• OPINION: Is Obesity Considered A Norm For African American Women?

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    Has obesity become the new norm for African Americans? This seems to be a growing trend in the black community seeing as to the fact that there is a staggering new statistic floating around: 4 out of 5 black women are considered obese. Now am I not the only one that sees the problem in this? This number is ridiculously high.

    Obesity is a growing epidemic in this country. Everywhere you turn there are new reality shows popping up everywhere and obesity is an issue that is being increasingly discussed in the media. Take a look at new shows like Huge on ABC Family, which is a show about fat girls and how they spend their summers at fat camp. Biggest Loser is another popular show that basically puts overweight people in a weird reality TV show boot camp. There are several shows that are popularized by the same story line; I mean everyone loves a good weight loss story right? I can count numerous different episodes of Oprah that feature heart wrenching weight loss stories while Oprah nods along sympathetically.

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    However, Oprah herself is a victim of battling with weight issues. The media puts her weight under a lot of scrutiny. Oprah is not the only black female in the industry that struggles with weight issues. I can name a whole list of black female celebrities that have been scrutinized about their weight, Tyra Banks, Jennifer Hudson, Star Jones, Queen Latifah, Gabourey Sidibe (from Precious) to name a few.

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    When you think about it, it’s a lot easier to make a list of black actresses that have struggled with their weight than it is to make a list of white actresses that struggle with weight loss. Usually white actresses struggle with the opposite problem which is being accused of being too skinny or anorexic.

    But the sole question is why are African American women the ones that have the harder time with this? Among African-Americans 20 years and older, more than two-thirds are overweight or obese defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 pounds or more.

    It seems to be known that the African American standard for weight is a little skewed as opposed to other cultures. More curvaceous bodies are seen as attractive to African American men.  It’s almost as if the body image is distorted the opposite way. African American women who are thicker seem to be fighting weight loss, while more slender black women are struggling to gain weight.  What is alarming about the statistic that 4 out of 5 black women are obese is that some women are choosing to be at that weight.  Obese women are at higher risk for developing high blood pressure or diabetes.

    I can see how this is a cultural norm with the African American culture, that “thicker” girls are seen as sexier and more attractive than skinnier girls. Beauty standards across cultures can vary. What one culture may deem beautiful, another may think “hideous”.  Back in the day before rail thin supermodels walked the earth, it was standard for people to view more voluptuous women as more attractive, with a biological reasoning behind it. Thicker women were seen as healthier and more fertile, making them more attractive to males wanting to start a family. And then Twiggy walked off of a plane from England and all hell broke loose.

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    In some African and Asian cultures elongated necks are considered to be beautiful, so women wear spiral metal coils to push down the collar bone and ribs to create the effect of an elongated neck. Dayaks in Borneo consider severely elongated earlobes to be beautiful so heavily adorned jewelry is worn to stretch out earlobes. We may find this odd, even disgusting at times but that is what is considered beautiful in those cultures, so who are we to judge?

    The same goes for African American culture that thicker women are considered to be  more attractive, but on the other hand there is a very fine line between being “thick” and obese. Obesity is a serious health issue, and with African Americans being the most obese group in the United States it is a growing problem that needs to be recognized. Every culture has their own standard of beauty but when it comes to threatening health, it should be altered slightly. I’m all for “big is beautiful” but the lines between big and obese are becoming blurred. There’s nothing wrong with having a little bit of  ‘cushion for the pushin’ but remember to keep it healthy ladies because with these types of statistics, African American women can be headed down a dangerous road.

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