By Sporty Afros
Yesterday, I read an article in the New York Times regarding black women’s issue of being obese entitled “Why Black Women are Fat.”
FOUR out of five black women are seriously overweight. One out of four middle-aged black women has diabetes. With $174 billion a year spent on diabetes-related illness in America and obesity quickly overtaking smoking as a cause of cancer deaths, it is past time to try something new.
I reviewed the article looking for more insight and made sure to keep an open mind while reading it. I was taken aback by the author’s claims of why black women are overweight. The reason – we (blacks as a culture) accept being overweight.
What we need is a body-culture revolution in black America. Why? Because too many experts who are involved in the discussion of obesity don’t understand something crucial about black women and fat: many black women are fat because we want to be. ….. Chemically, in its ability to promote disease, black fat may be the same as white fat. Culturally it is not.
The writer discusses her own previous desires to be “thicker” and quotes how many husbands/boyfriends were disappointed when their black woman desired to lose weight for fear they would lose their thickness.
How many middle-aged white women fear their husbands will find them less attractive if their weight drops to less than 200 pounds? I have yet to meet one. But I know many black women whose sane, handsome, successful husbands worry when their women start losing weight. My lawyer husband is one.
Another friend, a woman of color who is a tenured professor, told me that her husband, also a tenured professor and of color, begged her not to lose “the sugar down below” when she embarked on a weight-loss program.
At dinner last night, Whitney and I briefly discussed the article, and we both agreed with part of the writer’s claim. In my conversation with Whitney, I recalled growing up in the hood and pointed out how many of my classmates grandmothers were called “Big Momma” because they were literally big aka obese. Being big was/is acceptable and there was nothing wrong with it.
My Reflections While Growing Up In the “Hood”
After people hit their 20 and 30s, being big or bigger was acceptable and the norm. The only people who were skinny or had a slender frame, were crack heads or kids. Being skinny or slender was looked at as a disease. Everyone wanted and should have bigger butts, breast and thicker thighs. Eating hamhocks, collard greens and sweet potato pie was the prescription for achieving this.
The more you filled out your clothes the “better looking” and acceptable you were considered. One of my best friends in middle school was always being teased for her slenderness and forced to “eat more” because she didn’t look healthy. She was an ideal weight for her height, age and activity level. While she ate, flaming hot Cheetos and chili cheese nachos like the rest of us, she didn’t gain weight like we did. This pained her through out middle and high school.
It’s More Than Just Acceptable
I agree with the writer’s claim that we as a cultural accept being fat; however, I disagreed with it being the reason.I believe their are more issues beneath the claim.
A college friend of mine, Melanie Rose, is completing her Master’s degree and researched some reasons why black women are having problems when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. Over dinner one night, her and I discussed what we both have found as some reasons why black women are not living a healthy lifestyle.
- Lack of Access to Healthy Foods – Can you count how many health food stores such as Wholefoods, Sprouts, and Farmers Markets are in the black neighborhoods? Even the neighborhood grocery and corner stores often do not offer healthier foods. Those that do offer healthier foods cost a lot!
- Location – In majority of black neighborhoods, there are hardly any recreation centers and gyms. The one to two rec centers are often filled with broken equipment and lack quality personal trainers and exercise classes. While these same neighborhoods may contain parks, these parks also contain a high amount of crime so safety becomes an issue.
- Education/Lack of Knowledge – Personally, I didn’t know BBQ and fried chicken were unhealthy until I was almost 18. Every Friday night in high school, I had either fried chicken or Records BBQ. Oh Records in Dallas, is the spot for the best BBQ. Trust me!
- Hair Issues – Raise your hand if your mom said this to you, “Girl don’t go outside and play too hard. You will mess up your hair and I am not doing it over again this week.” We were taught from a young age not to mess up our hair when it came to playing (a form of exercise).
- Not Important or Fun – Some people just don’t want to workout and won’t. Exercising isn’t fun for them and they don’t see it as being important.
Okay, so this is part one. I am going to chat with a few other people this week and have them to chime in on this issue.
So ladies and gentlemen (guys I know you are reading too!) give your opinion with a comments or chime in on our survey by clicking here.