When you put this information into context with data that shows that black women can weigh significantly more than white women and still be healthy, it makes you question whether we may be paralyzed by a health measurement system that doesn’t even pertain to us. This is not an excuse to rock excess poundage without concern. The risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol does increase for us with a waist circumference of 39 inches or more, and a BMI of 33 (despite the biases of this system). But since these same risks for white women increase with a waist circumference of 36 inches and a BMI of 30, we have to ask: Are we judging ourselves against an unrelastic ideal? Is fear of never being able to reach that ideal a factor in our increasing rates of obesity?
Like my friend in the story above, how many of us say “aw forget it,” when it comes to ever making healthy choices, because being thin seems impossible to achieve? These concerns are the reason Roberts says we have a health problem, not a weight problem. No ideal weight can apply to millions of people simply because they are the same height at the same age, which is what the BMI claims should be standard. The BMI also doesn’t take into account muscle mass, which black women have more of, and which is more dense than fat. So on average we weigh more automatically. That mental pressure of being automatically heavier can be as debilitating for a woman who needs to lose a few pounds as it is for someone who could stand to lose 150. But under the current system, they might both be labelled “obese.” That would certainly turn me off from making healthier choices, even though it could be easy for me.
The main psychological factor we assume to be at play when it comes to black women being heavier is that they believe they can be Hot at any size. But perhaps these women have actually bought into the ideal size society says they should be at a deeper level. And believing that they can’t ever achieve such an ideal, they don’t attempt to decrease their frame at all. We are clearly putting the wrong messages out to entice women to get fit. If we focus more on the important benefits of physical activity, like increased energy and improved mood, rather than getting into a certain range on the BMI, perhaps more black women would be apt to change their lifestyles and get healthy. If you don’t have to “avoid being obese,” but can instead on make a few healthier choices, the improved health will naturally come along.
Roberts lost a mere six pounds by making minor changes — but took himself from needing heart medication to getting a clean bill of health. Who needs pressure to be a size six when what you really need are more fruits, vegetables, water, and walking — not diets?
Do you think we need to change our messaging regarding how we encourage black women to lose weight? What might be a more effective way of getting our group to get healthy (and stay healthy) — rather than focusing all our energy on dropping pounds?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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