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Are Black Women Choosing to Be Fat?

Are 4 out of 5 black women obese simply because they want to be? According to an opinion piece by novelist Alice Randall that recently appeared in the New York Times, the answer is yes. Randall says that in addition to fatty foods and poor eating habits, the music and poetry in black culture lionizes a larger body type, which can lead to obesity. She recounts tales of black women with black husbands who worry about their wives dieting and losing their voluptuous shape. Randall even discloses that her own mate is one such man. Nonetheless, she ends by vowing to buck the trends and become the “last fat black woman in my family.” She also calls upon every black woman to commit to getting under 200 lb.

While I certainly wish Randall luck in her quest and fully understand how difficult it is to lose weight, it is important to put her characterizations and generalizations about black women and obesity in a context larger than her own personal health journey. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one-third of all Americans are currently obese, and another third are seriously overweight. This phenomenon cuts across race, class and gender. Obesity is not just an issue for black women, nor is it only found in black culture.

For black women, poverty, as well as lack of education, can often predict obesity risks. For example, CDC research shows that among all women, the prevalence of obesity grows higher as income decreases. This is particularly true for black and Latino women. As a result, it’s clear that obesity is a symptom of an ill greater than itself. This is a point that Randall seems to miss. However, the same isn’t true with men, whose weight tends to increase with rises in income.

The same basic phenomenon holds true with education levels. Among men, there is no significant relationship between education and obesity, while the less education a woman is the more likely she is to be obese. This is true for white, black and Latino women. In other words, for black women, even more so than black men, social factors influence obesity rates. Saying that high numbers of black women are fat simply because they want to be doesn’t do justice to this complex issue, nor does limiting the definition of black culture to music and poetry. The culture of a neighborhood can be just as — if not more — meaningful than anything else.

To read Noliwe Rooks’ entire story, go to Time

What people are saying

6 thoughts on “Are Black Women Choosing to Be Fat?

  1. Black do not have anything to do with being fat. Being fat you are eating to much/wrong foods , sweettea, sodas, candy and some people have medical condition and the medications got them swollen. Another thing fat come in ALL colors!

  2. Velma Smith says:

    Fat and Obesity has no color attached to it. Each race has it majority of obesie people. Please stop trying to make blacks feel as if their dump and stupid. Maybe even worthless. Do a study on society not one race.

  3. Andriea D Ishman says:

    In the black community, curvaceous women are glorified, which is why so many women are trying to get bigger butts, breasts, etc. However, being obese is a choice. Whether women are using their mens' likes, being busy, or their hair as an excuse, they are choosing not to eat healthy foods and exercise.

  4. Cheryl Mason says:

    There is a bigger issue here…I propose that most Americans are fat because of the toxic environment in which we live. Much of what we call food are chemicals, look at a package of "food" and what you will find is a list of multi syllable words you can't pronounce. These are chemicals many of which have hormone like activity in our bodies. Just take BPA found in plastics bottles or the phthalates (artificial fragrances) in perfumes and cosmetics. I offer that obesity is a bodily reaction to chemical toxicity in our created foods, cosmetics, air, and water.

  5. Cheryl Mason says:

    Oh I forgot to mention that racism is a huge contributor to ill health and obesity in African Americans.

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