Can Black Women Have Negative Body Image?

“Black women don’t have the same body image problems as white women. They are proud of their bodies. Black men love big butts” – Tyra Banks

From article “Black women and weight: Relocating to the South helped one woman change her self-image and accept her body” on TheGrio.com. Click to read.

I came across the above quote while searching for “negative body image Black women” on Google. My first reaction: “What a load of crap!”  My second reaction: “Really, what utter nonsense.”

Certainly, women of different races/ethnicities/cultures may have different body image issues.  To go so far, however, as to imply that all Black women “are proud of their bodies” is to deny the reality of Black women and girls who struggle on a daily basis with body image issues that may ultimately lead to eating disorders as well as an utterly tanked self-esteem.

I get the point that Banks is trying to make, however.  She is reinforcing a stereotype that Black women are happy with their curves–it’s not a bad stereotype really.  Also, I’m a big fan of being happy with your body no matter its current state–simply work on where you need to go, whether that is up or down some notches on the scale.

On the other hand, this stereotype is one that can work to keep Black women from moving their bodies more and becoming healthier. After all, if we love our curves so much and our “big butts”, then what’s a few extra pounds or 30?

Actually, let’s back that up. Is Banks actually saying that black women “love big butts”?  Not really.  What she is saying is that “Black men love big butts.”  So, in essence, the comfort level that a Black woman feels with her own body is apparently in direct relation to the acceptance of Black men of her body proportions–WHAT?

Well, what if you’re a lesbian, or a feminist, or just a free thinker, or all three rolled up into one ball of fierce loveliness?  Also, why should Black women value their bodies based upon the desires of Black men?  In fact, why should any woman value her body based upon the desires of any man?

Perhaps my lesbian (homoflexible), feminist, free thinking self has just gotten this quote all wrong.  Still, it bothered me.  It bothered me because I was searching for information that would useful to Black women who are struggling with negative body image.

The reality is that It’s easy to find resources for non-Black women.  Absolutely. I know from experience that the majority of young women and girls who are in treatment for eating disorders are non-Black.

It’s not that negative body image does not exist for Black women.  It’s not that eating disorders have no place in a Black woman’s mindset.  It’s simply that it’s not openly discussed.  Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder do not discriminate against Black women.

There is a stereotype that Black women are happy with their bodies in an unhealthy state.  There is a stereotype that Black women don’t care about what they put in their mouths.  There is a stereotype that Black women don’t suffer from eating disorders.

It’s time to clear up this mess. First, let’s do so by balancing the good of the stereotypes with the harsh reality that some Black women face. It’s no joke that the CDC lists heart disease as the number one killer of Black women. Let’s start speaking more mindfully and seeing each other as humans first, capable of both joy and suffering at our own hands.
Until Tomorrow (seriously)

D.

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FMS | Make this Year a Body+ Fibromyalgia Year – Love Your Body.

Image from warriormindcoach.com. Click to visit.

Image from warriormindcoach.com. Click to visit.

If you have fibromyalgia (or perhaps any chronic illness really), sometimes it may feel like you are in a constant war with your body.  It doesn’t work the way you want it to.  Perhaps you feel that you can no longer trust your body and that it has betrayed you–I know I felt like this for a really long time.

Over the past year, I’ve worked hard to come to terms with my body and its capabilities.  I’ve come to realise that it’s not about what my body cannot do or can no longer do. It’s about what my body can do, and how I can change my thoughts and actions so that it can do more.

Having fibromyalgia has allowed me to slow my thoughts down to fall into step with my body.

Yes, I move slowly sometimes, and when I do I get the chance to see the world around me more. Yes, I am in pain sometimes, and when I am I get the chance to feel a heightened sense of empathy with those who are suffering around me.

There are many negative ways that you can spend time thinking about your illness. Still, who wants to live like that? 😉

I made a promise to myself that this year would be a body positive fibromyalgia year. Actually, every year from this point forward will be that.

I resolved to learn what are the positive ways that I can think about my illness…and its impact on my body.

So, love your body, embrace your illness, rebuild trust with your body and take one more step on your path to happiness.

D.

Natural Hair | Let’s Talk: My Nappy Naps Hair Journey (Type 4C)

DSC_00812Not too long ago, I posted about where to buy hair products for afro-textured hair in Rome. Today, I thought I would share a little about my hair.

I began wearing my hair in its natural state in 1997.  I kept it in braids (extensions) for two years while allowing it to naturally loc.

Thereafter, from October 1999 to October 2013, I wore my hair in dre’d loc’s. Until November 2010, I wore them hip/waist length.  As an act of mourning, I cut them to chin length.

For a long while I thought about removing them completely, and continued to cut them to chin/shoulder length.  Finally in October 2013, I sat down with a bottle of conditioner, a pair of scissors, and a random comb leftover from a relationship.

 

It’s strange: although I’ve worn my hair natural for so many years, having my hair in a loose instead of loc’ed state really freaked me out.  I didn’t know what to do with my hair.  I felt panicked and self-conscious.

Another thing: I didn’t just cut off my loc’s and call it a day. I unraveled them, which was a terribly frustrating but freeing experience.  Also, at the end of the process, my hair was different lengths all over–and I decided to keep it that way.

My lengths varied between 3-5 inches.  I cut my hair a bit more just before the summer to take care of some parts that seemed to be damaged. Now, my lengths range between 7-9 inches.

So, why have I told you all this?  

Well, because I’ve decided to learn how to style my loose hair properly, rather than relying on braids or my usual hair wraps (not that I’m going to stop wearing my hair wraps).

What will I share?

How I take care of my imperfectly perfect hair: products I like (commercial and homemade/natural), styles, and lessons learned.

Perhaps it will be useful or interesting for someone out there. Either way, it will help me embrace a new understanding of myself. 🙂

Until Tomorrow?

D.

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FMS | Please, Tell Me What I Can Eat….

Seriously. 😉

If you are like me and have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia as well as other comorbid illnesses, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Reynaud’s syndrome, then your relationship with food might be a complex one–and that probably is an understatement.

Eating the wrong foods or food combinations can mean more inflammation, pain, digestive issues, insomnia, fatigue, hair loss and gain (facial), decreased libido, mood swings, etc. And who wants more of that?

Especially, if you have comorbid diagnoses, you may find that the food recommended for one illness, may be discouraged for another illness. Sometimes it feels like a lose-lose battle.

Still, we must not despair. There is always a path to healthier and active living, if we choose to seek it.

For me, I live be a golden rule when it comes to living in my body.  I think of my body like any vehicle that I would drive. It is my personal vehicle, and so this rule applies:

Food is the Fuel

Exercise is the Engine

As long as the combination of those two factors is balanced, then I feel at peace with my choices. Whereas exercise may be limited to what my body can do at any given time and may not be a daily experience (although I try to make it so), food is something that I ought to consume daily for basic functioning and overall well-being.

However, food, the fuel that our bodies need to sustain us, is one aspect of self-care that can create havoc, for people with fibromyalgia, in our otherwise solid treatment plans.

Over the last six years, I have undertaken the task of discovering what foods my body can tolerate.  Perhaps this task is a leftover from my days as a personal trainer/fitness instructor or maybe it’s just that I want to feel the best I can every day. Whatever the case, I have been experimenting with foods in order to find a FMS+ plan that is nutritionally sound and interesting.

Here is what I’ve discovered about my body:

Foods it Likes

(Tolerates…because I can’t really say that I, personally, enjoy all of these foods):

  • Leafy Greens – Bring on the lettuce, cabbage, endive, etc.  I cannot express to you how much I detest endive…but I live in Italy and am a bit lazy with food preparation, so endive is bound to be present in the bagged salads that I buy.  Oh well.
  • Water – Natural. Okay, this may seem a bit strange, but it is my reality.  My body loves water in its most natural state, not effervescent (fizzy). There is little else beyond water that my body can handle as a liquid. It’s simply not on.
  • Fruits – The crunchy kinds.  Any kind of fruit that has a crunch to it, my body seems to appreciate more than fruits that could be considered juicy (or very ripened).  So, that leaves me with pears, nectarines, apples, etc. HOWEVER, I have learned that I can only eat these in moderation or, at least, rotate them out. I can also eat bananas, mangoes, susine gialle (I don’t know the English name), and grapefruits, but even more infrequently.
  • Nuts & Dried Fruits – Don’t get too excited.  I can eat two things from this category fairly often, but still I understand that I need to keep them in moderate amounts: peanuts & dried cranberries. That’s it. Sometimes, I can have almonds, but not as often.
  • Eggs –  Although I am not a fan, I can eat them and do.  I, however, rotate them in my diet, because I am not partial to the taste.
  • Seafood – Yes, I can eat seafood BUT not all. My body, for whatever reason, cannot handle frequent consumption of  certain fish, such as salmon and tuna.  Shellfish, however, gets a green light.
  • Yoghurt – Notice, I didn’t write milk.  I can eat all yoghurt (as far as I know).  I feel best, however, when I eat Greek yoghurt, which I eat frequently and often in combination with my nuts and dried fruits–it’s my little treat.
  • Gelato – Not often, but I can eat gelato.  I don’t know about ice-cream. Also, I have to stick with plain flavours. Ideally, the gelato should be gluten-free (gluten is sometimes used as a thickener).  So, nothing with cereals or candies, etc.
  • Chocolate (dark or white) – Again, not often, but I can eat chocolate every now and again.  Like gelato, should be ideally gluten-free and it cannot contain any kind of cereals and is best without dried fruits (which is often raisins, which I cannot eat).
  • Diet Soda Ideally, caffeine-free. Looking to spice things up liquid-wise?  Well, I can have diet soda fairly regularly, BUT because of my IBS, I understand that I need to limit my consumption.
  • Other vegetables – Mushrooms, olives, cucumbers, zucchini, garlic, onion, leeks, chives, scallions.  All of those get the green light.
  • Oils & other fats – I cook with olive oil. Period.  I do have butter in my refrigerator, but use it infrequently.
  • Seasonings – Well, most, as far as I know.  I tend not to season my foods, except with curry, black pepper, powdered/liquid garlic, rosemary, thyme or pimento.  And even these are used sparingly.
  • Gluten-free Products – WAIT…Please, don’t get excited, I can eat gluten-free cookies/biscuits…but not all, and it’s sort of a game of roulette.  I never know how my body will react to things.  Also, even though I have been able to eat these things, doesn’t mean that I think that it is good for me.  So, only when I am having a particular craving will I make the effort to purchase these.  They can also be great for making the crust of a low-carb/gluten-free cheesecake.
  • Cheeses – Apparently, I can whatever cheeses are available, but in severe moderation. 🙂 I am partial to softer cheeses, such as brie or cream cheese (which I use to make my low-carb/gluten-free cheesecake).
  • Fake Sugars – Yes, I can use them and do to add flavour to my cooking or sometimes to my water.  Fake sugars, however, are tricky and it is important to understand which ones work for you and which don’t.  My body, for example, cannot tolerate sugar alcohols in any form, whether as a sweetener or in the presence of a food (including gum and mint).

Okay, so those are the major (if not complete list of) items that I can eat.

—–

What I Choose Not To Eat…

The list of items that I ought not to eat is very long.  Notice that I write ought not to eat.

This is because I can eat them, but there will be repercussions.  As long as I am willing to accept the repercussions (major IBS symptoms, random/sudden weight gain, increased pain and fatigue, migraines, increased insomnia), then I’m good to go. 😉

So, what I do I choose not to eat?  Well, I’ll give you general categories:

I discovered how bad it was for me just the other day.  Recently, I bought a bag of gluten-free flour, thinking that I would make myself some awesome Jamaican boiled dumplings. Well…the experience left me in misery.  Sure the dumplings tasted good, but I felt almost as awful as I would have if I were to have used regular flour.  Why?

Well, the foundation of most gluten-free flour is grounded rice, potato starch, sugar, and even some finely grounded nuts, such as almonds.  Remember my list of foods that my body likes?  Well, there you go.  Of course, having spent close to 4 Euros on this bag of flour, I intend to use it all, but sparingly (it’s good until next year).

  • Nightshade vegetables & fruits As much as I love them.  I have said goodbye to tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, eggplant (mostly), peppers, and most berries (cranberry exception).  They cause/increase inflammation and possibly insomnia, so it’s just not on.
  • Citrus Fruits – High sugar content, acidic, and too much vitamin C.  Well, all of these things I can do without. I already take a daily supplement of vitamin C, so I can live without them. Of course, as mentioned above, every now and again, I can eat a grapefruit. 🙂
  • Caffeine-heavy products – So, that basically wipes out tea, coffee, sodas, and even chocolate. 🙂  Of course, anything can be consumed in moderate amounts.  Still, I do not drink coffee, and rarely tea or soda. Of course, I mentioned chocolate before.
  • Meats – Like grains. It’s simply not on.
  • Milk – I always find it strange that I can eat yoghurt, but not drink milk. Well, that’s the reality. I can, however, use heavy cream for cooking.
  • Nuts & dried fruits – Too much sugar, too challenging for the body to process. 
  • Alcohol – I’ve never been partial to drinking alcohol. That being stated, alcohol simply presents a challenge for many with FMS. Want to feel more tired? More nauseous? Less restful sleep? Then, drink alcohol. I’m good without it though.

—-

Other things of consumption to think about?

Well, if you smoke, STOP. Smoking increases pain severity.

Chewing gum? Pause. Check the sugar content. Your sugar intake may be having an adverse impact on your health.

Of course, the research on what foods actually help or hinder us is limited.  Each person is different. So, each of us must take responsibility for what we put into our bodies.  Don’t just read this blog or something else and say “Aha! Now I know what to eat!”

Don’t be lazy!

Instead, take this information and use it for your own research. As I mentioned before, it has taken me 6 years to sort this out for myself AND it is still an ongoing process, especially as my body grows older (as a woman, this presents certain nutritional and hormonal issues).

What I’ve come to understand is that, no matter what, I must love my body.

It’s become a mantra…

I must love my body, even when it isn’t doing what I want it to do, even when it isn’t looking the way I want it to look, even when it feels like a stranger to me.  I must love and care for it the best way that I can.

I must shut out the emotional voice of my body that sometimes longs for foods that are unwise for me to eat, and listen carefully to the wise voice of my body that reveals to me the foods that will help me heal and maintain balance.

Food is fuel for our bodies, not a crutch for our self-esteems.

The Take-Away?  Well, I try to follow two basic rules when shopping, especially when I am thinking to buy something new:

  • If the food can live on a shelf longer than one to two weeks, then I don’t buy it.
  • If the food is in a can, bottle, plastic package, then I hestitate to buy it and refer to the first rule.

 

Well, I’m off to the grocery store! Happy Sunday!

P.S. If weight is an issue for you and you are looking for a place to begin, or you are needing inspiration on your journey, then check out fitness motivation speaker and certified women’s fitness, weightloss, and nutrition trainer Erika Nicole Kendall‘s blog:  A Black Girl’s Guide To Weightloss.  Kendall’s blog covers a variety of topics, including fitness, body image, sex, culture, food recipes, and beauty.

FMS | Article: Aerobic Exercise ‘Most Effective Weapon’ for Fibromyalgia

It’s a bright sunny morning here in Rome and, thankfully, not too terribly hot.  Over the last month, I’ve been engaging in a renewed program of incorporating daily walks as a part of my self-care management.

Now, I don’t mean just taking a walk down the road to the neighbourhood grocery store.  I mean taking a proper walk of between 1-3 hours (dependent upon weather and time).

Back in 2008 when I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my body was in its most unhealthy state.  I had gained a tremendous amount of weight as I could barely get up due to my fatigue and the pain was unbearable. I simply didn’t see how I could get my body to move and to go about life as usual.  Not only that, the drastic changes in both my weight and overall health had been devastating to my self-concept and self-esteem.

You see, just prior to beginning my journey to becoming a therapist, I worked as a personal trainer and fitness instructor.  I prided myself on my level of strength and stamina.  I prided myself on my little need for sleep (of course, I was in my twenties) and was content with the way my body functioned.

Enter fibromyalgia…and the pictured changed.  I was in misery.  It took me almost a year after my diagnosis (2009) to figure out a strategy to get my body and life back together.

I didn’t want to be a walking pharmacy anymore, dragging around a heavy frame that was only becoming heavier and making my symptoms worse.

I decided that I would walk…even if it was the last thing I wanted to do.  I knew that I would be in misery if I attempted to join an exercise program and I don’t believe in dieting.

Most importantly, I knew that walking was still something I could do. It hadn’t been taken away from me.

I started out with small goals, solicited some friends to join me, and began a 10 minute walk program.  That’s right.  Ten whole minutes.  Early in the morning, a couple of times per week, we would meet up and walk together for 10 whole minutes.  Eventually, we increased the time and frequency, and even (gasp) began a jog/walk program. 😉

Fast-forward five years and here I am, walking for hours.  My body has benefited tremendously from the small decision I made back in 2009.  The simple decision to walk. I take one medication for my illness as opposed to several that I had been taking back in 2008.

You see, we can spend our time trying to find the right medication(s). We can go from doctor to doctor.  We can bemoan our circumstances and ask ‘why me?’ forever or, at least, until our last breath.  None of that really will change anything in the end if we don’t look at how we can take control over our bodies ourselves and lives.

Don’t just leave it up to the latest pill you can pop.  Don’t just give up and say ‘what’s done is done’.  Don’t just decide that you are unlucky or fated to living your life in a way that is displeasing to you.

Decide that you can change it. Decide that you can control it.  It’s your body and your illness.  Decide how you want to live with it…happily.

There is always a path to be found…

Until Next Time,

D. 

Click on the link below for the article!

Aerobic Exercise ‘Most Effective Weapon’ for Fibromyalgia (Excerpt below)

“There is no magic drug against fibromyalgia and, in my opinion, there will never be. Psychotherapists don’t work miracles, but psychotherapy can help and, in a few cases, turn people with fibromyalgia into nonpatients. Drugs may help, but patients don’t like them,” said investigator Winfried Häuser, MD, from Technische Universität München in Germany, who has published widely on fibromyalgia.

“Aerobic exercise is the most effective weapon we have; healthy people profit from continuous physical exercise, and so do patients with fibromyalgia,” he explained.

Dr. Häuser presented an overview of research on fibromyalgia treatment here at the European League Against Rheumatism Congress 2014.