Eating Disorders: Recovering While Brown

What does recovery look like when not just your community, but even doctors don’t take you seriously?

Imaan Sheikh

December 7, 2020

Eating Disorders: Recovering While Brown
Illustration: Priyanka Paul

“Kya matlab ‘recovery’? Koi bimari thodi hai? [What do you mean by ‘recovery’? It’s not a disease],” said Sahiba*, a 55-year-old mother of three, when I asked her about what she thinks can help people with disordered eating in a Brown household. Two of her children have been yoyo-ing in weight since early adolescence.

Recovering from an eating disorder, just like most other mental illnesses, is no easy feat, but in a culture where the problem is invisible — whether due to a lack of awareness or trivialization — so is the need for a solution. The National Eating Disorders Association reports that even when people of color bring up their eating or weight-related concerns to a doctor, they’re unlikely to be asked about symptoms compared to white clients. A Harvard School of Public Health study concluded that people of color are half as likely to receive diagnosis or treatment as white people. And even if eating disorders are diagnosed, full recoveries for most are still rare. One-third of those already in treatment tend to relapse.

So what does recovery look like in a Brown household, where food is more than a love language?