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Real Talk: Is Fat the New Black?

There's a new article that claims four out of five Black women are obese of overweight. Do you agree or is this an inaccurate misjudgement?
I cringed reading the Sunday New York Times article, “Black Women And Fat” by Alice Randall. To be fair, the entire article is not cringe-worthy. Randall is a Black woman “battling” to loose weight, and as she advocates “doing better,” she’s adopted a healthy living plan that includes Zumba workouts in her living room and an eating plan for her family that excludes sugar and salt. Her changed lifestyle is one that all overweight women of any color would do well to abide by.

Where I took issue though was Randall’s justification for why Black women are fat. Four out of five “middle-age” Black women are “seriously” overweight, according to Randall, and she points to a Black male preference for women that weigh over 200 pounds and Black women’s obesity as a political statement for the reasons why. I take issue with that because it’s just not true.

Sure, most Black men appreciate curves – thick thighs, ample breasts, wide hips and a rotund posterior. By the reigning mainstream standards, women with the curves that our culture appreciates would be considered “fat,” and there’s a valid argument to be made that given a firm build and a trim waistline that they shouldn’t be. But let’s be realistic: the vast majority of Black women who are pushing 200 pounds or are over it, are probably overweight and at minimum, a little unhealthy. Two-hundred-plus pounds isn’t exactly fitting with the “brick house” ideal that Rick James crooned of, with a “winning hand” of 36-24-36 measurements.

I’ve interviewed thousands of men about topics pertaining to women in my near-decade long career as a dating and relationships expert, and while I often hear an appreciation of curves, guys are very specific in drawing the line between curvaceous and fat, which a woman likely is if she’s topping the scales at 200-plus. When asked, Black men often list “in shape,” “works out” and is “conscientious of her health” in their top five of their ideal woman, i.e., she’s not fat. Trying to justify a health-impairing weight as “Black men like it” isn’t just inaccurate, it’s co-signing a life of diabetes, heart disease, and possibly, an early death. I just can’t get with that.

Let’s also be clear on this: there are multiple reasons Black women are overweight — from unhealthy eating habits passed down through the generations to lack of exercise to being uneducated about what “healthy” actually is to “food deserts” where convenient access to healthy food is hard to come by. But our fat – not our curves — is not a political statement, rallying against a “Twiggy”-like boyish frame. Thick thighs and a trim waist? Fine, I’m convinced. But the elevated numbers on two-thirds of Black women’s scales, isn’t Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists on an Olympic podium, Malcolm X on a megaphone, or “We Shall Overcome” on the Washington, D.C. Mall. It’s fat, that’s all — more calories in than expended out.

Demetria L. Lucas the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life in stores now. Follow her on Twitter at @abelleinbk