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

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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.

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Onward,

Hannah

Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat #3: What Are You Hungry For?

“My father believes hunger is in the mind. I know differently. I know that hunger is in the mind and the body and the heart and the soul.”
― Roxane Gay, Hunger

Hello Beautiful People,

Welcome to Part #3 of Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat! For Parts #1 and #2, here ya’ go.

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It’s hard to make good decisions when you are starving.

I know this and yet…

I have a bad habit–I forget to eat. A lot. And sometimes, I just don’t make time to eat. I decide that everything is more important than eating: catching the bus, trying to perfect my cat-eye eyeliner, checking up on Instagram, writing.

And then when my hunger is on a scale of 9-10, when my stomach is groaning in impatient annoyance, I will finally acknowledge my hunger and then I will eat.

But, “eat” isn’t the correct term, devour is more like it.

I am indiscriminate and often attracted to the foods I tell myself I “should” not be eating: sugar and more sugar usually. For years, I’ve been angry at my body’s intense hunger, while doing almost nothing to actively address it.

I ignored the science and the beautiful balancing act of my body and bodies in general (facts like, our bodies are more attracted to those very foods that will give us the biggest boost in energy or calories when it is stressed or overly hungry so reaching for French fries or a Kit Kat is actually our bodies way of being smart).

They tell you that emotional eating can be solved by quick introspection. That you just decide that you’re not really hungry for that cupcake or second helping and so you go for a walk; call a friend. It all sounds so easy-peazy.

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I now believe that we have to take constant deep gazes upon our individual lives and ways of eating. I believe we have to pair the vague advice about eating “right” with the idiosyncrasies of our actual lived experience.

I believe we have to sit–and sit for long periods of time usually–with our specific relationship to hunger.

I started to see some very interesting parallels with how I treat my hunger and how I treat my life. I noticed that I often approach people and situations when I am starving. Nowhere is this more clear than in relationships.

I’d often wait until I was desperate for attention and admiration and adoration before I approached someone. I expected this person to fulfill my ravenous hunger for love and when they couldn’t fulfill the stupendous depth of my desire (no being could), I would grow angry, resentful, intensely sad and searching. I distrusted my hunger for love. I was disgusted by my hunger.

I wished my hunger would just disappear.

They tell us: don’t go grocery shopping when we are hungry because our physical hunger will transmute and sharpen our actual needs. I think we’ve all been there: we go in for toilet paper and toothpaste and leave with 99 cent pink notepads, Oreos, a new sports bra we didn’t need, Captain Crunch, five avocados, a sewing kit and headphones.

We are not always logical, rational beings. We are soft. We desire. We are oftentimes hungry.

This I know:

I need to stop waiting until I am starving to eat.

I need to stop waiting until I am starving to seek love.

I need to become comfortable and present with my hungers as they are.

I need to feed upon the things that will actual feed my hunger, not dull it and then intensify it much later elsewhere.

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Our hunger for adoration, attention, or admiration are not shameful. What they are at their barest are desires for love and belonging and connection. Many of us were starved of these desires at some point in our lives. And then we meet people and buffet lines with our stomachs and hearts on empty.

And instead of getting the love we really want, the food that will sustain us, we are attracted to anything that will do the trick. The chocolate chip cookies. The guy who never has time for us. The Chinese take-out for a third night in a row. The friend who constantly makes us feel on edge and anxious.

It’s hard to make good decisions when you are starving.

But, we do not have to be hungry ghosts forever, waiting on something external to feed us.

Yes, we need other people. Self-care and self-love do not exclude connection and love from others.

Still, we must learn to feed ourselves consistently.

We must learn to recognize our hunger before it becomes acute and overtaking. Feed ourselves when our hunger levels are between 3-4 and not well past 0.

We must learn to see our hunger with accepting eyes and give ourselves what we need so that we approach our food and our friends and our partners from a place of satiety. From a place of enough where they become the exquisite dessert and not the whole damn meal.

Our hunger and the way we handle it can be a spiritual path in itself.

So, are you hungry? Are you starving?

What are you hungry for?

Are you looking for what you truly hunger for in a place that it can be found?

What are the places in your life that are starving for attention and for your gentle holding and care? Where can you make time to feed yourself? It’s okay to take time to learn. And relearn.

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My hope for all of us is that we learn to acknowledge our hunger and treat it with respect. This is not always so simple in a society that demonizes women’s hungers for food and anything beyond the bare minimum AND also expects women to feed everyone else.

“Good Women” don’t feed themselves first. “Good Women” starve.

Le sigh, the patriarchy sucks my friend but all is not lost.

Not everyone in the world, shit, not everyone in our country has the ability to feed themselves on a consistent basis. But, many of us do and for that, I am thankful everyday.

We can honor our hunger.

We do not have to wait until we are starving to feed ourselves.

Onward,

Hannah

Not All Black Girls Know How To Eat #2: An Interview with Jennifer Sterling

Hello Beautiful People,

Welcome to: Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat #2. (For Part One, here ya’ go…)

I’m constantly searching and scrounging around for personal growth stuff, especially in terms of eating. I entered the self-help world mainly through my haphazard, strained relationship with eating and my body.

I wanted a life free from constant body dissatisfaction and eating my feelings through the portal of Cadbury Roasted Almond Chocolate bars.

I found many wellness coaches, eating disorder specialists, health gurus and body positivity warriors. Many of them white women. And while I gained a lot from their level of mastery, I wanted a more culturally nuanced view.

Someone who got why if “eating clean” meant forsaking jollof rice, I was, um, not gonna do it.

Enter Jennifer Sterling. Jennifer is the Holistic Nutritionist and Wellness Coach of my fucking dreams. She’s a former pole dance instructor, went to culinary school, and is well-versed in black girl wellness. Her weekly emails about healing from trauma and learning to nurture ourselves with food instead of numb ourselves, buoy me upwards every time I read them. She doesn’t believe in diets or that health only comes in one size. She is also the founder of the Black Girl Healing Project.

She is amazing and has gracefully agreed to be interviewed here. I hope you enjoy and definitely, definitely check out her site! You won’t regret it.

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Jennifer Sterling

Please tell us all a little about yourself, Jennifer. What are three things we would not know about you just by looking at you (weird, random factoids welcome!)

I am a Holistic Nutritionist, plant-based chef and creative arts therapy candidate. I help women learn to eat intuitively and nourish themselves physically, mentally and emotionally. Three things that no one would know about me by just looking at me? I taught pole dancing for about 8 years, I owned an allergen-free baking business for about 6 years, and I play the alto saxophone.

What led you to become a holistic nutritionist?

My interest in nutrition came from a desire to heal myself. When I was in college, I started experiencing recurrent yeast infections, headaches, and fatigue. I saw several doctors, and everyone swore there was nothing wrong with me – my blood work came back normal and it appeared that everything was fine. After a few years of feeling like I was getting nowhere, I decided to take my health into my own hands and do a little research on my own. As I was researching, I discovered that the way I was eating was contributing to my symptoms. I changed the way I was eating and many of my symptoms disappeared – discovering the power of food for myself, made me want to share it with others, especially since it was never mentioned anytime I saw a doctor. I didn’t want other women to have to suffer for as long as I did.

What issues do you find particularly affecting women of color with eating/body image? Are these issues being addressed in your opinion?

The issues I see affecting women of color have more to do with bigger societal issues – the thought that women of color can’t or don’t suffer from eating disorders, and women of color feeling as though they have to look a certain way based on societal norms.

There are some conversations that are happening around these issues – some acknowledgement that anyone can have an eating disorder, no matter what their shape or size. Sometimes, it is assumed that only a thin person can have an eating disorder, and this is not the case.

I think with the anti-diet movement that’s happening now, a lot of body image issues are being addressed – as more practitioners come to understand the dangers of dieting for weight loss, there is more talk about body kindness, self-love and acceptance. I think these conversations and understandings will be helpful for all women.

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What is the one piece of wisdom you would offer to a woman wishing to heal her relationship with food?

Let go of dieting and everything that goes with it – counting calories, weigh-ins, etc. – and focus instead on the needs of your body. There is no one size fits all diet and 95% of people who diet end up gaining the weight back plus some within 5 years – learning to eat in a way that makes you feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally is much more sustainable and supportive of your overall health than eating to control the size of your body.

What mainstream nutritionist advice or guidance do you find problematic, especially in regard to women of color?

That you need to be or have to be vegan to be healthy. I see this a lot on social media, especially on accounts run by women of color. Being vegan is great, if it works for your body – if you feel energized, satisfied, and well when you eat that way long-term. It’s not the only way, however. For some, eating high-quality animal protein is helpful.

In general, I find any nutrition advice that only focuses on one way of eating to be problematic. We’re not all the same, and we don’t all have the same needs when it comes to food and eating.

What is your favorite meal? Dessert?

My favorite meal…that’s a tricky one! I love mac and cheese, pizza, and tacos. What can I say, I’m a nutritionist, but I love comfort food. Who doesn’t!?!

My favorite dessert. Hmmm….sweet potato pie!

And a curiosity of mine: can you give us your inspiration behind your sign-off, “hugs and curves”?

For sure! It was inspired by the years I spent as a pole dancing instructor – so much of that work was about helping women to celebrate and appreciate their curves. That sign-off is meant to be an extension of that work – offering support with a hug and a little encouragement to embrace your curves.

So, please remind us again, where can we find you?

You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @jennmsterling or visit my website: jennifersterling.com for more info about me and my work.

Thank you so much Jennifer!

I hope this interview has helped some of you out there. Eating does not have to be a struggle and I am learning this along with you. I too have succumbed to notions that there is a “right” way to eat and look, but I am happy to say, that this type of thinking is fading away. I truly hope all of us can find the freedom to be our best selves in our bodies, and that we can learn to treat them with grace and love through the way we eat.

Onward,

Hannah