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Important Conversation: Black Women & Obesity

Posted Dec 12 2009 4:46pm
Please add your voice to this conversation.
Two days ago...Vanessa posted an Article call "Things That Make You Go Hmmmm!"

It started a very important comment thread about the star of Precious posing in Vanity fair magazine. You should read it. Then add your two cents. This is our movement. Our health requires honest conversations, sisterhood and courage.

Kallima said...

I agree Vanessa. Let's keep it real, she is obese and this is a danger to her health. Nobody is asking that she lose weight to conform with society's idea of what 'normal' is, BUT I hope she eats healthy and is exercising. I am glad that she is a confident women, secure in her body but I hope it's not an excuse to be lazy and not work at being healthy.

Angele said...

...I think it is extremely difficult for any women to separate loosing weight from trying to look like the ideal woman. While I cannot say that I "like" that image in Vanity Fair I can say that I like this one:

I like Monique’s performance because it shows women being active. I think the image we need to look for is images of activity. If we see big women in a jogging suit running a 5k, it shouldn’t matter how big they are because the image portrays good behavior. Being healthy is not just about keeping a good weight or good look. Women can have great measurements and be heavy smokers or drinkers, but you can't tell by their weight. Big women have the disadvantage of having their weight say something right away about their health. It’s easy to judge because everyone gains weight differently. I remember living next door to this one family that had terrible eating habits. All of the girls were model thin. They ate Top Ramen, Mc Donald’s, greasy foods, etc every day but never gained a pound. I’m sure we all have come across people like that in our lives. They are unhealthy as well, but their body images are not alarming to us.

I think we always need to ask ourselves, when we see images like Gabourey Sidibe, are we using our healthy outlook as an excuse to voice our prejudices against a certain look? Is our first reaction, ugh she looks nasty, then she’s at risk for health diseases? I will be the first to admit, when I look at some of my old pictures, I’m like ugh, my arms look fat, I need to workout, not, OMG I’m at risk for hypertension, I need to work out.


I will close by saying you CAN look at someone and have cause to care for their health, both skinny and overweight. We all saw Whitney when she looked cracked out, and no one would want to say: let’s embrace a positive self image with that cracked out look.

There is a good documentary out there about women and images that is great to see. It’s called Killing Us Softly.

V said...

Angele - you are 100% correct about many thin women having unhealthy habits, including bad diet and lack of exercise. Actually at times in my own life, I have had a very unhealthy lifestyle, but because I don't gain weight in obvious ways, I've been able to get away with it. That's why I like to focus not on the numbers but on general health and fitness.

And J-Lo is one of my body inspirations. She's not naturally thin but she clearly works to keep it all together.

Black Girls Run! said...

As for Gabourey, I think it's great that she has a positive body image. However, I also think that she needs to lose weight. It's not about conforming to society's idea of beauty, but taking the necessary steps to becoming healthy.

Morgan said...

Thank you for being courageous Angele. Our movement is only possible with women like you leading it.

Right now… 8 out of 10 of us are overweight.

It’s a fact …not an opinion or a judgment. It has less to do with culture, judgment, or sex appeal. It’s about living….for our babies, our sweethearts, our families, our churches, our for ourselves.

This week, I heard a political commentator say “Americans hate knowledge.” What an awful thought. Black women have always been pragmatic, so…let’s not ignore the facts.

I want to live.

“Research has shown that as weight increases to reach the levels referred to as "overweight" and "obesity,"* the risks for the following conditions also increases:

•Heart disease (1 in 3 women die from heart disease in America)
•Type 2 diabetes
•Breast and colon cancer
•High blood pressure
•High cholesterol
•Liver and gallbladder disease
•Sleep apnea, respiratory problems
•Gynecological problems, infertility
(Source the CDC)

"Overweight" is not a judgment. Hear that. It is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher; obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher.

This is our call to action. ALL of us! Not just the big girls. ALL of us. These same facts say that ALL of us will be overweight by 2034. These statistics, risks and - if I can be real - death sentences affect us all and I refuse to pretend that we are talking about body image or body preference.

I love you all. I just do. Which is why I’m not afraid to ask…how do we move from denial to action? How do we get a more diverse group of Black girls - big and small - to speak up as honestly and courageously as Angele?


Please share your thoughts in the comment section. While OurHealth is committed to more than just talk - we are currently working on a very inspiring goal-setting program - we think "true talk" is a great place to start. If you are still a little nervous, comment anonymously. Just please, promise to stay respectful.

This group of dedicated Black women are committed to getting healthier, one goal at a time! Our Health challenges women to set ambitious physical goals for a good cause - to inspire our girls, our families, our churches, our communities to get moving! We believe ordinary woman can, and should become the faces of healthy living! Join us! For more information, visit our website at
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