Visual · September 30, 2018
How I Used Food to Reclaim Pleasure
When I was little, I was fat, black and deemed ugly. Or so I thought. I didn’t look like my mom; light skin, thick in the right places. I was compared to my paternal grandma, a lady who’s black and full of rage, so that made her ugly in my little girl mind. I grew up in apartment 57 C, in food scarcity. I remember stealing snacks from this little white girl’s neatly packed lunch box, in elementary school, because my snacks didn’t make it to snack time. When my mom went grocery shopping, my brothers and I often ate all the good shit within three days. We would eat when we were bored, which was all the time, I guess this is when it all began. I didn’t know when I would have it again, so I wanted it all because it made me feel better at the moment, and it gave me something to do.
My mom was a single parent. She worked 12 hour shifts at the hospital, leaving my older brother with the responsivity as caretaker, a task he didn’t want. I, in turn, felt neglected and unwanted. At the time, I also resented my mama’s tiredness. She was always napping on this velvet purple sofa. I wanted her to look at me, tell me I was pretty, not that my skin was dark and my clothes too small. My daddy wasn’t around much, at least not the way I needed. He thought since I was a girl, I should be with my mama and my brother with him. I also don’t remember him ever calling me beautiful back then.
So I found comfort in food. It gave me the ability to hide my feelings and become numb. My delicacies were suga water, microwaved “grill” cheese and corn dogs. I had to sneak to eat because of shame. I was on a “diet” and supposedly always eating. But the more I ate, the more invisible I felt. Come to think of it, it wasn’t all my fault. The same raging paternal grandma would yell and blame me for things, but then turn around and fix me “adult” portions of macaroni and cheese, greens, chicken and my favorite, cornbread. She knew how much I loved cornbread. Every time I came around, there was some for me, but she would pretend that I couldn’t have any and then give me some. I saw it as her only way of showing love amidst the pain she suppressed. Besides the cans of beer she downed, cooking was her pleasure. It was how she kept people around, and when they left, how she got them to come back.
Consequently, I grew bigger and people noticed.
By the time I was in 5th grade, I was wearing size 17 jeans. In middle school we wore uniforms. I guess as a way to protect me, my mama bought my clothes extra big, 2x shirts and baggy unflattering pants, to hide me. I remember this girl whose clothes fitted in all the right places, she called me fat. And this boy whispered loudly how I was too big to have a flat ass.
It was at this point that I started restricting my food, disguising it as “vegetarianism.” It was unconscious at first. I told myself I was doing it for the animals and environment. I started losing weight, wearing fitting clothes and the attention began to shift to me. I was more confident but still felt insecure. It wasn’t until high school that all of this began to catch up with me.
I had my first real boyfriend in 9th grade, I also lost my virginity in 9th grade. A couple months after, we broke up and he began dating someone who was thick in all the right places. I restricted food more, sometimes not eating. Shorts and skirts got shorter and shirts tighter. I wanted to be to be seen, loved and comforted. I got it.
I attracted this 21 year old when I was 15. He even personally delivered me Taco Bell. The delivery quickly turned into him putting his hands in places. I didn’t stop him because I felt obligated. Here’s this older guy giving me attention AND he bought me food. So I let him. This just started a series of shameful sexual experiences where they would give me something and I would felt obligated to pay them back with my body. My desires, my pleasures continued to be ignored. My voice stifled. I never spoke up because I was getting attention; the little fat, black girl.
It wasn’t until 2017 when I noticed how deeply related my sexual trauma was correlated to my binge/restrict cycles. In relationships, I restricted. During arguments and breakups I binged, heavy. Constantly obsessing over food, needing sweets after every meals, and not be present in my body. I ate until my heart raced and thumped loudly to get my attention. I realized that this whole time I was emotionally eating, stuffing down repressed emotions instead of fulfilling my truest desires: speaking up for myself and really giving myself pleasure. What I really needed was to be comforted, to be seen, to be loved for the real me by me. Thus began my reclamation to food. I began to recover my relationship to food, which in turn healed my relationship to myself.
Food was the gateway drug that’s evolved into the healing medicine that allowed me to reclaim my pleasure. It is a practice of reclaiming I am authentically emoboding. Food now serves as a recovery tool for me to address and release my feminine shame, insecurities, sexual trauma, and guilt.
Photographer: Laura Cate @laurac4te
As told by
Native of the mystical Savannah. Painter, Plant centered Chef, Pleasurist & 2nd Degree Reiki Practitioner. My passions are art, sensuality, & healing women’s trauma through food, energetics and pleasure. Also a Spelman alumna.
is part of
a theme that the Black Girl Magik collective explored and invited the community to investigate with us through a practice of communal healing and coalition building.