How To Tell Your Mother You’re Not Pregnant


There comes a time in life (actually it comes many times) where we will disappoint those we love simply by choosing to live honestly. We all will have to make choices that leave the people closest to us flabbergasted, worried, perhaps even angry.

Replace “How Tell Your Mother You’re Not Pregnant” with “Leaving My Job With the Awesome Benefits” or “I Will Never Get Married (and don’t want to!)” or “I’m moving to Mexico and writing my novel”.

And yes, while we may know we are not the center of anyone’s universe, it can be difficult to act as if this is true and just live our lives.

YOLO is easier sung than practiced.

I believe the only thing we can do is prepare for these kind of conversations, the talks where we assert or announce who we are in some way.

So. Here are my top five preparations,  touchstones I am coming back to when I want to renege on living out my inner truth, guideposts which remind me to step into the Unknown with more trust:

  1. Prepare to be misunderstood. Your family and friends will most likely not understand or like this new direction. You may erroneously think you can convince them that you are right. You may have strong desire to assemble statistics and an arsenal of information to “prove” that you are Making a Sound Decision. Save your energy my friend. Part of growing up is learning to let go of people pleasing and truly living the life that most aligns with your inner truth. No amount of reportage and numbers will soothe that discomfort of becoming unknown to your close family and friends. We have to learn to accept being illegible to others. We have to learn to live with people cocking their heads in confusion at who we are. Especially those we love. We will find people who get us and the life we wish to lead. But it may not be immediate.
  2. Prepare for backlash. You may be reminded of how So-and-So in your family has already Had the Baby, Gotten Married, Acquired the Right Degree. People may yell at you, complain bitterly, remind you of past missteps, give you the shitty seat at Sunday dinner.  And in some very unfortunate circumstances, people may be estranged from their family and friends. Know you can survive it, even when it sucks. Think of the worst case scenario of what may happen. Write it out if that helps. Be honest about your fear(s). Refuse to waste precious energy obsessing about these fears (easier said than done), still I will say when I’ve had to make a “big” announcement, the outcome wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  What you are afraid of? Not being the Favorite anymore? Setting a reckless example for your baby cousins? Grandma being very, very disappointed? Write out the worst reactions and assure yourself that yes, you will make it. Remind yourself of how you’ve managed well before.
  3. Prepare to listen. They will advise. They will pull out all the boogeyman reasons you should fall in line. They will remind you of your no-good Uncle who also Made The Wrong Choice Once. A majority of this kind of talk isn’t mean-spirited. Most of the time your mother and your aunty and your big cousin just want your happiness. Unfortunately, they may confuse your idea happiness with their own. Listen anyways. What fears do you share? Which fears land hardest because you believe them deeply as well?. Being willing to listen does not mean following or pleasing their litany of directives. Listen as much as you can and make sure to balance this act with heavy doses of support from people who encourage your inner truth.
  4. Prepare to set boundaries. It’s not easy to act in true assertiveness, especially when it’s our close family loudly calling the shots. After listening, we must be willing to assert which is ours and which does not belong to us. Setting boundaries feels like a tough, impossible language in the beginning. Oftentimes it will sound scripted and awkward. But if you are to live according to your inner truth, you must become a master of this language. Accept imperfection (what I’m working on). You may falter, apologize, acquiesce in ways that disappoint you later on. Applaud yourself for getting better with each time you practice. As an immigrant daughter,  I often struggle with how much of my life is mine and  how much is for the greater service/cohesion of my family and community. Boundaries remind me that I am my own person and that I can acknowledge my needs and the needs of others without absorbing them in totality.
  5. Prepare to reset the status quo. I think this is one of the hardest ones for me right now. There are certain stories in our family lines, in our communities at large, that have almost become law, ideas that seem as if they would result in criminal prosecution if we were to violate them. I am an immigrant daughter, a first daughter, a black woman and someone who was far too invested in being The Good Girl. Most of the people pleasing directives fall to women. It is we who are always expected to gladly discard our individual desires for the “greater good” or else be loved a bit less. We must confront our fear of non-conformity.  What are the stories in your family line that you are terrified of breaking? Are women only Women if they are married? Is it okay to be childless over 30? Divorced? What kind of jobs are prized in our family and community circle? We must look at these storylines and do the brave thing of doing what our heart is calling to do. We look for stories which reflect people who went down different paths and produced a new kind of beauty. Maybe you are the Grace Jones of your family, destined to usher in an era of reinvention and daring. Maybe you’ll set a new precendent for all the late millennial babies in your clan who want to live and love differently and they’ll be so grateful for your rebellion. Maybe it’s okay to choose you this time.

Continue reading How To Tell Your Mother You’re Not Pregnant

Sometimes I Make Art For All The Wrong Reasons

Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.



I read a magazine article the other day.

(Though sometimes, I don’t even know why I pick up glossies; since 89% I will look up from their artsy pages thirsting for culottes ((And I don’t even like culottes! but they were in the Spring issue and the model wearing them was striding down some urban landscape looking all mod and confident, so…)) and wanting to try some diet that involves cantaloupe-mango shots.)

It must be the pretty pictures.

(Advertisers are the devil.)

But, my recent perusal netted me this idea for a blog post, so there’s a positive.

I was scanning through the Essence Black Women in Hollywood issue and came across Lupita Nyong’o’s gorgeousness and an accompanying full page quote. I can only paraphrase now (since I was cheap and read the magazine in the store) but it was something about how Nyong’o never worried about being famous or well-paid, she was always just looking to get lost in good, meaty acting roles.

Lupita Nyong’o is a Piscean goddess who was probably birthed from a large seashell as King Poseidon and a host of black mermaids swam by singing in falsetto.

I bet the woman can heal the sick and communicate with cats.

My name is Hannah Eko: And I sometimes make art for all the wrong reasons.

I make art to get noticed. Barely caring that it will do Good or Inspire Others.

Continue reading Sometimes I Make Art For All The Wrong Reasons

The Brownest Eye


It’s funny because as soon as you’re someone who is not blonde and skinny and you decide to write about beauty, people will usually put you in two categories:

  1. Jealous as fuck.
  2. Self-hating as fuck.

But, whatever. Today I want to write about brown eyes.

I really like brown eyes.

Especially the dark, almost-black brown eyes. 

A couple of years ago, my friend Cathy told me in that her culture, deep dark eyes were seen as absolutely gorgeous, the more the iris of your eyes contrasted with whiteness of your sclera, the more beautiful your eyes were.

If you search “black people” and “eyes” you will immediately be taken to an Images column rife with pictures of blue eyed black people.

I didn’t even specify color when consulting with Mr. Google and this is where he sends me. This is what he thinks I must want to see.

I am not on some black beauty superiority tip.

(That’s reserved for Wednesdays at 2 pm. )

I just really like brown eyes.

And no one really talks about them.

Especially if you are a brown or black person.

Growing up, I remember the only times I heard people lavish a brown or black kid with praise over their eyes was when they were:

grey. or. blue. or. hazel. or green. maybe a light honey.

Never brown.

And never, ever dark, almost-black brown.

In hip hop, the refrain of honey, with the light eyes… is standard musical fare.

I think most of us have been around the block enough to know that white supremacy is to blame for this.

But, I think instead of spending time rifling through that old can of garbage, I’d like to just admire you, my brown eyed people.

Someone once raised the argument with me, when I brought up how annoying it is that brown eyed people don’t get props:

Well, blue eyes are just rare, especially on people who aren’t white.

And I was like, true. It is kinda rare.

But, c’mon, there are a lot of rare traits that are unexpected because of someone’s phenotype, that we don’t laud with ooh-and-ahs and thatoneisgonnabealittleheartbreaker one day. That we don’t dedicate hash-tags for on social media.


Besides, I recently had a student of mine share something with me that was super interesting: he told me depending on the culture, there are certain colors that are just not seen because the people of that culture have no words for these colors.

So, there are blues and reds and purples that we see here in the USA that others cannot.

And vice versa:

There are greens and yellows and oranges that people in Bolivia or Namibia may see that we cannot.

We just don’t have the words.

(There’s even a study on it.)

So, maybe we don’t even have words really for the degrees and nuances of brown and black.

Maybe we are actually kinda speechless when it comes to those deep, almost-black brown eyes.

What I really want to say is:

Your eyes are beautiful. They deserve compliments and comparisons to night skies, the richness of soil, barely moonlit oceans, and unknown galaxies.

They deserve mention in clever hip hop odes and long descriptions in romance novels and camera close ups on Instagram.

When you hear, “She had such pretty eyes,” you deserve to wonder if the eyes in question are brown.

Just like yours.

You deserve to wax on and on about celebrities with bright, winking, sultry, innocent, ridiculously stunning brown eyes.

(Famous eyes I love:

Diana Ross, Lakeith Stanfield, Tyson Beckford, Regina Hall, Freddie Prinze Jr. Hasan Minhaj, Philomena Kwao…)

There are so many beautiful people we are privy to nowadays in our image saturated world. It used to be that we had to at least wait until we turned on the TV, opened up the magazine.

Now, they appear in our hands, smiling or pouting at us from the rectangular screen in our palms whether you asked them to be there or not.

Thanks Instagram.

Still, there was one day when I was just dumbstruck by this young beauty as I was lazily scrolling through my feed.

I can’t post the photo here, since I don’t like being sued, but you can see it on my IG.

It wasn’t the smooth, dark black skin or the full, wide mouth, the head full of digitally perfected black-girl-curls.

It was her eyes.

Deep, almost-black brown eyes that were piercing and smart and deep. They looked like eyes that have seen some magic or know how to pretend very well they may just find it yet.

They were the kind of eyes I think poetry should be written for.

If no one has told you today (or ever):

I love your brown eyes. 

I’m not saying this in one of those reactive blue-eyes-are-the-devil type ways either.

I just think you have pretty eyes.

And I hope you can remember that too and tell yourself over and over if you don’t believe it.

But, you totally should.










On a random whim, I went to the zoo. Zoos are already sad but on days with a high of 25 degrees Fahrenheit and snow on the ground, even worse.

The animals seemed slow and tired and most of them were sequestered away indoors.

I spent a lot of time in the elephant barn because it was warm and elephants are graceful and just emit this wisdom from their all watching black eyes. But maybe I am making this up.

They were in a space way too tight for their mammoth frames. Bars cut their bodies in half from my view. One elephant, Tasha was alone because she was rumored to be a bit of a “bully” according to the zookeeper.

And I thought: I’d be pissed as fuck too if I was trapped in a place that toned down my bigness and fed me stupid carrots and kids gawked at me and I really wasn’t into the other elephants I was around.

And then I thought: maybe that’s why I’m pissed in some ways too. Because there is something wild and weird and spontaneous inside that I keep shut up. Maybe we both just want to be free, maybe we just need more space. Maybe we’re not bullies after all.

I left the exhibit with a heavier chest and heart but it helped me to really see something I’ve been dancing around my entire life: the cost of not being free. Of trying to downplay my bigness.

I don’t know my next move. I’m learning right now to just be with this question and to open up to the wild, sometimes illogical impulses that seem to be calling to me.

May you find space to let yourself be as big and wild and messy and you as possible. Especially in a world that rewards Good Girls and Quiet, Non-Complaining Black and Brown People.

For me, I am tired of the inner and outer bars.

I am ready to be inwardly Free.




Why I Quit The Trauma Olympics


(This post contains some graphic descriptions of bodily injury, so if that’s not for you, stop reading now.)

On the first ship I was assigned to, the Sealand Florida, one of the longshoreman lost a finger. It may have been two. We were arriving into port, I think it was Houston or Beaumont and suddenly there is a frantic call to the bridge via radio.

Some mooring lines, the ropes that tether ships of exceptional tonnage of large container ships like the Sealand Florida to a dock, can become so tense when stretched that if they should snap, they have been known to cut a man’s leg clean off with machete preciseness. They can carry so much strength that if you accidentally get your fingers caught against a bulwark and the line, your fingers will leave a mangled, bloody mess.

They sent me, the lucky deck cadet down to escort the injured man via elevator upstairs to the medical room. I remember that this particular longshoreman was one of the youngest members on board, not much older than my nineteen years, and that the space where his fingers should be looked like squished tomatoes. I remember he was crying.

In my shock and thinking words were useless, I said nothing as we rode up the several flights. I just prayed and wished the elevator would go up faster.

I still regret that. That I said nothing.

But, what do you say to someone in that situation?

Sorry? I hope you feel better? It’s going to be okay?

The Trauma Olympics is when people assert their trauma as a justification for terrible behavior. It’s when people belittle someone else’s pain because it isn’t as large as their own or doesn’t meet their staunch criteria of Things People Should Be Hurt About. 

It’s that friend who when you tell them of a recent heartbreak says Well, you should hear what happened to me, trust me, you don’t know heartbreak…


I mean, she’s over here complaining about her family, but I can tell you my family is much worse…

Continue reading Why I Quit The Trauma Olympics

7 Reasons Self-Care Is So %&$@ Hard


Self-care, these two monosyllabic words, are very popular these days.

As a feminist and a woman creator in this society, I have often struggled with the practice of self-care. The concept makes sense to me: take good care of yourself lest you be so overspent and miserable you make others (and yourself) suffer.

Got it.

But, sometimes it’s hard. And while I used to think the difficulty was another personal failing, I am now well aware that it is not. So, please, if you are blaming yourself for not doing self-care “right” or “well”, STOP.

You are not broken.


There may be some reasons why self-care is so damn hard for you.

Here are my 7 (by no means exhaustive) reasons why self-care may be tough for you. I speak from experience (as always) and I hope you will find something useful here…

Continue reading 7 Reasons Self-Care Is So %&$@ Hard

In Another Life I Was Nola Darling (Or Why NYC is my Favorite Place to be Black)


When I was a kid, after the late-night parties my parents hosted, me and my sister would sometimes watch New York Undercover. It was decidedly not a kid’s show but it held such intrigue for me; a black girl in suburbia. We’d watch Malik Yoba and Michael DeLorenzo fight the crime and corruption of New York City. I always got a kick out of the fact that Yoba was in Cool Runnings and DeLorenzo was one of the dancers in the Beat It music video.

I think I felt grown that I noticed this back then.

And I wonder if this was where my love for New York City was born.

Sometimes I joke around that the only reason I ended up going to military school for five years and being in the Coast Guard for eight is all because of how deep in love I was with New York City.

Continue reading In Another Life I Was Nola Darling (Or Why NYC is my Favorite Place to be Black)

Not All Black Black Girls Know How to Eat : A Final Kiss


Hello Beautiful People,

Thanks for reading this series (Check out Parts One, Two, Three, and Four and the Self-Help That Doesn’t Suck # 9 on Women, Food and God…).

Self-care and self-acceptance are causes I will never shy away from talking earnestly about, especially for black women. We were never meant to survive, let alone thrive and much of the world continues to let us know this in both small and large ways.

Eating is a way for us to love ourselves, one imperfect plate at a time. It is my hope that you can learn to love yourselves through the way you eat. That you can eat in a way that makes you feel energized and at ease and joyful. It is my hope that you don’t let the Weight Watchers and the Dietitians of the world tell you what you deserve.

Keep practicing. See your “failures” for the teaching moments they are. Let your emotional eating and eating disorders guide you toward what you are truly starving for.

A hungry heart is no small matter.

I leave you with an eating meditation by self-love prophetess Abiola Abrams from her best-selling book The Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love. Whenever you find yourself eating mindlessly or getting worried about you are eating, her meditation is an excellent way to get back on track with what is happening in the present moment.

Don’t knock those small moments for this is how the big changes happen. One small kiss at a time, we relearn the art of being with ourselves as we are.

(This meditation is reprinted here, but you can purchase the entire book and I highly recommend you do for it is FULL of all kinds of tangible wisdom and tools to loving ourselves as we are.)

Bombshell Tool: Chocolate Meditation

All you need for this self-being exercise is a Hershey’s Kiss and your mind. Mindful and intuitive eating have been a key for me in releasing disordered eating and unhealthy weight and learning to love my body. The feminine energy practices of being mindful and intuitive are empowering for any gender. The Chocolate Meditation Tool is about bringing your awareness to the present. I strive to eat all my meals in this ways. This prevents me from mindlessly bingeing or being caught up in other emotions while numbing myself with food. Here’s how:

  1. Engage all your senses. Observe your breath and the silver, flat-bottomed dewdrop. Behold the tiny Kiss in its festive aluminum wrapping. Contemplate the narrow plume of paper emerging from the thin, twisted metal. Examine the distinctive-looking candy and consider its unique beauty. As you unwrap this mini-present, pay close attention to the crackling sound of the foil opening. Breathe in the rich scent.
  2. Your full attention is on the teardrop-shaped, bite-sized candy. Follow your breath. You are not worrying about yesterday, today, or tomorrow. Your entire existence right now is focused on this rich chocolate. Turn it around in your fingers. Consider the color, shape, texture, and design.
  3. Send positive thoughts to all that conceived of and prepared this magnificent gift just for you! No matter what is going on, be grateful for how wealthy you are to have the means, the time, and the wellbeing to experience this moment. Maybe even kiss the Kiss.
  4. Take a deep breath. Inhale the bold aroma of the chocolate. Take another breath. Feel the texture with your fingers. Does it rub off in your hands or stay solid? What would you call this color? Notice every pore and nick on the cocoa surface.
  5. Are you able to take a bite of the Kiss or can you only eat it whole? Let that first taste roll around on your tongue. Does it taste different with the tip of your tongue than on the back of your tongue? Savor it, nibble by nibble. Close your eyes and feel the chocolate move down your throat and esophagus. If there are melting remains on your fingers, lick them slowly and enjoy the pure pleasure of the experience.
  6. If your mind wanders at any point during this meditation, always come back to the Kiss. Remain aware. Connect with your senses. When you inhale and exhale, notice the gap between your breaths. Everything in this moment is perfectly okay.
  7. How do you feel? You are not in the future or the past–you are with the chocolate. Close with a few deep breaths. You are exactly where you should be.

Here’s to eating in the present moment.




Self Help That Doesn’t Suck #9 – Women, Food and God

Title: Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth

The Break-Down: In Women, Food and God author Geneen Roth breaks down how our appetites and allowances around food are pretty good indicators for what we believe about what we deserve in life. Roth was a chronic dieter who experienced much madness around food before giving up dieting for good. In this book she outlines the processes of how she was finally able to come to peace around her own food compulsions and inspire thousands of women to do the same.

Why I Loved It: Everytime I read this book, an inner part of me stops holding her breath; I realize I don’t have to live in fear of food or fat, that I can eat in a way that is free from “shoulds” and rules. So much of what we are told about eating is rule based and ignores the often complicated relationship we have with food and our bodies. In reading this book, I come back to inquiry, play and acceptance. How many times have I admonished myself with what I should or shouldn’t have eaten, how many times have I felt shame for the compulsions that surround my intake of food, how many times have I tried to correct my body with food? Too many times to count. And yet, a large part of me truly believed the only way to eat well and be at my optimum best was to subscribe to this inner cacophony of shame. Thanks to this book, I know there is a better way. I read this book years ago and only understood it on  purely intellectual level. Today when I read it, I feel the book and the lessons within.

For You, If…: You are tired of your food compulsions, whatever they may     be. You want to stop dieting and hating your body but don’t know where to start. You often find yourself stuck in shame about your body and food habits. You dig mindfulness concepts. You want to eat with more joy and less guilt.

Woo-Woo Factor: 2 out of 5 patchouli  sticks. If you don’t like spiritual analogies, this book may not do it for you, friend.




Not All Black Girls Know How To Eat #4: A Conversation with Roxane, Stephanie and Becky


Hello Beautiful People,

I’m back with the Not All Black Girls Know How To Eat series (check out Part One, Two, and Three.)

Today’s post is a conversation with the writing of three women: Roxane Gay’s Hunger, Stephanie Armstrong Covington author of Not All Black Girls Know How To Eat, and Becky W. Thompson’s A Hunger So Wide and So Deep: A Multiracial View of Women’s Eating Problems.

Sometimes when I want to talk about being a black woman who is healing her emotional eating issues, I feel a little like Dave Chapelle in Half Baked. You know that part where his character decides to go to rehab for weed and meets a crazed, coke-addicted Bob Saget:

Bob Saget: Marijuana is not a drug. I used to suck dick for coke.

Rehab patient: I seen him do it!

Bob Saget:  Now that’s an addiction, man. You ever suck some dick for marijuana?

Yeah, sometimes I feel like that. Like with the assortment of ills that black Women face on the daily, I’m gonna make a big deal out of emotional eating and body image?

But, then, I remember that this is not  my highest self talking or even a well-meaning balance toward empathy for other’s pain.

Nah, this voice is a virulent, parroting of patriarchal values which instruct me to rank pain and to always, always situate frivolous “women’s issues” at the very bottom. It is a voice steeped in meanness and denial.

This is not the voice which wants me to heal and be honest.

Eating is something we have to do to live. And for women, it can often become a deeply divisive and harmful act which we use to control our bodies from becoming too much. Food is social and in our country, usually widely available. It is therefore easy to self-abuse with.

Food becomes another mode of employing a steady degree of self-loathing, we eat foods that make us feel ill, we create highly rigid diets that take out all the pleasure of eating, we starve our bodies from what nutrients they actually need.


In a blog post, Stephanie Armstrong Covington, author of Not All Black Girls Know How To Eat writes,

“…As a child my mother explained my harsh realities, “You’re poor, you’re Black, and you’re a woman. You’ve got three strikes against you so don’t expect life to be easy. But she was wrong. My dark chocolate colored coating protected me from suspicion, judgment and the intervention I desperately needed. When I finally sought out mental health support my family was mortified. I had broken the one sacred covenant. Church was offered up as the only acceptable alternative. I had revealed my deepest secrets to strangers who did not look like me. I had relinquished my role as the strong Black woman archetype. Why couldn’t I suffer in silence? Or have more self-control? There was so much I needed to learn about my relationship with food. Instead of celebration and ceremony it became a weapon I used to shove down my shame and loathing. It took a long time to learn that I could not heal my relationship to food on my own. There was no diet that would work for me…”

Food, for me,  was and sometimes still continues to be, a place where my shame of being too much, where my desire for comfort are the most salient.

Unlike Ms. Covington who mainly grew up in inner city Brooklyn, I was raised in a suburb made up mainly of Mexican and white people in Orange County, CA. My Nigerian parents had no real idea what it meant to grow up in a setting that was not a black majority.

When I think back on my youth: the desire to be a famous catwalk model in Milan, the tiny white girls I was surrounded by, the teasing from black guys in high school about looking African, it’s not difficult to see how my relationship with food became so fraught. I see why I carried so much shame about my deep attachment to sugar, why the binges occurred, and the resultant obsessiveness about diets and workouts.

It was all so damn confusing: Eating was supposed to be fun! All the commercials said so, including the Carl’s Jr. ones with lanky blondes somehow sexily chewing up a hamburger. I wanted to be skinny like Alek Wek. (When I wasn’t wanting to be built like J.Lo.)

At family parties, aunties would pinch my cheeks and with the sharp straightforwardness of the non-Westerner issue a loud, “Hannah, you’re getting FAT.” I was encouraged to eat jollof rice, red stew, fried rice, dodo and if I took a smaller helping an uncle would say I was showing off or trying to be white. You got admonished for being too skinny AND too chubby.

Curtailing my sugar intake felt scary in a way I deep down knew was not normal (sometimes when our junior high school Snack Shack was closed, the one that sold 3 Snickers for 99 cents, I’d get all panicky and almost about to cry…okay, sometimes I actually did.)


When I decided to seek help like Ms. Covington, I felt stupid, like any minute a trio consisting of Oprah, bell hooks, and Toni Morrisson would revoke my black girl card. And because I did not see Women and girls who looked like me talking about their struggles with eating, because I did not fall cleanly into the standards set forth for bulimia or anorexia, because I felt like I was a burden and “too much” already, because there were Bigger Things To Deal With As a Strong Black Woman, I mostly stayed silent. I kept my constant anxiousness about food to myself.

If no one else gave a shit, what right did I have to?

In an interview at Adios Barbie! Professor Becky W. Thompson offers this,

“…Racism, poverty, homophobia or the stress of acculturation from immigration–those are the disorders. Anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating are very orderly, sane responses to those disorders. So that’s why I don’t even use the word “disorder.” I’m shifting the focus away from the notion of eating problems as pathology, and instead labeling forms of discrimination as pathological. I even thought for a while that I should say “eating issues.” But I ended up using the term because eating problems do become problems for women. So why the shroud of silence? Shame makes it especially difficult for women who don’t fit the “profile” to speak up and seek help. For many women, healing from body problems goes hand-in-hand with finding a solid racial, sexual, or personal identity…”

The deeper healing from harmful eating habits in my life is a reckoning with the actual problems: the daily assaults of racism and sexism, the emotional phobic nature of our society, the ways I had truly internalized that I was only important if I had the right kind of body, my deep-seated belief that I was bad, the way sugar offered a steady comfort I could find nowhere else.

Before, I saw myself as the problem: I had too little willpower, I was lazy, weak, the wrong kind of black girl.

Seeing words like those from Professor Thompson removed a thick veil, a veil that thought I was all alone, that I was irredeemable and broken.


I cannot divorce my eating habits from the issues of YM (an old school teen Magazine) I read like crazy and the MTV I devoured unconsciously as a teen. Or the way I felt unsafe in my body. How high fructose corn syrup made up for the sweetness missing from my actual life (but not really). The pressures to be a good African daughter. The kids at school who would ask pointed painful questions about my skin, hair, and lips. My model dreams. The want to be romantically desired by a certain type of brown or black boy. The vocal judgement from an Auntie about my belly.

Our eating habits do not exist in a vacuum.

“…This is what most girls are taught—that we should be slender and small. We should not take up space. We should be seen and not heard, and if we are seen, we should be pleasing to men, acceptable to society. And most women know this, that we are supposed to disappear, but it’s something that needs to be said, loudly, over and over again, so that we can resist surrendering to what is expected of us,” Roxane Gay writes.

This message from Gay is not solely about thinness.

Blanket assumptions are the worst BUT on a whole, black and brown communities usually have an appreciation for “thicker” bodies. Thick does not usually translate to fat but to a thin-waist-big-butt-and-boobs ideal.

I have no issues with the thickness but even this ideal can become associated with the “not taking up space” Gay speaks about.

Basing our self worth on an arbitrary cultural ideal (even if said ideal is “big”) and letting this ideal control our lives is still wanting to be small,  for our lives become firmly attached to seeking external approval (a never ending contest) and disallow space for what actually is.

I long to live a life that isn’t pinched into smallness by the demands and tastes of unconscious men to take up less space in my actual body.

My relationship with food is a perfect barometer of how much I still believe in being small and pleasing.


How do we relearn how to eat with the intent to nurture and not to control? How do we let go of being pleasing and work on being pleased ourselves? What ideas about smallness and scarcity are fueling our relationship with food?

It starts with realizing you are not alone. Like, at all.

You do an inventory of your history. Was there trauma that you encountered that affected your relationship with food? Where you grew up. What messages you learned about eating. Your fears about your body—aesthetic and otherwise. The media you took in. The shame you held or currently hold.

You hold that desire to be small, to fit in, to be pleasing with as much compassion as you can. You are not weak for seeking love or validation the only way you could see fit.


There is real social and even economic capital in having a “a good body” in our society.

However, we have to look closely at the way eating is stifling our lives. Eating does not have to be a place of anxiety and turmoil. It doesn’t have to be exhausting or scary.

But, you may have to do some digging and some reckoning.

When that old shame of being too much and being the Weak Black Woman creep up on me (and they are stubborn little creepers let me tell you…), I breathe. I know there will be some people in my community who DO believe I am taking myself too seriously, that I am Dave Chapelle trying to get off the weed.

That’s okay. This is my life and what makes me feel more Whole is to shine a light in any area shadowed in shame.

And for me, this is definitely, definitely eating.

Dear one, if you are reading this and suffering or just fed up having a low-level dread of eating, do not be afraid or ashamed to seek professional help. To do all that you can within your means to heal. A wound is crying out for your attention; heed it.

You are not alone.

You are not broken.

You are not solely defined by how you eat.

You can heal.