of my coworkers and wasn’t sure I’d heard her right.
“You been eating Collard Greens? You’re starting to get some Cakes.”
I felt my whole body freeze, my stomach sink. She meant I was getting a big butt, She meant that it looked to her like I was gaining weight.
This is the part of recovery nobody tells you about and that everyone dreads. Your body finds its way back to a healthy weight. It’s not bad and it has been life-saving for me. However, as someone with Anorexia, the thing I dread most is that other people would notice my inevitable weight gain. I’ve always been afraid of finding the point in which my weight goes from “healthy” to “fat.” And hearing her say these words felt like this was the moment someone ripped the warm, protective covers of recovery off and exposed me for what I really was.
She must have noticed my pain because she added, “Baby, everyone loves a big booty. It’s good to be thick. A little fat keeps you warm in the winter.”
When I first began seeing a therapist who I felt truly comfortable speaking with about the intersections of my race and my Eating Disorder, she talked to me about Acculturative Stress. Acculturative Stress is the idea that People of Color endure a psychological impact by the forced adaptation of a new culture. According to the SAGE Journals, “For Hispanics [in] the United States, there are a number of significant stressors that are likely to be pervasive, intense, and lifelong.”
In terms of my Eating Disorder, I had always operated under the belief that I was experiencing this Acculturative Stress because of the beauty standards the Dominant (White) Culture had enforced on my body. I was expected to fit the thin, blonde, blue-eyed beauty ideal. And I was struggling with an ED because my Latinx body could not. This, coupled with the other factors like micro-aggressions, macro-aggressions, and a sense of Otherness exacerbated my anxiety and resulted in an Eating Disorder.
I believe that this is true, partly. But I don’t think that it’s the whole story. While, in my life, I do think that I have dealt with pressures from White Beauty Standards, and have definitely heard many White people say some stuff about my body that was uncalled for. I have experienced that other People of Color feel more comfortable making open comments about my body. As if our skinship lends them some kind of ownership or right to do so. As if it would be impossible for them to hurt my feelings because of the experience we share. Just like the interaction with my coworker; she truly could not understand why what she said would hurt my feelings. It’s something I’ve experienced mostly with my own family.
Mexicans like to Eat. Every single occasion has a special, rich, meal that everyone spends all day preparing and all night eating. In our culture, Food and Family are one in the same. We are also a people that love to talk about each others bodies. Where it might be rude to comment on someone’s weight in White Society, It is not in Latinx circles.In my family, if there was something different about your body, It became your nickname.
For years, my family called me Pansona which translates to “Fat Girl.” Specifically because of my round-er tummy. They would call me this all while handing me several plates of food and shaming me for wasting it if I didn’t finish.
It’s things like this, and the easy comment from my coworker that fly under the radar when we examine why People of Color struggle so hard with Eating Disorders. This cultural and familial expectation that we are immune to being hurt by comments about our bodies because “That shit’s for White Girls,” prevents a lot of POC’s from getting help. The ease of conversations and fair-game mentality we have when talking about each others bodies can be just as triggering, if not more, than the Acculturative Stress we experience from White Beauty Standards.
I love being Mexican. I love our culture so deeply and celebrate it every single day. I am really not here for any kind of Brown on Brown Crime type of claim. That’s not at all what I am saying. But I think it is time we examine the way we talk about our bodies amongst ourselves. Examine how we can change the conversations in our homes. Speak up to our parents when they make an inappropriate comment. Or teaching our children how to talk about their bodies from a place of love and not a place of critique. Part of the beauty of our culture is our diversity. Why shouldn’t we celebrate all of the different packages our culture comes in?
Written by Allyce Torres