Researchers asked about 350 women who technically qualify as "obese" -- half of them Black, half of them White -- to complete a questionnaire about their quality of life. Subjects were asked to self-report on their satisfaction in areas like sexual pleasure, work life, physical function, and self-esteem.
Researchers seemed shocked to discover Black women reported a higher quality of life than White women of the same weight. Self-esteem also ranked particularly high among Black women.
The study also found that Black women appear to be more concerned about the physical limitations resulting from obesity, than by the potential mental and emotional consequences of being overweight or obese.
"The implications of this relationship between weight and quality of life in Black women remain unclear,” concluded Dr. Tiffany Cox of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who led the study. “Black women's perception of experiencing a high quality of life despite having a high BMI may also dampen motivation for attempting weight loss."
Women’s site Jezebel.com covered the study in their story in “Shaming Black Women Won’t Encourage Them to Lose Weight,” and let me know I wasn’t misreading Dr. Cox’s conclusions. “In short, [researchers are] worried that overweight Black women don't feel bad enough about themselves,” wrote Jezebel.
I don’t get why there’s a problem with having high self-esteem or (gasp!) actually enjoying life despite the numbers on the scale. No woman, no matter her size or melanin count should be buying into the infomercial hype that the world becomes two deeper shades of mauve or that she’s more worthy of anything if she drops some pounds. Not only is it not true (weight loss is a start, but as a life coach I can tell you on good word it takes more than dropping inches to really change your life), it’s a damaging mindset.
“Appeal to women's desire to be mobile rather than their sense that failing to be thin is a reflection of their failure as women,” added Jezebel. “Shaming, as much as people relish dishing out, doesn't seem to be working to make anyone healthier.”
I’m quite proud that the Blame-Shame-Game surrounding weight is a trap most Black women have managed not to fall into. Do we as a people need to get more fit? Undoubtedly. Our collective weight issues put us at higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and premature death. But to imply lower self-esteem or shame about our sizes should be a motivating factor? It’s a shame researchers should think that it should be.
Focus weight loss PSAs for Black women on how weight loss will fix their stated problem, and those concerned about their health are likely to see a spike in women getting healthier (or at least buying more products to start the process).
What is (or would be) your strongest motivation to get fit?
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk