Love yourself, ladies; I will never tell you to do otherwise because the definition of ‘being beautiful’ is broad. However, in communities of color, does it also include “being healthy?”
In our culture, we appreciate (dare I say, fetishize?) “thick” women. As a trainer, most of my conversations with women at the gym start with good banter about health and fitness and end with the following refrain; ” I know I’m overweight but I only want to lose weight in my stomach. ” And so, while some women busy themselves with getting their waists’ ‘snatched,’ the fact remains that statistically, 4 out of 5 women of color (WOC) are considered overweight or obese. So it seems many of our women have chosen curves over cardio for fear that the pursuit of health may increase their lifespan but leave their jeans unfilled.
It’s funny; when I was just a baby Zeus in the 90s, I remember that ‘thick’ women didn’t get their due and now they’re the center of attention. I, for one, am not at all mad. But given the media’s infatuation with the curvaceous form and the fact that the thicker woman has finally gotten her moment in the sun, are women simply comfortable being fat?
In 2001, Mo’Nique Imes-Jackson (that’s right, full government names only) and fellow comediennes put out a comedy show called “The Queens of Comedy.’ And in it, she told y’all ” skinny women are confused and need to be destroyed.” At that moment, the scale tipped (don’t see what I did there); a beautiful, confident, plus-sized woman demanded and invited that you love yourself. She told you that succumbing to the media’s idea of beauty is both false and fatalistic and she was living, unapologetic proof.
This resonated with you; suddenly you began to shirk America’s fat-shaming, fad diets, BMI charts and even the gym. But that last opt-out is where things went left. Since this moment in culture created a space for women to be accepted—whatever their form—for many, staying healthy, reducing body fat and the potential for health complications became secondary, at best.
When a Man Loves a Woman, Can’t Keep His Mind on Nothing Else…
Gentlemen, we actually play a pretty pivotal role in our women’s devolution towards obesity, increased potential for health complications and decreased interest in the gym. The ‘Bonita Applebum’ body has become the prototype shape. Let’s look at the man in the mirror and acknowledge that many of us thirst for that pear shape, and good ole 10-inch separation from bust to waist to hip. Our ladies aren’t dumb; they know this is what we tend to find attractive and I think it has a subconscious effect on how women define ‘sexy’ for themselves and how they prioritize exercise. I often hear guys say you can go to gym but ” don’t lose all that sugar” or ” you can do side-bends or sit ups, but please don’t lose that butt.”
That Cutie with a Booty is undeniably gorgeous and carries her weight well but the thing is, her body fat is at 42 percent and that may set her up for some obesity-related illnesses in her future.
So, do we men love you as you are? Yes. But do we also have a responsibility to love you enough to support you in making choices that will help you to be the healthiest and sexiest version of who are? Also, yes.
Is Home is Where the Heart(Attack) Is?
Walk down the block, look for food and what do you see? The corner store, fast food, chain restaurants and ‘home cooked meals.’ You’d think your own pots and pans would be a safe haven from the onslaught of unhealthy food choices. Except, many of the meals we cook at home are simultaneously undeniably tasty and wildly unhealthy. Unfortunately, many of us grew up with this kind of food on our tables so we didn’t know about the ramifications of such indulgences until it was too late.
Now wait! Put the pitch forks down; I’m not home so don’t try to break down my door. Ultimately being a ” thick” women does not have to have any implications on health and fitness. As a trainer, I’ve worked with women across the spectrum of body shapes and sizes and can assure you that whether they are 120 or 220 pounds, they all have the same ability to be healthy. Let me repeat—everyday, exceptional WOCs are BOTH thick and healthy; they do not have to be separate descriptors!
It’s not taboo to be a plus-sized woman and amazing. In our community, it’s the norm. Now step away from your scale and stop being consumed by numbers and statistics; Healthy comes in all sizes and it’s important to incorporate fitness and nutritional structure into any life.
We have an obligation to push to culture forward and leave a legacy for the ones coming up behind us. My hope is that legacy will be a family full of healthy, happy and full-hipped moms, aunts and grandmothers who can show our little girls that they can be voluptuous AND deeply committed to their health.
* steps off soap box and heads to gym *
Randall,Alice nytimes.com/whyblackwomenarefat May 5th 2012
Stewart, Alicia ” Is being fat really what black women want ?” May 14 2012