Soul Food Diaries
February 17 – March 9th, 2020
Soul Food Diaries with Dr. Kelli Rugless, PsyD
What: Soul Food Diaries is an online campaign of unique personal stories from people of color who have dealt with eating disorders, disordered eating, and negative body image.
Goal: To raise awareness that eating issues and negative body image impact everyone and to end the shame and stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment in many communities of color.
“In my own experience in working with people of color I often hear that they feel left out. Left out of the narrative, left out of the treatment, and ultimately left out of recovery. We want to change this by raising awareness that these kinds of struggles impact everyone and hopefully give others the courage to share their stories and inspire those suffering silently to get help. If you or someone you love is a person of color and has a story that you would like to share as a part of this campaign, please feel free to contact us on instagram @breakingthechainsfdn or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t wait to hear from you and we can’t wait to share these important stories!” Dr. Kelli Rugless
Click on photos below to read each person’s “Soul Food Diaries” unique story.
My name is Kenna Wright and I am an actor and dancer living in Los Angeles.
Body positivity and unconditional love for oneself is something I work on daily.
Growing up in a family of dancers my world was shaped by movement and music. As a young girl, watching beautiful ballerinas float across the stage made my heart soar. At age of 14 my body started to change. I was no longer an adolescent but, on my way to becoming a woman. My Ethiopian genetics were unfolding and I did not know how to handle it. At the time, the media didn’t reflect the beauty of different shapes and sizes as frequently as it does now. I felt my body was betraying me by changing. I was healthy, active and strong but all I could see was jagged edges, lumps, bumps and stretch marks. It was a dark spiral that I went down to try and get ahold of my body and mind. Between eating far too few calories, getting up at 6am to run before school, an 8 hour dance training program in the evening and doing exercises in my room before falling asleep around 1am, it was my every waking thought.
In dance, you spend all of your time in front of a mirror surrounded by people who, in my opinion at the time possessed “the look” to become professional dancers. I was told by multiple teachers, “I was only good enough to do street styles of dance and maybe should consider quitting all other forms of dance since my butt and thighs seemed to be unwavering to their corrections.”
I sought health care professionals, tried every “diet” and even gave weight loss supplements a try. My body was starving for balance and therefore would fluctuate in weight which sent me into an even deeper depression. I was disgusted with myself and ashamed of the genes that I was given. I would cry at night wishing my body would just look like everyone else.
It took many years for me to get myself out of this mindset and it is still something I have to actively work on. After abusing my body, I sought to get on healthier track and truly to help heal my mind of what was diagnosed as body dysmorphia.
I needed tools and assistance to help retrain my mind to look in the mirror and see a beautiful woman that is blessed with health, happiness and love. As hard as that darkness was to endure, I am grateful for it because it taught me how to take back my power from the world and my own mind. I learned our gifts and talents are what we are here to share and our bodies are designed to
carry us through life and should be treated with the same respect and kindness we are asking the world to treat us with. My reflection is no longer a source of anxiety that I brace myself for but now something that intrigues, inspires and strengthens me. I actively work very hard on my health and fitness to ensure that I live a long and happy life for no one but myself.
As the songwriter India Arie sings
“When I look in the mirror and the only one there is me
Every freckle on my face is where it's suppose to be
And I know my creator didn't make no mistakes on me
My feet, my thighs, my lips, my eyes, I'm loving what I see”
Be kind to yourself dear one. You are beautiful!
Sophie Szew 17yo Latina female
Languages of Life
When she was little,
Her language had quite
A simple lexicon:
She grew a bit,
And her tongue
Uttered a new language
The language of
She grew some more,
And she came across
The ancient language
With the words of
But she kept growing,
And found herself Speaking
Yet another language;
This time it was
And then she stopped growing.
Her life became
Eventually, she shrank.
And to keep her from dying,
She was thrown
Into a new language:
A message to you:
That is never enough.
People like her need
To learn the language of
She grows again
And finds herself
Amidst a new language.
Danielle, an 18 yo African American college student in recovery from severe Anorexia Nervosa and negative body image shares this poem…
Dear little black princess, you are enough.
You are adequate enough for this world,
that it would be lost without you.
Your melanin is not a burden,
But a blessing
There is enough space for you in this world.
You are worthy of love.
You are worthy of peace.
You are worthy of good health.
You are worthy of success.
You are worthy of kindness.
You are a gem to this world.
You are worthy of recovery.
You are enough to have a family one day.
Enough to be on TV.
Enough to share your story.
You are enough to get married.
You are enough to build your life
The way you have always dreamed.
You are loved.
You are cherished.
You are beautiful, a little black princess.
The older I get, the more important it is for me to have a healthier relationship with my body and with my food. Seeing the positive effects of how I walk through the world with this insight has been nothing less than empowering. But I get angry sometimes with all this new perspective I have gained. Angry that women and young girls have been fed so many lies about where our worth lives. Angry that so much of our brain space and energy are wasted at such a young age by focusing on things like our desirability, our sex appeal, our proximity to white European standards of beauty. Angry that we can’t figure out how to break the cycle that the patriarchy set into motion. Angry that in all the big conversations we are having about disordered eating, body dysmorphia and healing our mind and body connection, blackness is painfully, stunningly absent.
I don’t know how our community is expected to recover when the global conversations around mental health don’t even acknowledge that we can be sick. It’s the same tropes played out over and over again, that black women are too strong to struggle, that black women don’t grapple with poor mental health, that black women are either too sexual or not sexual at all, and unconcerned about how they present themselves to the world. Even though we know these ideas to be wholly untrue, we still internalize them. Try to convince ourselves that we ARE stronger, that we SHOULDN’T be struggling with these things, that we DON’T need to focus too much energy on ourselves when other people in our lives are a bigger priority. And this is where our responsibility begins, this is where we grab the chains with our own hands and pull them apart with all our might- we have to untether ourselves from the notion that we are not worthy of attention and care. We don’t have to make grand gestures or convince anybody else of this truth, at least for now- we only have to make it true for ourselves, to feel it in our own beautiful bones.
We start here, with the idea that we will believe in our own value, our own merit, whether our eyes are opened or closed. We will ask for help when we get intuitive enough to recognize that we need it. We will set boundaries that take care of our spirit and our heart. We prioritize our own needs so that when we do show up for other people, we can do it from a place of love instead of obligation or avoidance of our own problems. And then…we will start to share this with our daughters, our sisters, our nieces and god children and cousins and students, that their value doesn’t lie in the way their body looks to others, and that their beauty has more to do with how they connect to the world around them than what the mirror or the tv or magazines show.
We will teach them that if they do feel their power faltering, that they aren’t broken. They aren’t wrong. That they are as deserving of care and attention as anyone else in this world, and that there is no shame in asking for, or even demanding, help. We can be any size, shape, color, ability imaginable and still be smart, confident, attractive and bold. We can be strong and still need support. We can be black and still be visible.