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Baby Got Back: Black Women are Heavier and Happier than White Women

Why is this obviously unhealthy body weight considered beautiful?

The black culture is rife with folks discussing the merits of curvier gals. Way back in the day you had Sir-Mix-Alot waxing poetic about big butts, and most recently you had Phaedra, from The Real Housewives of Atlanta praising her “donkey booty”. The thicker the better, seems to be the consensus among a lot of black people, male and female.

As a result of being praised for curves, a new study says black women are heavier and happier than white women. As Lonnae O’Neal Parker writes for The Washington Post the poll found that although black women are heavier than their white counterparts, they report having appreciably higher levels of self-esteem.

The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted the survey. It found that 66 percent of black women report having high self-esteem compared to 41 percent of average-sized or thin white women. The kicker – the 66 percent of black women with high self-esteem are all considered by government standards to be overweight or obese.

Parker, I think, hits the nail on the head when she speculates that black women learned to ignore mainstream media’s notion of the ideal women because black women aren’t represented in mainstream media very much – skinny white women tend to dominate movies, TV and magazines. So, Parker says, “Freed from that high-powered media gaze, generations of black women have fashioned their own definitions of beauty with major assists from literature and music — and help from their friends.”

I, and most of the white girls I grew up with, am a victim of a media that lauds uber-skinny women like Angelina Jolie and Victoria Beckham as beautiful fashion icons. It’s a hard mentality to overcome, intellectually knowing that the skin and bones body type is unattractive yet feeling helpless to fight the tide of skinny girls that are a result of this kind of wrongful worship. We have it backwards, ladies. We think that if you look good you feel good, but really, it’s the other way around.

As Parker reports, full-time trainer and nutritionist, Joseph Neil has worked with people of all races. He says black women come to him with a body-mass index of 29, while for white women it’s usually 22 or 23, he says. Anything over 25 is considered overweight.

Among Neil’s clients, white women “are self-conscious about the numbers. They say I want to weigh 110, 115, 120.” Black women, who always say they want to keep their curves, “give me sizes — 6, 8, 10, 12.”

“White women are not coming to a trainer saying I want to be a 12. Every white woman who wants to work out and train wants to be petite, petite, no curves, no hips, no butt, nothing, just toned,” he says.

It’s sad that so many of us are denying our natural beauty. No curves? No hips and butt? Marilyn Monroe would roll over in her grave if she knew what we’re all doing to our bodies in the name of beauty.

All I can do is try to be healthy and teach my daughter the importance of keeping active and fueling her body with the right kinds of foods, not so she looks good, so she feels good. Because when you feel good, you look good.

But, easier said than done.  Take into consideration the world’s current obsession with Angelina Jolie and her leg – a woman who is obviously maintaining an extremely unhealthy weight. So yeah, it’s an uphill battle that I’m afraid we’ll never win without the media and the movie industry changing its idea of what beautiful really means.  And as long as we continue to subscribe to their notions of beauty why would they change?

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