*Feeding your mind today. Part 1 of this post deviates a bit from my usual. It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while now and hits home.
“I’M FAT BECAUSE I’M LAZY, VAIN, AND INSECURE.”
2012 was a pivotal year in America. Barack Obama was re-elected for a second term, the greatest voice of our time, Whitney Houston, passed, Blue Ivy was born, and as one result of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, theories and studies concerning why black women “don’t work out” became a fascination. See three below.
- In 2012 former Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin was interviewed at the Bonnor Bros. hair show about black women and the obesity epidemic. Her summation is to worry less about our hair and more about our health.
- In the same year, the Association of Black Psychologists & the American Psychological Association (APA) held the “Summit on Obesity in African-American Women and Girls.” Over 60 professionals, experts in the field of health, and government delegates attended and strategies on the health disparities among black women were discussed. Conclusion? “Excess weight and obesity among black girls and women is a health crisis. Sarcastic Nieta emerges… I’m sure we knew that, but thanks.
- Lastly in 2012, there was an article written by Alice Randall for the New York Times, titled “Black Women AND Fat.” If you Google it, it will say “are” fat. (misleading word play) She discusses her own personal experience and cites black women are fat because we want to be, our men prefer it, and it is cultural. She makes other points, some good, some concerning, but also cites eye-opening obesity stats among black women.
Here’s my problem with all of these insights and opinions: They are skirting around the REAL issues. Please, don’t be that cliché by generalizing all black women as lazy, and vain, only caring about our hair, all while risking our health because the pedigree of our men is that they prefer a little thickness. I have two degrees and my research for this post sums me up as superficial, insecure, and too slothful to give a damn about my body.
I currently live in, as my girl Siobhan says, a “hoity-toity” area. If I want something healthy, all I have to do is walk outside of my house. I have my pick of Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Chipotle, French Markets, Panera, and other fresh, healthy options; but this isn’t the case for all. Lack of knowledge (like putting sugar on strawberries) and resources are 2 culprits, but before I get into the reasons, let me hit you with some stats from the CDC (Center for Disease Control).
- 82.3% % of women age 20 and over are considered overweight or obese compared to 76.3% Hispanic and 65.2% White women
- 44.8% of women age 20 years and over have high blood pressure and/or taking anti-hypertensive medication) compared to 22.5% Hispanic women and 34.5% White women.
- One in four African American women over 55 years of age has diabetes.
I think there are 4 groups of people when it comes to fat loss/healthy living:
- Over Achievers: You get tingly over the thought of a new HIIT workout.
- Maintainers: Working out 2-3 times a week and “watching” what you eat but also indulging at the same time.
- Potential Candidates: Really want to lose fat, eat better, and exercise; maybe have done it once or twice before, they just don’t know where to start and how to get off the wheel.
- Complacent/Free Spirit: Let the chips (pun intended) fall where they may! These people have absolutely NO DESIRE to eat right or exercise. The idea might even repulse them a little, lol.
I know black women in each of these categories, I also know women from other races, that fall in these groups as well because AMERICANS, not just black women, are OVERWEIGHT. I could give you a historical walk down ancestry lane and talk about “Big Mama,” food our ancestors ate to survive, or how it’s more “culturally acceptable,” but my focus is the current state of affairs which is: I don’t know one black woman who:
- Does not currently exercise/eat right
- Wants to, just doesn’t know how or where to start
- The resources aren’t there for success.
I surveyed 20 black women of varying jobs, backgrounds, family structures, health goals, and sizes to see what they think when it comes to ourselves, exercise, and clean eating. Are we just lazy? Are we worried about messing up our hair? Do we really eat that 4th slice of pizza because our men don’t want us to “lose our curves?”
- We are not physically active.
I work out 5-6 times per week and several of my friends/peers work out at minimum 1-2 times per week. This stigma gave birth to much needed outlets like Black Weight Loss Success, Black Girls Run, and Girl Trek to kill this myth that we are sitting at home worried about sweating our hair out. Additionally, 70% of SCC respondents are currently on a regular workout routine.
- We have too much on our plate to be consistent.
We do, but what woman doesn’t? Especially if you have kids, a demanding job, and not to mention all of the other daily obligations and stress we put on ourselves. 30% of participants work out 6 or more times per week and 1 time or less respectively. 20% are very active at 4-5 times per week and moderate at 2-3 times per week respectively.
- We could not care less, we are happy how we are.
In my Drake voice “I like my woman BBW…….” Because I’m Petty Murphy, I have to say this. When the comedian Monique stepped on the scene in the 90’s she promoted body confidence for overweight women, and hate for, as she puts it, “skinny” b*#@!*s. This was especially true for black women who were, at the time, her primary audience and demographic. She even wrote a book about it titled “Skinny B*#@!*s are Evil.” Big, beautiful, and loving it, was her tagline. I don’t have any issue at all with promoting that level of confidence, love, and self-esteem, however, a small voice inside of me always believed she was promoting obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and all of the maladies that come with carrying too much weight.
Now, let me be clear, I am not saying if you’re overweight, you aren’t happy with yourself, what I am saying is I didn’t agree with her using her platform as a conduit to promote body fat. I wasn’t happy with my weight, nor did I know anyone who was. So where were these women she referred to who were so damn happy? I remember when I first started dating my husband and I said to him “mark my words, she is going to blow up and drop that weight, and her reasons will be “health related” definitely not vanity.” In 2014 she revealed her 100 lb. loss…. So much for big, beautiful and loving it. 90% of my respondents workout to look good and for mental/health reasons respectively. 40% do it for preventive maintenance/family history and 20% do it to lose fat and heart health….. here’s to “skinny” b*#@!*s.
- We face barriers to fitness.
“Growing up I was not taught to exercise and care about health as it pertains to food.”
This question was split at 33.33 % for yes, no, and neither with comments respectively.
The elephant in the room is lack of knowledge and resources. African American adults are almost 1.5 times as likely to be obese compared to White adults. According to State of Obesity, approximately 47.8 percent of African Americans are obese. 1 out of 4 Black families are considered “food insecure,” which means not having consistent access to adequate food due to lack of money or other resources. No one wants to touch on the subject of limited access to affordable, healthy food in low income neighborhoods or marketing. For instance, I’ve gained and loss weight several times over the years. 3 years ago I lived next door to a McDonald’s; not up the street, NEXT DOOR, in a primarily Black suburban neighborhood. I could see the drive-thru from my window; fast forward to my current neighborhood, an upper middle class/affluent primarily White community where the resources pale in comparison.
|FORMER COMMUNITY||CURRENT COMMUNITY|
|9 McDonalds||3 McDonalds|
|White Castle||Tom & Eddies|
|Poor Boy (Local greasy spoon)||Naf Naf Grill|
|2 Burger Kings||BD’s Mongolian Grill|
|Submarine Bros.||Jin 28 (Sushi)|
|JJ Fish||Jason’s Deli|
|1 GROCERY STORE||9 GROCERY STORES|
|The closest gym was a 20 minute drive.||Closest gym is about 5 blocks away, a short walk.|
46% of Black families headed by single women fall below the poverty line. Lower-income/poverty have a direct connection to obesity since unhealthy, calorie-heavy foods are often less expensive than healthy options. Higher exposure to marketing of less nutritious foods is also prevalent. Billboards and other outdoor advertisements that promote foods of low nutritional value are 13 times more visible in mostly African-American neighborhoods than White.Depending on your order, the current community restaurants aren’t necessarily healthy, but they are BETTER choices. I can go to Tom & Eddies and be as sensible or as guilty as I want to be. I can choose a bacon double cheeseburger, but while in line I develop a conscience, a turkey burger is an option. In better communities, there are ALWAYS OPTIONS.
Environment is also key. National Recreation and Park Association indicate disadvantaged neighborhoods lack access to parks and recreational areas. Additionally, access to public parks, pools, and green space is much lower in primarily Black communities. The disparities are clear, you can’t build or change without the tools.
- It’s a part of our culture, proper nutrition wasn’t a priority in our families.
I think most of us in my generation and before me, grew up in a culture where fitness and healthy eating got as deep as gym class and the Dept. of Ed’s nutrition pyramid. I came from a working class community/family where necessities like clothes, food, and shelter were important. Fitness and clean eating was not only an afterthought, but not a thought at all. Now don’t get it twisted, we weren’t living like the show Good Times, but PROVIDING for your family was priority. I grew up with five siblings. FILLING and ECONOMINCAL meals were the agenda of the day. Carbs, fried food, and sugar were often on the menu. and depending on the item, canned trumped fresh often.
If you read my rants, you know I think soul food, a cuisine associated with Black/Southern roots, gets a bad rep. A sesh of soul food goodness can be well over 2,000 calories. Collard Greens and red beans & rice (my fave) aren’t unhealthy, it’s WHAT people put IN them that’s unhealthy. I’ve seen them cooked with butter (sadly, yes) and I’ve seen them cooked the non-artery clogging way. I’m a Midwestern girl whose parents are from Kentucky and Arkansas, so it’s in my DNA to love anything fried and cheesy, however it must be done in moderation. 17/20 women surveyed indicates that fitness/eating right wasn’t a priority growing up. My mom made sure we ate our veggies, but exercise was not encouraged, this isn’t because my parents were against it, it just wasn’t encouraged by their parents….and the cycle repeats.
Part 2 Next Monday!