Prior to moving to Atlanta, I lived in sunny Southern California, where the weather remains beautiful and the women all seem to be tall, blonde and slender. But, when I moved to Atlanta, donned the Chocolate City of the South by many, the women and their aesthetic drastically changed. I went from seeing rail thin women wearing their yoga pants and sipping green juice every day, to seeing women with bodacious bodies, perfectly coiffed hair and made up faces. Although this was a beautiful sight to behold, something else grabbed hold of my attention.
Culturally, Black Women have always leaned more towards the thicker side of life. Our music, poetry and literature has praised a frame of curvier proportions. From 1960’s soul singer Joe Tex singing how he didn’t want a skinny legged woman, to 1990’s rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot boisterously glorifying the woman who packed much back, Black women have been warmly celebrated for having more meat on their bones. But have we exceeded our limit?
In a recent study conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, it was stated that African American women have the highest rate of becoming overweight or obese compared to any other group in the U.S. In addition, a 2012 study conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, determined that 4 out of 5 Black women are either overweight or obese. If numbers don’t lie as Jay-Z says, then that means 80% of Black women need a major wake up call.
I introduced the story of my move from Los Angeles to Atlanta because prior to moving, I had a much different aesthetic I strived to live up to. While living in LA, I could focus on outdoor workouts and eat at a plethora of restaurants that catered to people living a health-conscious lifestyle. I consistently stayed a size four and could not imagine going up a size in my jeans. Yet, when I moved to Atlanta, I was greeted by the comments of being too skinny or not having a big enough butt to compete on the dating scene with Black Men. I wanted to date, so I needed to get thick, right? But, all of these comments were coming from overweight Black Women who didn’t seem happy or healthy in their own skin.
I watched Black Women at the gym work tirelessly to preserve their hair, so much, that they never broke a sweat. In group classes, many of these women stood in the back giving minimal effort in order to maintain the flowing bundles and carefully made up faces. When it came time to eat, these same women loaded their plates with fried, smothered and covered food varieties that would put anyone in a food coma.
Now here we stand as the fattest group of people in the United States, beating out White, Asian and Hispanic women; even outdoing Black men by a landslide. Is this the championship title we really want to hold? Please don’t misunderstand me, I realize the socio-economic circumstances that plague our communities at alarming rates. Many of our families live in food deserts, making it difficult and impossible at times to get access to fresh fruits, vegetables or healthy on-the-go meals. Those things may be out of our control, but we can control ourselves and our mindset.
Moving our bodies is not limited to gyms, yoga classes and treadmills; culturally and historically, Black women love music, rhythm and the pulse a good beat brings to one’s soul. Create your own 30-45-minute playlist and work up a sweat all by yourself while getting your groove on.
Workout at Home
You may not have the extra income to hire a personal trainer or be able to join your local gym, but there are multiple low-cost ways to get aerobic activity in your home. With many Black women and men leading the charge in at-home fitness, there are several DVD’s and online videos to choose from. Two DVD’s that are fun and motivating are Gymnetics Fitness Black Girls Workout Too and X-treme Hip-Hop with Phil. Both of these can be purchased online and can be delivered right to your door. They take the guess work out of your fitness regimen. All you have to do is turn on the TV show up for yourself.
Nothing says friendship better than love and encouragement. Get your tribe of girlfriends together, set your goals and get moving. Make your girls’ night fun by trying new fitness classes in your local area. Tag each other when you are checking into the gym and create cute messages for each other when you show up or when you miss a workout: #whereyouat #Idontmindbeingtheonlyfinefriend
Quite often, years of suppressing our deepest fears, pains and rejections leave us in a real emotional deficit. We have learned to mask our hurt and pain with food, alcohol and other things that hold us back from living our lives to the fullest. Digging up those roots can be painful, but it is necessary to uncover these hold-ups so we can begin to move forward and live the lives we were destined for. Websites like www.psychologytoday.com can help you find local a therapist in your area. Therapy is a wonderful tool that can help us redefine our lives and the purpose we were meant to live out. There are also psychology podcasts you can listen to while you work out, two birds one stone!
Just Do It
Phil Knight, creator of Nike, was on to something when his brand coined the phrase “Just Do It.” Knight set in motion a generation of people who no matter where they were in the world, could push themselves further and harderif they just did it! You are the only person holding you back from living the life you want. Why not just go after everything you want? The world is waiting for you to show up as the best version of you! Just do it! MOVE.
The moral of this is story is to never shame Black Women for being overweight, but rather to call us to the carpet of our lives to ensure we do not create another generation of women who would forgo their health to keep their hair intact. We have too much to offer the world physically, culturally, emotionally and spiritually to not be in our best shape to go get it. It’s simple: Eat well. Give a damn. Move your body.