practice in many ethnic communities, according to the

However, it is also a common misconception that only Caucasian girls suffer from eating disorders.

According to Linda Boeckner, extension nutrition specialist, anorexia is a form of an eating disorder. Anorexia involves self-starvation, marked weight loss from severe restriction of dietary intake, excessive exercise to burn up calories and purging food from the body to keep from being absorbed.

Bulimia is extreme overeating followed by purging activities such as self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives and/or diuretics and periods of fasting. 

Binge-eating disorders are characterized by episodes of overeating, but not purging.

Some students are unable to cope with the stress that comes along with being at a higher institution.

Some signs of an eating disorder include skipping meals, isolating oneself, mood changes, extreme weight loss or weight gain, preoccupation with food and body size and spending excessive time in the bathroom.

“Students at HBCU’s tend to over eat while being under stress,” said Lockard, the assistant director of clinical programs at Sunshine Manor.

“In the African-American culture being “thick” is in,” said Dr. Dana Dennard, a FAMU psychology professor.

Black females who closely identify with mainstream culture place physical attractiveness on a higher importance, as a result they are at risk of developing an eating disorder.
“Some students equate weight with success or they believe it will make them happier,” Lockard said.  “In reality it won’t, because it is more of an self acceptance issue.”
While some students are diagnosed with eating disorders, others have disordered eating habits, or an unhealthy relationship with food.

“Behind most eating disorders there is a conflict that has not been resolved and these conflicts normally involve a parent,” said Dennard.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the mortality rate among people with anorexia has been estimated at 0.56 percent per year, or approximately 5.6 percent per decade, which is about 12 times higher than the annual death rate due to all causes of death among females ages 15 to 24 in the general population.

Unfortunately, eating disorders may seem irrelevant to some people in today’s society.  But in reality, this is a pressing issue that people should take seriously.

The Sunshine Manor offers free and confidential counseling services. The center is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information call 850-599-3145.