Black Health Womens - It's Time To Take The 'Big' Out Of Black!
This article tackles specifically a black health womens issue
that has long seen many Caribbean and African American women
embracing an ideology that is detrimental to their fitness
health and well-being.
That notion is, that being "big and black is beautiful.
It is time to take the big out of 'black is beautiful'.
Black is most certainly beautiful. Glorification in being big
when excessive weight gain is a result of poor nutrition and
diet, is most definitely not. Real beauty starts from within!
Who am I to dare pass judgment on this black health womens
Having grown up within a culture where a 'big' sturdy woman
was a symbol of good living, or of wealth and where a hearty
appetite and 'having some real meat on your bones' was a measure
of a black womans health and fitness status, I fully appreciate
how in black health, womens perception of 'bigness' has become centralised.
I am also fully sensitive to the fact that there are many
women among you whose weight issue is solely to do with medical
reasons as opposed to un-healthy eating habits, so this does not
apply to you, although you might still find this article
informative and useful.
It seems ironic that in a mainstream society where being 'slim' or
'thin' is a highly valued health and beauty aspiration, in black
health and beauty, womens aspiration is the very opposite.
Yet it could be argued that in very much the same way that many
non-black women have succumbed to media pressure to conform to
a stereotypical image of health and beauty, many Caribbean and
African women's internalisation of the 'big is beautiful' myth, emerged a long time ago out of the 'family' and a 'male-value-
laden' belief system.
black health womens
perceptions - exploding the 'big' myth
Some researchers have pointed to cultural eating traditions being
the cause of black womens un-healthy eating diets and high incidence
of obesity and other chronic diseases.
Other studies alert us to the
possibility that black womens eating patterns might be more to do
with a coping strategy for psychosocial stresses.
While the above observations are all worthy factors for further
consideration as regard black health womens experiences, they are
by no means the only contributors to the black health womens issue
of diet and excessive weight.
And though not dismissing a contributory factor of low income, coupled with the pressures and responsibilities on the
shoulders of the high number of single parent families can lead to
unhealthy food choices or even over-indulgent eating habits by some,
the very high incidence of obesity among many black women is not
just down to poor food choices, low income, or being single
The black health womens issue of 'bigness' and obesity
goes right across the board and involve black women at all income levels.
To find the answer, black women perhaps need to look much closer
by examining clearly our belief systems and how historically and
culturally these have been shaped. We also need to assess with
a greater degree of self-honesty, what it is that has and continue
to make black women so strong on the issue of the 'big' body-image esteem, yet so wrong on the health implications.
Over many generations, obesity has been a major black health
womens issue that has been deeply rooted in our culture and
As a group of strong, resilient and family-
oriented women, whether we are mothers, carers and/or nuturers,
there is a staunchness about our belief systems and our values.
These values have historically been shaped by our families.
instance, the 'womanly' characteristics that were deemed desirable
to our men folk; and by the requirements of our traditions,
especially those that govern our eating habits and body-image
'Bigness' has been seen as a symbol of being 'womanly' as well as
indicative of a woman being of good child-bearing stock. To some
extent, this view is supported by Ruth Johnson, an associate
professor of nursing (Fayetteville State University).
In an article
analysing obesity trends in black women, Johnson states that on a
subtle level, African girls learned that African men and families
valued larger women and that those cultural values were brought to
the United States during the slavery years.
It is perhaps this deeply ingrained tradition of expectation, that
has made many black women model themselves in a fashion that is
desirable to all else but themselves? That dictate has typically
included other expectations such as exceptional housekeeping,
culnary and maternal skills which were deemed pre-requisites to
'securing a good man'. This may well be at the grass root of many
black health womens issues today.
What this clearly demonstrate, is that despite mainstream
society's emphasis on the more slender body-image, cultural ideaology still exerts a strong influence over many African
American and Caribbean black women's perceptions of what
constitute a desirable body-image.
These early ideals may
well be shoring up consequential implications for black health
womens fitness and future well-being.
As you can see, the conditions and mechanisms that pressure
many non-black women to conform to a stereotypical body
image type of slenderness today, are not very different to those
experienced by many black African American or Caribbean women now.
One way or another, it is simply a case of a power driven ideology
by a few yet, it is one that hold countless women, - Black or
White to ransom.
by the mass media or by outdated cultral traditions or ideals, ask
yourself this! 'Who stands to gain?'
black health womens
On the issue of black health womens high body-image esteem, many
black women have long held an enviable degree of self-confidence,
pride and self-acceptance about their body shape.
study even commented on the positive findings of healthy self-
esteem held by young black women in this regard. But in light
of all the above, how accurate is this really?
The study in question, which was conducted by Boston College
in 2004, found that their subjects held high positive self-esteem
about their body image and did not buy into the common notions of
weight or 'thinness' held by their non-black counterparts.
this finding would appear to support black womens evident self-love
and positive self image, which is after all a healthy thing, esteem
founded on the strength of outdated cultural and potentially harmful
ideals is most certainly not.
Self-esteem and Self-love comes from true self-
awareness, self-knowledge and self-acceptance of who you really are.
Esteem is also about making informed choices that are your own
and which are right for you. It is not based on embracing
or hiding behind an ideology, or a system of past
indoctrination that is now proving un-healthy and detrimental to
black womens health.
black health womens - cover-up?
Irrespective of size or race, to some extent, we all wear masks or
use props to either make us feel better or to disguise what is
really going on inside or outside of ourselves. In the 'hiding'
scenario for instance, some women may present emaculately made-up
faces in an attempt to conceal the fact that they are less than
happy with their looks.
Some women may don a smile to hide just how
miserable they're really feeling inside. While others may choose
clothing that will camouflage their lumps and bumps.
In much the same way we can choose to hide or to cover our
emotions in an attempt to present a different reality to the
outside world, we can also elect to hide behind outdated ideals or
However, to what extent is using them as
license to engage in un-healthy eating habits, impinging on black
health womens longer-term physical and emotional well-being?
Despite the wealth of widely available health-related information,
guidance specific to black health womens issues is in short supply.
What is widely available however, are the alarming figures on black
health and womens higher incidence of chronic diseases which speaks loud and clear!
Statistics from the Office on Women's Health (OWH) shows the risks
to black womens health and the higher mortality rate from heart
disease, stroke, and cancer than non-black women.
associated risks include obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure
which occurs more frequently among black women than white women.
Far too few women hold a positive
Self-Image and self-love. While I truly applaud my black
counterparts' staunch sense of self and positive body image, let
it be well directed and for the right reasons.
past cultural ideals as an excuse for being over weight to the
extent where your health is at risk is not self-love. Please my
sisters, it's time to 'wake up and smell the coffee' - the 'big is beautiful' mentality is killing you softly.
It's never too late to take positive steps to change your life
for the better. To help you, there's a wealth of freely
available resources throughout this site. Why not now take
that first step toward optimising your black health womens
You will find a list of recommended further reading
below. In the meantime, there is some excellent guidance
on setting your personal health goals at: Personal Goal Setting. The entire section
is a useful read and can help you decide on the health areas
in which you want to set your personal goals.
If you have a weightloss goal, or a
goal, you'll find some helpful strategies here.
In addition, I'll be adding some new goals guidance along
with FREE goalsetting worksheets and
forms each month to help you.
So go on, take that first step! I'll be right here if you
need any further assistance.
"Beliefs have the power to create
and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability
to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that
disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives"
black health womens
The following list additional resources you may find beneficial.
Office on Women's Health (OWH) within the Office of the
Secretary of HHS, is the focal point for women's health
research, service delivery, and education programs
National Women's Health
Information Center (NWHIC)
The information on this site is purely of educational value
and is not intended to replace your seeking medical advice. You
must consult your doctor over all your health concerns.
Subscribe to receive your
Free 5 Part Mini Course on setting your personal goals, via email.
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