It is no secret that African-American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese. But instead of fat shaming and finger pointing, how many health activists dissect the emotional catalyst behind our struggle with weight?

Yesterday, Michaela angela Davis posted a powerful statement on her Facebook wall that’s ripe for a larger discussion.

“Comfort Food? Not now. I’m learning food wasn’t meant to comfort or reward me. Not as a pain killer or companion, not intended for boredom, anxiety or abandonment management. It doesn’t nourish insecurities or esteem. It can be a short-lived suppressant or postponement but never a real healing, solution or satisfaction. What are you emotionally feeding after your body is full?”

Yes, what are we emotionally feeding, after our bodies are full?

Is it family issues? Relationship obstacles? Career dissatisfaction? Financial concerns?

I am a size four, 121 pounds, and living a vegetable-heavy, meatless lifestyle. But also, I am guilty of emotional eating, even if it does not show. Emotional eating is not just an “overweight” thing. This reactionary behavior extends beyond pure weight gain, impacting women through eating disorders and other unhealthy eating practices. It starts by planting roots in our personal struggles before the pounds pile up or drop off.

If I survive a stressful day at my 9-5 job, I eat red velvet cupcakes or greasy French fries. The root of my eating has nothing to do with being hungry. I simply “reward” myself for stomaching another passionless day in a career that I no longer want or “treat” myself for putting up with other obstacles that are thrown in my path each day. When eating departs from hunger, a seed for disaster is planted. It’s very similar to an alcoholic’s relationship with liquor. We’re using substances to nourish deeper issues.

I’ve watched friends struggling with weight lick the 300-calorie sauce off the bones of barbecue chicken wings while simultaneously complaining about their weight challenges. I’ve witnessed women that know their relationship with food is problematic, but fail to address the emotional dependency on their refrigerator. And all of these women are powerful, intelligent, beautiful, and fiercely independent in many areas of their lives, but often, our biggest obstacles are ourselves.

In the words of Michelle Obama, let’s move.

It’s time to backstroke our emotional issues to the forefront and dive into the real reason behind our weight gain and unhealthy eating. It’s not enough to drop statistics, discuss food deserts, and advocate for more exercise. Reducing weight gain requires a lifestyle change and that requires an emotional background check.

Are you battling emotional eating and working on a healthier relationship with food? Share your journey.

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