Written by K. Monet Rice
I have gotten better as I have become more health conscious. But I realize I will always be an addict and will always be in recovery. I like to blame it on being from the Dirty South and on the fact that my Grandmama’dem can cook! But isn’t that everyone’s excuse? I have noticed, however, that the start of my journey to recovering from deep fried addiction correlates with the start of my journey to loving me. Loving myself includes doing introspective work of both asking the piercing question, “What am I feeling,” and answering the question honestly. Unfortunately, articulating feelings and displaying emotions are not fostered in many minority communities and hence the inability to articulate one’s feelings is parlayed into comfort eating.
I have a hypothesis about how comfort eating starts. It starts in infancy. When a baby is uncomfortable he or she cries. When the baby’s cries are not convenient to the moment or creates a sense of disturbance to non-babies in the vicinity, typically, something is placed into the crying babe’s mouth to silence the display of discomfort. After infancy, this pattern is rarely broken. For many of us, when discomfort is felt – mainly in the forms of lose, grief, sadness and discontent, we turn to food because it gives us an instant feeling of dopamine gladness. The sweet feeling of fullness and the pleasure of taste has the capacity to convince us that contentment and happiness has been attained. When in fact, there is a good chance that depression is present. I would even argue that food addiction is a display of depression.
In her book “Black Pain: It just looks like we’re not hurting,” Terrie Williams argues that Black Power masks Black Pain. Decades after the “black is beautiful” movement that sense of pride has morphed into a masking, or blindfold if you will, that hides the pain of poverty and racism. According to Williams, the result is depression expressed through violence, addiction, suicide as well as obesity and hypertension. Surely there is some correlation between the social ails that black people and minorities face and the overwhelming figures of persons in these communities affected by diabetes, bad cholesterol and hypertension.
The black community’s affinity towards soul food has deep roots. And while I do not advocate forgoing traditional cultural dishes – I must inject an all things in moderation disclaimer. Fast food chains also have roots in black communities, but the roots of these establishments and the funds that fuel them are not rooted in the same soulful soil. Nonetheless, regardless of food choices and preparation preferences, here are some ways to identify whether you have a food addiction that may be covering a greater issue – namely, depression.
- Aware that fatty processed foods are damaging to your health, do you still engorge yourself with fast food meals more than once a week on a regular basis?
1b. Do you engage in this under the auspices that it taste good or because it is convenient?
- Do you typically “need” something sweet at the end of a hard day?
- Do you eat when you’re not hungry? Are these foods in the junk food category?
- Have you gained more than 20lbs in the past year due to unrelated medical conditions?
- Do you eat in your car afraid that people will stare at you if you eat in a restaurant?
- Do you often excuse your soft-drink habit as “not liking water?”
- Do you only eat vegetables that have been soaked in animal fat?
- Do you envision yourself alive at 80?
- Can you identify the things that “hurt” in your life? How about the things that hurt emotionally?
- Are you down right aware that you have an eating problem?
If your answer to any of these questions cause alarm inside of you, take a moment to examine what could possibly be taking place below the surface. I am a recovering deep fried addict. But I’m intent on asking myself the why’s of my what’s. Why do I want Girl Scout cookies at 11pm? Am I craving something sweet or am I trying to compensate for a lack of another kind of sweetness? Once I know the root of my issue, I can begin to snatch up the weeds threatening to cloud my judgment and clog my arteries. I am on the road to recovery – one question at a time. And yes, while deep fried does indeed taste good, I believe I am worth better.
 Williams, Terrie. Black Pain: It just looks like we’re not hurting. (New York: Scribner, 2009)
 The author is not a medical doctor and is not certified to diagnose depression or addiction. These are just Socratic questions to get one to the roots of their actions.
 In this day and age we know the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. A failure to do so might be an omission of care about one’s long-term health.