Fat and Black: The Issue is Not that Complicated

June 28, 2011  |  


Toccarra Jones is an example of a woman who is thick and fit.

Black culture is one that appreciates full-figured, voluptuous women, also identified as thick. Not to be misconstrued with being overweight or obese, thick is curvy and at least somewhat fit. A thick woman may have a muscular build that leaves her BMI (body mass index) on the cusp of overweight but nowhere near fat or obese.  Big black women are notorious for denying the applicability of the BMI chart and attributing their weight to racial predisposition.

We have to get our minds right. Unless you’re some sort of bodybuilder, five foot four and 150 pounds is too heavy. Even more so than the number, we have to take into account how we look and feel (in respect to how quickly you become short of breath) and stop making excuses for what’s in the mirror. The longer you remain in denial, the fatter you will get and that can lead to a multitude of other things like depression and diabetes. Acceptance comes before change.

While diet and nutrition are very important in terms of losing and maintaining weight, improvement rather than strict regulations should be the focus. Fried chicken, collards, cornbread and macaroni and cheese are perfectly O.K. You just can’t eat like that every day. Balance and moderation are the keys and, as long as you are active, you can eat foods you like.

Activity is the main ingredient in healthy physical being. In spite of being a former college athlete, I’m not fond of distance running or working out. After 15 years of year-round competition I prefer not to sweat my hair out, either. But, health is far too important to be hindered by the superficial. You have to find what works for you and create a system.

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  • Alexandrew Hintzen

    Hit it right on the nose. Denial, inactivity and poor eating. Lets do better.

  • Penelope J

    Muscle does not weight more than fat.  The density of the two is what’s different, but a 150 lb muscular women and 150 lb not-muscular woman can weigh the same and look completely different.  Muscle does NOT weigh more than fat.

  • I run a personal training & motivational company called Shue Fit & Conditioning, and my wife & I cater to plus-sized women. What I hv to say on this subject could fill textbooks. I wrote a book called, “Size 3?! Not for Me!” How to Love Your Body & Yourself – Unconditionally. It’s a best-seller. We were just featured on Fox 5 – KVVU television because of our unique motto – “Its not about getting skinny, it’s about being healthy!” you can read more on my website www. SeanShuemate . Com

  • Diva23

    I can’t front for us big girls and say oh I’m happy being big. I felt left crap going out w/ my sorors and being the big girl…I'm only 25. I feel so much better now that I’ve dropped only 20lbs. I was never considered an ugly female. Just big. And even then people were shocked that I was pushing 287lbs. Thank God for proportions. Anyway, my point is you gotta take care of you. Figure out what your issues are and work on them girlfriend. Because in the end this is the ONLY body you have…

  • Diva34

    I am going to have to say that it first begins with wanting to be healthier. We as black women have to stop and think about what we are putting into our bodies. My weakness used to be ox tails… Now I don’t even eat beef or pork. Then you have to deal with the mental aspect. I'm from AL and I went to another city to work for about a month and a half. While I was there I was able to drop 15 pounds. I won't say it was effortlessly, but I made time to work out every day and I paid attention to what I was eating. I got rest and I didn’t have all those distractions that I had at home. Once I got home I realized that all the issues that I'd left behind were still there and I also noticed that my eating habits were being dictated by those around me and my need to feel satisfied. It hurt me bad when I realized that most of the time I was eating when I got anxious or irritated. Food was my supplement. I thought, “Oh dear God, what have I let happen to myself.” However, after I recognized it I was able to change it.

  • Shariese Hurd

    Some of us need to lose weight or atleast be more active and eat better. I have diabetes and I lose weight to get out of taking the medicine. Do it for your health. This isn't about getting a man it is about being healthy. I see black men with some of the obese white women quite a few.

  • gennie

    thank you for addressing the author's harmful comment about being 5'4/150 as being heavy.
    I am very fit, I work out faithfully, I am a healthy eater and I am 5'2/148lb. I wear size Small , 4-6 (and not just old navy small, LOL, bcz they are generously cut)
    I have always been surprisingly "heavier" than how people perceive me. I have been told I have a muscular, athletic, gymnast's build.
    I have been called everything but FAT, overweight, etc.

    I fault the author for not realizing or clarifying that muscle is dense and weighs more than flab will any day.
    My body is powerful. I'd rather be strong than wispy and weak any day.
    And BTW, I am approached and complimented on my beauty by men from all races, not just Latino or Black.

  • I am bigger woman who has never confused fat with thick. I'm clearly fat and would NEVER say that I'm simply thick. While I do understand the serious need of losing weight, I do embrace who I am currently. I hope to embrace any change that ever happens to my body. I do not hate myself nor do I feel I'm unattractive.

  • Leroy

    Jo Jo weighs more than the average man at 5’9….she’s 170 pounds!!! At 5’3 this is what the article is talking about denial…if she’s that muscular Danielle she needs to be a lot more feminine cuz she must be built like a pit bulll

  • ebony

    We have to educated each other on wiser food choices, look in your urban neighborhoods, no healthy foods
    can be found, its sad only cheap, unhealthy fast food restaurant, which we the black population keep eating. checkers, mcdonalds, burger king, popeyes, kentucky fried chicken, I have to go miles for a sweet tomatoe restaurant or a boston market. We have to educate our families on healthy eatting habits, that's a start.

  • Danielle

    People are spreading misinformation in their rush to judge others. BMI does NOT measure body fat. It is a height to weight ratio. That is all. Body builders frequently have BMIs over 30, but no one could call them obese. Jojo is not fat if her waist is 29 inches. And she’s likely more muscular than 170 suggests.

    • kay

      I highly doubt that she is muscular in her lower body. Her waist measurement is ok but if possible she needs to drop about two inches just to have wiggle room if she chooses to over eat during the holidays. Carrying extra weight on her legs can cause major joint issues in her hips, knees, and ankles. All she has to do is HIIT and i'm sure she would drop in weight. But yes BMI is not accurate at all. I prefer to go by my clients measurements in neck, waist, and hips.

  • Mike Buie

    This is great article. Another reason our sisters are overweight is because we as black men have told them that "its ok to be big" or we love big women, which is a lie. Back in the day a thick sister was Pam Grier or Jayne Kennedy. You could call Beyonce thick. These are just beautiful women with great figures. Now thick is sloppy and not well put together. So fellas, tell your ladies it is ok to loose about 40-50 pounds. Monique's husband told her the same thing and she looks great. We need sisters to be around. Peace…..

  • Leroy

    I’m 5’10 170 pounds of pure muscle I don’t want a women who is bigger than me…make me feel like I’m with a man or somethin when a sista is too big…give me a nice thin sista no man Wants a woman Who is built like a man with muscles like Serena Williams or angela basset….I like my women petite

    • Body Blast TV

      Plenty of men love Serena and Angela. Angela is married to the love of her life and Serena is never without a significant other. If you see any muscular fitness competitor, she always has a husband or boyfriend. So just because you don't like muscular women, you can not speak for all men.

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  • Philly, Philly

    Great article! I agree with most of the points, but there are some points missing:
    – The environment: Say what you want, but if there's corner and fast food stores available for convince of people, chances are they will go there first before they think about going to an organic/ healthy market.
    -BMI scales are not always accurate when it comes to African Americans. Check out this article about it http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/arti

  • Aboogie

    Real talk – I'm 5'9 180 workout 6 x per week 1hr cardio and weights I eat high fiber good protiens and fats. I run a mile in 8.5 min without really trying.

    • ladylum

      Very nice! I'm 5'9" and when I was at my thinnest I was 170 lbs. lean. I'm trying to get back to that weight by running. I need to get back to the weights though. When I was at my thinnest I was still considered thick, I had only 10% fat and was well within the healthy BMI range. It's how the weight is carried. People couldn't believe I had weighed 270 at one time because I didn't look it but I knew and now I just have the last 50 lbs to go.

  • Sarah

    The BMI chart is made by white people for white people, so of course black women are going to be heavier than their white counterparts. For me to believe that more than 60% of black women are overweight/obese they need to make a BMI that are made for just black women only. If we put white women size up against a BMI chart make for asian women than there are going to be 60% of white women would be overweight/obese because asian are smaller than white people. Each race need to go by a different BMI chart that made for their race and not made for one race, because we are made different from one another. It is your waistline that people really need to look for. America in general not just black women need to eat better and lose weight.

    • pfft…

      Tried to reply but reply vanished

      • pfft…

        Anyway what Is aid was that my doctor says that chart is crap and he's white. So whatever.

    • SisterSarah

      Maybe race can explain 10-20 lbs, but what about our sisters who are 50+ lbs. overweight, is that because of race too? Chances are, if you are obese you already know it. You don't need a chart to tell you.It's time to stop the excuses. Diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke are killing too many of us.

      (Incidentally, we have the same name 🙂

    • Goode

      Can you explain why the BMI chart should be different for another race? That seems to be an excuse to not hold black women to the same standards as other women. Black men and white men have almost the exact same average BMI. There is not reason for black women's to be so different.

      If you were talking about weight charts, I would agree since one can argue that blacks have more lean mass, but BMI points out fat percentage and I don't see how fat percentage affects black women differently. As a matter of fact, the very health problems associated with a high fat percentage are more prevalent in black women.

  • bunny

    I Luv this article but I have to say it is a struggle to lose some of these unwanted pounds. I about 5’4 and weight 160 lbs (last time I weighted myself) I’ve struggled alot of my life with losing weight and yes I do workout and TRY to eat right it seems to just stick. When i see myself in the mirror, I’m not super happy with wat i see but my body shape is not that bad, unfortunately genetically i was blessed with huge boobs for my relatively small frame and i try to embrace them (as hard as that may be sometimes)we just have to embrace,take care and love our bodies as much as we can, even though it can be hard 🙁

  • slim chica

    Glad im a size 3 after 2 kids!!!

  • Tee

    @Nursedred right on point. If most people go get the hdl & ldl levels checked they will see how unhealthy they really are & doing things such as changing the diet to lower the numbers will bring that weight down to healthy weight.

  • Tee

    @Jo Jo especially, Leroy & Guest 18: I am 5’3 and back down to 146 & shooting for 141 to be at healthy weight. Last year I was over 150 & felt obese.My cholesterol was high & although I worked out, I had to lose weight. My doc threatened me with meds if I didn’t lose weight. I carry weight in the midsection with 36DD cup. But this is no excuse. At that height, a women should not be over 143.

  • Goode

    @Christinalpz8. You are mistaken. According to the website below, 69% of black women are overweight or obese compared to 58% of black men, 62% of white men and 47% of white women. So black men are less overweight than white men.

    • Goode

      This info is specific to obesity. The info I cited references the percentage of people who are overweight in general. Thus, you will have 69% of black women being "overweight", while the lower percentage of 39.2 percent of black women are actually "obese". A BMI of 25 or more constitutes being overweight, while a BMI exceeding 30 constitutes obesity. Thus, there is a higher percentage of white men than black men who are overweight, yet a higher percentage of those black men who are overweight rise to the level of obesity than white men.

      Even when keying on obesity, black men are only 6.2% more likely than white men to be obese. On the other hand, black women are 17.4% more likely than white women to be obese, are 7.6% more likely to be obese than black men and are 13.8% more likely than white men to be obese. Black women are even 9.8% more likely than Hispanic women to be obese.

      So while significantly leading all other groups in being overweight AND obese, it makes sense to target black women more in the battle against the bulge.

  • Fitnessforlife

    You ladies are hurting yourselves looking at white women and black men as a red herring for our weight problems. I work out to build lean muscle, eat fewer calories than I burn off in a day and do 45 minutes of cardio every other day. I don't have a problem with weight. Complaining about how black men are also overweight is not going to help us as sisters trim the waistline and decrease our percentage of body fat and blood pressure. Stop placing blame on other groups, and stop trying to obfuscate the issue with OTHER people's problems. Don't like your man getting fat you need to eat better and work out most men will fall in line with you especially if they see you looking GREAT. They also lose the pounds quicker so they'll see the results quicker and will have you to thank.

  • bigbootyjudy

    The comments are so far off from the article the best way for loosing weight is according to ur blood type do your research im o+ which in my research my body requires cardio exercise I do yoga and palates for flexibility stop taking the article further than what it is no one asked what your opinion is…@ akadrfunk toccata is fit have ever seen an out of shape skinny person I have and I’ve seen big girls out run a skinny chick I went to night school with a guy that was 6’8 325lbs and won 1st in a 500 yd dash don’t let people size fool you

  • gina

    Oh…these today black men look like ceeloo tripled! My friend’s daughter is fatfat and her latest live in black man is fatfatfat. She gets food stamps for herself and son. The 25 th of every month calls her father and says she and son dont have any food. This month her father offered $20 and a bag of food for the his grandson! He asked why are you letting that fat joker eat up you.and the babies food! She yelled you dont love and hung up the phone..lol. Omg his stomach looks like tripletts! He takes up a entire love seat!! WHAT’S UP WITH DAT! His friends are huge too!

  • gina

    Let’s talk about all these fat azz fat back fat head tripple chin 9 month preggers looking men….whatssup with that!!

    • Dave

      Yup! 73% of black men are obese or overweight so why is the focus only on the women?

  • pfft…

    You know, when I fell ill with hypothyroidism, I gained all of 40lbs. I hated the way I looked which sent me into a state of depression. As a result of my depression, I would eat, ALOT which resulted in more weight gain, and more disgust, and more depression. I was stuck on a never ending merry go round. That was over 8 years ago. I have since lost half of what I gained. I walk 3 miles 7 days a week, but my metabolism is just slow. I'm in a battle with my own body. So what's a girl to do? Oh well. I have to love myself. Can't be concerned with what people who don't even know me think.

    • Jayde

      I applaud your effort. You’ve come a long way. You should incorporate strength training into your workouts. This will increase your metabolism, tone your body, and have your body burning fat all day long. Not to mention its a big mood booster (helpful for depression).

  • nursedred

    There’s a very big difference between being overweight vs being overfat. Where you carry your weight is more telling in if your predisposed to weight related diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. Then theres the. ‘Skinny fat people’ who’s bmi is well within normal to low yet their cholesterol blood pressure and blood sugar is always incredibly high. So I guess this issue is pretty complicated and everybody should see a doctor regularly to determine how healthy or unhealthy they really are despite what the scale says

  • Guest 18

    I agree with Leroy. There is no way a person can be 5’3, 170 lbs and NOT be overweight. This is exactly what the author meant about black women being in denial.

  • Benita

    Ok, so of course I see black women who are overweight but where I live the majority of overweight women I see are not black. There are alot of overweight people…period. I do think that some are confused/in denial about what’s thick and what’s fat. To me, Monique (even with all the weight-loss) is fat. Serena Williams is thick. Buffy the Body = fat, Ki-Toy (or however you spell it) = thick.

  • Leroygreen

    JoJo…^^^ 5’3 170 pounds is overweight I’m sorry…you sound like you’re in denial. What’s your diet like…it doesn’t matter how often u go to the gym if you’re not eating right

    • Mishele

      I am 5'2" and once grew to 174 lbs wearing 14/15. My friends and family kept telling me how GOOD I looked since I used to be 114-130 wearing 3/4, (139 pregnant wt max.). Everyone thought I was around 130lbs since I all ways worked out with weights (I was solid). With this being said I had to express that this meant for my small frame that I would also look good in a coffin as well if I don't push back from the table and eat less as I do enjoy my own cooking best. I would like to note that as we age this excess weight is punishing to our bodies so I am back to 130-135 after I stopped having seconds at meal times and increasing my workouts to a healthier LIVING me despite my peers wishes and energy is abound!

  • jojo

    I most definately agree with article however 5'4 /150lb consered overweight is ridiculous. I work about 4 times a week and I am 5'3 170lb, 34b, size 29 waist needless to say my lower body carries most of my weight. What needs to be understood is everyone carries thier weight differenltly and muscle is a lot heavier than fat.

    • Who are you lying to? You are obese you bmi is over 30. Stop lying to yourself and try a different workout because you probably have a lot more fat than muscles. I work out to gain muscle and i know that muscle weigh more than fat but like some poster said, unless you are body building professionally, you are lying about that muscle weight. I lost my aunt last year to obesity/heart disease but i made sure my mom( black woman) and i are working out together. She is not close to obese but she is slightly overweight. Losing weight now will help than waithing until you are severely obese before considering doing anything.

      • Raeanj

        Actually since she seems to carry her weight in the bottom she is less likely to have issues with heart disease. It is those with lots of fat around their waist who are more prone to heart issues.

        150lb is not the same on each person. I've known folks who weighed 150 and under 5'5" who wore a size 6 and others who were taller and wore a size 12. How you carry the weight is important and makes a big difference.

        Now I'm off to walk to my 4 miles.

      • BMI No

        Actually, you don't know what her BMI is since using weight and height yields an accurate result. To get an accurate BMI you need a water tank to let the fat float, as it were. And I don't see you with one one.

        And since you seem to know so much about it, she has a 29 inch waist, which would contraindicate heart disease.

        • BMI No

          That's inaccurate result

    • Keep it Real

      Jojo you are FAT!

    • Marcus

      I dont think this applies to women like you whom works out ONLY to women who dont.

    • Likewater4choc

      5'3" and 170 lbs! Sorry honey, but you need more people. My best friend is 5'2" and weighs 125 and she is small-breasted with most of her weight around her butt and thighs. Most dudes consider her to be thick because she has a big butt. I'm 5'4" with an athletic frame and I was uncomfortable when my weight got to 154 lbs.

      I believe that you are in the denial that this article speaks about.

  • kala

    FAT!! Nuff said. Maybe if Black women sto making excuses they would STOP being fatter than ALL other races of women

  • kala

    You are OVERWEIGHT for your height! Its that simple, it doesnt matter if you workout faithfully! I see plenty of people (white mainly) that come to the gym and play on the treadmill for 20 mins and do the majority of their time strength training. Keep in mind these are men who have a LOW percenatge of fat and dont need as much cardio, theyre there to get muscle. However Im a size 3 and only 5'3" and I use to be smaller, but I go in the gym to put in work and for me thats running an HOUR everyday! Yes its intense but Im NOT FAT, in fact Im built like a brick house, but due to how I was raised I tend to follow European culture's standard of beauty and thats to be thin!! Im not knocking you but even if youre muscle which i find suspect, youre STILL A BIG GIRL for 5'5' and thats for both Black and White culture! Nothing wrong with being curvy, but 148+? Whoooo.

    • pfft…

      Not everyone wants to be a size 3. Why is this so hard for people to understand and accept?

    • GNS

      Kala- This is the first time I've EVER replied on a blog and I must say your response has made this quite entertaining. Honestly, I am over here laughing @ "Im not knocking you but even if youre muscle which i find suspect, youre STILL A BIG GIRL for 5'5." That is far from the truth. Since you mentioned what size you wear, I wear a size 5/6 (comfortably I might add.) No love handles/gut in sight and I'm right on target with my BMI ratio (as I check that quarterly.) Some MDs and Trainers have different opinions and views, but I think folks can agree that calling someone of my build a "big girl" is not only silly but borerline ignorant…. Remember: two people can be the same height/weight and look TOTALLY different. It's the way you carry it… And I guess the eye of the beholder will view things differently then others. Della Reese (Harlem Nights version) is what I think a "big girl" is.

      Big girl…. LMAO! Can't wait to tell that to my Trainer buddies at the gym tonight boy….

      • DH1

        Perfect comment GNS. Doctors need to stop making the body standards using the body of a teenage boy. People should exercise for health, but 150 pounds does not equal overweight, unless a person was less than 5 feet tall.

  • Funkin

    don't like'em thick..nice and slim…=)
    ….wouldn't believe how messed up most laptops are… http://goo.gl/A2779 until you get a brand new 1..just glad i didn't have to pay for it..=)

  • Janay

    In the 90s slim black women were more appreciated. aaliyah, brandy, tLc, Monica, list goes on. but since rappers started praising thick thighs thick azz big tits, the rise in weight has shifted along with that trend. black men: you can’t expect to have a curvy woman with a fat azz thick legs and big breasts and not be suprised when that yields fat women because we have listed almost all body parts. this is why skinny women trying to gain and obese women believe they’re thick.

    • Marcus

      I agree black men encourage black women to NOT work out. However most rappers end up with a pretty toned woman black or otherwise.

  • I don't think it's a matter of embracing being fat, it's more like a defense mechanism and a way to not hate themselves. You don't have to like what you see in the mirror everyday to still think you're fab! Here's my take: http://mynameismisswhite.blogspot.com/2010/09/wei

  • Keep it Real

    90% of black women past puberty are overweight. I read the women in Philadelphia are starting to dip their babies pacifiers in beacon grease. 🙂

  • Tiny T.

    Spot on. Many black women are simply in denial. I've never met an obese person who made it well into their senior years.

  • Alpha&OmagaBeauty

    I agree. I like the article. Continue speading the knowlegde.

  • Keep it Real

    If black men prefer fat women, why is it that every black baller, athlete and celebrity is with a broad white, black green or purple under 140 pounds? Black women complain that black men switch it up once they leave the hood. Well, maybe that's because there were less options in the hood? I have never seen a 200lbs+ woman who wouldn't look better if she lost 30 or more pounds.

    • kala

      Thank you! I totally agree with you. Black women being so fat is pure laziness and not to mention a weave/hair thing! I remember Michael Basden was discussing this on hs radio show, that black women didnt go to the gym because they didnt want to mess up there weave! I find that funny! Here you are 50-100 lbs overweight and youre worried about your hair! Ummm sweetie, NOBODYs checking for your azz with that extra weight, so please get real! Black women are in denial. They get mad at the brothers for leaving to date other races, but have you looked in the mirror or taken a look at yourself!? Its YOUR FAULT. I cant even get mad at them for that anymore, sisters please GET IT TOGETHER!!

      • denise

        thank you kala well put. you see it everyday sistas walking around with big stomachs for no reason other than they are lazy and don't want to embrace eating healthy and working out. but they get mad when black men are with white women.

    • pfft…

      Not true. Unattractive is unattractive no matter the size.

    • Lisa1

      Why doesn't anybody talk about the fact black men are just as fat – 73% are obese or overweight. Maybe, they are not anymore fit themselves.

      • Marcus

        Now as a black man Ive been trying to point out the same thing, however its denied. Both bw and bm are letting our health slip away faster than the rest of Americans are.

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    Toccara Jones is NOT "thick & fit"…she's FAT. Her youthful metabolism & (probably just occasional) trips to the gym are covering for her lack of discipline.(just barely)

  • Gib

    Married to a thick black woman for 30 years next month and I love every inch of her. But consider this: even the women we blacks consider “Thick and Phine” (De La Soul’s, Baby Phat comes to mind) are still viewed as ‘Fat and Obese’ to most whites. We continue to allow Europeans to set the standard for what is beautiful in the black community. Go to TMZ.com or other white run sites and view the images they deem to be beautiful. Emaciated white women built like 10 year old boys. It’s like night and day.

    I think a woman can be both thick and fit yes; moreover, she should strive to take care of herself (what with the rates of diabetes and stroke.) But when it comes to the mainstream (including many white physicians) “Thick” is just a euphemism for fat.


      Being fat 'aint got nothin' to do with "European Standards" of beauty. This has everything to do however with the lack of discipline on the part of (most) sistas…and the enabling attitude of (most) brothas who themselves lack any desire to maintain their genetic inheritance once it starts to become a "job" to maintain.I say more sistas who look like Zoe Saldana would'nt be such a bad thing. 🙂

      • pfft…

        If you don't mind, I don't want to look like Zoe Saldana. Can I just look like myself and be happy?

      • Divine

        I think Zoe Saldana is too thin. And at times she doesnt look healthy AT ALL. I think you should find another example for our ideal. THIN doesnt always mean healthy. And she at times looks emaciated.

    • denise

      maybe you like her fat for your own insecure reasons.

  • Deeana

    This article made so much sense.

  • Shels

    While this article had a lot of great points, it had nothing to do with being thick.

  • VDW

    I completely agree with this article! So many black women embrace being fat as if it was just naturally part of our culture. Diabetes and heart disease don't lie. You don't have to be a twig, but being healthy is what is most important.