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Alice Randall: ‘Many Black Women Are Fat Because We Want To Be!’ (Open Discussion)

Songwriter and author Alice Randall wrote an interesting/opinionated article for the NY Times on overweight black women.

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In her article, Randall, a Harvard graduate, notes that four out of five black women are seriously overweight. She also notes that one out of four middle-aged black women has diabetes.

Randall feels that black America needs a “body-culture revolution.” Why? Because too many experts who are involved in the discussion of obesity don’t understand something crucial about black women and fat: many black women are fat because we want to be.

Here’s some excerpts from Randall’s NY Times article below:

Chemically, in its ability to promote disease, black fat may be the same as white fat. Culturally it is not.

How many white girls in the ’60s grew up praying for fat thighs? I know I did. I asked God to give me big thighs like my dancing teacher, Diane. There was no way I wanted to look like Twiggy, the white model whose boy-like build was the dream of white girls. Not with Joe Tex ringing in my ears.

How many middle-aged white women fear their husbands will find them less attractive if their weight drops to less than 200 pounds? I have yet to meet one.

But I know many black women whose sane, handsome, successful husbands worry when their women start losing weight. My lawyer husband is one.

Another friend, a woman of color who is a tenured professor, told me that her husband, also a tenured professor and of color, begged her not to lose “the sugar down below” when she embarked on a weight-loss program.

And it’s not only aesthetics that make black fat different. It’s politics too. To get a quick introduction to the politics of black fat, I recommend Andrea Elizabeth Shaw’s provocative book “The Embodiment of Disobedience: Fat Black Women’s Unruly Political Bodies.” Ms. Shaw argues that the fat black woman’s body “functions as a site of resistance to both gendered and racialized oppression.” By contextualizing fatness within the African diaspora, she invites us to notice that the fat black woman can be a rounded opposite of the fit black slave, that the fatness of black women has often functioned as both explicit political statement and active political resistance.

We have to change. Black women especially. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blacks have 51 percent higher obesity rates than whites do. We’ve got to do better. I’ve weighed more than 200 pounds. Now I weigh less. It will always be a battle.

My goal is to be the last fat black woman in my family. For me that has meant swirling exercise into my family culture, of my own free will and volition. I have my own personal program: walk eight miles a week, sleep eight hours a night and drink eight glasses of water a day.

I call on every black woman for whom it is appropriate to commit to getting under 200 pounds or to losing the 10 percent of our body weight that often results in a 50 percent reduction in diabetes risk. Sleeping better may be key, as recent research suggests that lack of sleep is a little-acknowledged culprit in obesity. But it is not just sleep, exercise and healthy foods we need to solve this problem — we also need wisdom.

Randall says, “I may never get small doing all of this. But I have made it much harder for the next generation, including my 24-year-old daughter, to get large.”

Read the entire article here.

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1st Photo Credit: Bob Delevante
2nd Photo Credit: Renwl.org

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