Sure, we’ve had a long love affair with our natural curves. The
sway of our backsides, the projection of our hips and the generousness
of our thighs are subjects of songs canonized in black culture.
Think of “She’s a Bad Mama Jama,” in which Carl Carlton sang, “she’s
built/she’s stacked/got all the curves that men like.” Or consider
even Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” where he unapologetically
claimed to like big butts so much that he just could not lie.
We’ve enjoyed being thick for a long time. We’ve lapped up the accolades
and adoration. We’ve shown what our mommas gave us with pride. But
all that aside, have we consumed too much of the hype? Have we so
chewed the fat from the hogs of happiness while feeling like we’re
the hottest bodies on the block that we’ve forgotten to check our
portions of agreement and bloated esteem?
Ultimately, as much as it pains me to ask, I must: Is obese becoming
the new fat?
According to some studies, black people generally have greater muscle
density and bone mass than our counterparts of other races. In a
book by Theresa Overfield,
she writes: “Blacks have more lean body mass than Whites. This greater
muscle mass correlates with greater bone mass. Black women have
more muscle mass than White women in the upper and lower extremities.”
However, we come from a culture that has historically recognized
that our God-given physiques pack more punch than those of other
groups. We’ve associated curves with femininity, sexuality, reproductive
and generalized health, and desirability. Some would even say that
the stereotypical African-American diet, with its soul food and
comfort cuisine, encourages black women to
engorge themselves and become heavier. According to the
Association, “For women, the black (non-Hispanic) population
has the highest prevalence of overweight (78 percent) and obesity
The idea of being “thick” has been in circulation in the black community
for generations. It’s been presented not only as a good thing, but
a preferred package. It’s a combination of booty, hips and thighs,
set off by a comparatively narrow waistline. It’s been known to
look like a slightly less exaggerated form of this.
On the day to day, it may present as this. Serena Williams has
been said to represent the best of thickness and athleticism in
However, many black women, rolls, guts and all, who look
like a pack of sardines stuffed into a too-tight tin, are today
touting the thick label. Unfortunately, unlike honorary doctorates,
no one is giving away honorary thick passes, no matter how much
we delude ourselves into thinking we represent the real thing. This
past weekend, I’d wager that 80 percent of the black women I saw
were obese. Not overweight, not “healthy,” not plump and certainly
not thick, but straight-up obese.
It was sad. But you better believe their hair was done and their
nails were flawless.
With hypertension and diabetes rates being disproportionate among
blacks, keeping extra weight at bay is not simply a matter of visuals.
It’s about vying to live healthier, for a longer period of time.
It’s about being able to jog or swiftly walk a mile without stopping
or getting out of breath. It’s about not having to inject ourselves
with insulin each day. It’s about making choices and changing our
lifestyles so our vitals check out on our physicals and increasing
the odds of seeing our children reach adulthood, and witnessing
the arrival and development of our grandchildren.
There’s no time for euphemisms. And for many ladies, that’s
what the “thick” label has morphed into. Seasoning a pile of dog
feces and frying it in a pan doesn’t make it pancakes, either.
As a Black Married Momma who works full-time, is in graduate school,
teaches on the side and is active in other pursuits, I don’t have
much time for anything, let alone exercise. But somehow I manage
to squeeze in 3-5 workouts a week. It helps that I belong to a gym
with on-site childcare and that I have a husband who is immensely
supportive in my efforts. But no one said staying healthy as a working
mother would be – or should be – the easiest nut to crack. It may
require some re-prioritizing, re-thinking and revised lifestyle
choices. It may even mean choosing a more sweat-friendly hairstyle.
In exchange, you’ll get a healthier body, a more efficient heart
rate, a spouse or significant other who truly appreciates your efforts,
and you’ll become a better wellness advocate for your children.
This isn’t about co-opting someone else’s ideal of beauty. It’s
not about fitting into a single-digit size. The goal isn’t to fit
into any one-size-fits-all box.
It’s about health and esteem. It’s even spiritual, as the Almighty
instructs us to avoid gluttony and sloth, to recognize and respect
that our bodies are our temples and, once married, these sanctuaries
are equally the province of our beloved.
MARRIED MOMMA are musings fromBlackCommentator.com
Columnist K. Danielle Edwards - a Black full-time
working mother and wife, with a penchant for prose, a heart for
poetry, a love of books and culture, a liking of fashion and style,
a knack for news and an obsession with facts - beating the odds,
defying the statistics. Sister
Edwards is a Nashville-based writer, poet and communications professional,
seeking to make the world a better place, one decision and one action
at a time. To her, parenting is a protest against the odds, and
marriage is a living mantra for forward movement. Her work has appeared
MARRIED MOMMA, MotherVerse Literary Journal, ParentingExpress, Mamazine, The Black World Today, Africana.com, The Tennessean
and other publications.She is the author of Stacey Jones: Memoirs of Girl & Woman, Body & Spirit,
Life & Death(2005) and is the founder and creative director of
The Pen: An Exercise in
the Cathartic Potential of the Creative Act, a nonprofit creative
writing project designed for incarcerated and disadvantaged populations.Click
here to contact Ms. Edwards.
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8 , 2009
published every Thursday
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Est. April 5, 2002
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