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Africa Speaks

Far too many Black Women are overweight
- Part I

Mar 11th, 2004, 8:14pm

It's quite obvious the majority of Black American and Caribbean women are obese or overweight. The majority of Black men have brainwashed us as people consistently saying they like fat ass women and if a woman is not fat then she would not get much attention ...Never mind the related long-term health affects of being overweight are heart decease, hypertension, diabetes, and the list goes on. We all know that "fatness" is not healthy, so WHY are so many Black women ignorant who don't like themselves? I mean, what is more important than caring for our own health? Ladies, you definitely got to take care of your body!!! Because if you don't love yourself, how in the world then can anyone love you?

Bantu Kelani.

Reply on: Mar 11th, 2004, 9:14pm

I think this comment is misguided. I think we need to think a lot more on our idea of fat and overweight and how / if it is linked to health. Where did this idea come from especially among the black community? Are we really thinking of the health risks or are we thinking of the aesthetically acceptable norms in a eurocentric society? I personally know people whom society would think of as fat, yet are light years healthier in mind, body and spirit than others who are at a more acceptable weight and size. Most of these so called healthy weight indicators do not take many things into account and are biased towards a Eurocentric view of size and beauty. Yes even the ones touted by 'black magazines' and publications. Take a look at any 'black magazine' and the images that are portrayed. They are still the light-skinned, thin as a stick models that certainly do not represent what most of our women look like. I would find it difficult to take health advice wholesale from a publication that has such a narrow view of health and aesthetic.

It is more likely for people to assume a fat woman is 'unhealthy' or 'eats too much' than a skinny woman without even casually examining the eating habits of either one. Somehow we can always think of the 'dangers' associated with 'fat' yet we never think of osteoporosis, problems in childbirth, not getting enough nutrients to the body or the psychological ill health that these standards of acceptability inflict on us. I am sure if we did some more research we would see ways where a fuller size is much healthier for some, if not most women. We never take into account differences in metabolism, race, genes and indeed the person's own individual aesthetic preference! While there may be some that see some more weight on a female as attractive I think they are in the minority. By and large we are all pressured to be thinner and conform to a smaller size.

I think back on my own battle with considering my weight. At 5 ft and obsessed with being thinner like all my friends I remember reading a diet book that told me my ideal weight should be no more than 105 pounds… WHAT!!! To me that is the weight of a child! But according to all their fancy PhD doctors and dieticians, weight indicators and charts, calculations and figures, that was the healthiest weight for my height and age. Nowhere did they take into account my broad back and shoulders that made people think twice before messing with me; my strong arms that could lift the same weight as any man; my wide hips that would make childbirth easier or my strong thighs that made me stand steady. They didn't take into account my race, my gene pool, the build of my family, or my bone structure. I was reduced to mathematical equation:

5ft + 105 pounds=health, beauty and perfection.

If I did this, Ahhh! Blessings would flow, my health would be restored and suddenly Gucci would be knocking on my door to be his new face of fashion right? Ha! Well I did buy it for a while and I went on every diet known to mankind. From eating nothing but this vile onion soup that somehow was to speed up my metabolism, to consuming carrot sticks and cucumbers by the bag, for what reason I can't remember. Then there was the juice diet, and the other one that involved eating an embarrassing number of grapefruits. I can laugh at it now but then it was years of trauma, trauma that is still ongoing in many ways though I have found a better way to approach health. My battle is not unique. It is one that many black women and indeed many women of all other races go through.

Now don't get me wrong. I am in no way saying it is good to be unhealthy.I am saying that we may need to reevaluate this thing some more. They have changed up the game on us now, see? Before it was just the looks, then people started thinking, 'but those models are ridiculously thin! That can't be healthy' But now with the new focus on health and fitness the battle of the bulge has taken on a new spin. Under the cover of advocating 'health' they give the thing a new kind of legitimacy. Now the females in magazines are a little more 'cut' up, advocate going to the gym 3 times a week, eat nothing but salads or even worse go on the horrendous meat filled Atkins Diet that is all the rage and preach the merits of a 'healthy lifestyle' But guess what? Our new 'beauty role models' are not much bigger than the old ones! Whether black white old or young they remain no bigger than a certain standard. Not that revolutionary is it?

At the end of the day the truth is that real people come in all shapes and sizes and certainly don't fit into one standard of size or the accepted measurement of health. As a matter of fact, most so called health nuts don't even scratch the surface of healthy living anyway, no matter how much they can bench press. Being healthy requires much more work than that. Some Rastas have maybe got on the right track when they speak of eating organic foods, eating what they grow, what they cook etc. But health is certainly a more holistic approach to what you put into your body in general, not how many calories. It is care and regard for your self wholly and completely and it certainly extends beyond what we put into our bodies physically, but what we put into our minds and how we care for both.

People need to develop a more healthy respect for themselves in general and put that into practice in every facet of their lives. You may find that with a better understanding of yourself that there may be foods you do not want to put in your body anymore. Not because a diet or so called health book or study says so, but because you no longer think it is right for your body. You may never lose a pound, or maybe you will. You may never be the size that is advocated, or maybe you will… but aesthetic cannot be the focus; true holistic health is! So many people live the ultimate healthy lifestyle and drop dead of heart attacks, stomach cancer, and breast cancer, all kinds of things in their 40's. Maybe we should think about that and have a chat with the fat black woman, living in the country somewhere who has lived to see great grandchildren, has most of her teeth and a mind as sharp as a tack. Maybe we should think of people who don't fit the standard yet never seem to really get sick often and are careful about what they eat and whom they eat it from. Maybe then we will get a better idea of health.


Reply on: Mar 12th, 2004, 9:01am

I fail to understand your logic, so if I condemn morbid obesity I must be trying to support Eurocentric culture? Why the duplicity Yan? You know very well I am not talking about "a little fat", I am talking about "grossly fat". For the most part Black American women along with their Caribbean neighbors are far more overweight and fatter than their white counterparts, because they do not exercise enough and or overeat. Being 250, 300 lbs, or more is just not healthy for a woman. Burying our heads in the sand and pretend there is no serious issues, only adds to the problem at hand. Black males don't seem to have this problem in alarming proportion like the women do. And BTW why Black men say they "prefer" big women when large women are their "last choice" at the nightclub, gym, or any environment that has a lot of singles then?? Far too many of our sisters are crazy enough to heed their lies, eating the wrong foods that cause them to suffer much sickness!

Remember before Western civilization was made (which practice wicked ways of poisoning food and drink), Black women used to be shapely but ATHLETIC, ate right food and at the right time. Our ancestresses and ancestors were known to be the healthiest people on earth and lived hundreds of years! But western civilization has shortened the lives of Black people through genocides and the spreading of diseases. So, there is no way I'm going to encourage any sister or any woman to weight more than 250, 300 lbs or anything close to it. It's "unhealthy" and is correctly described in medical literature as "morbid obesity"! How can we possibly reach a high level of physical, mental and spiritual health if we pollute ourselves? If we do not care of our own bodies, how can we care for the planet and expand mental and spiritual awareness? You can speak for your 'healthy' spiritual life experience Yan, but that is certainly not universal for many Black women out there who overeat as a way of numbing themselves to life.

Most women of Black American and Caribbean descent are overweight and should seek to lower those high levels of body fat. Because the body is our temple and for us women, it's the temple for LIFE! Our sisters who are obese and grossly overweight should not avoid taking responsibility to maintain a healthy and reasonable weight. Denial in the direction of healthy spiritual life makes no sense, and never will. Let us love ourselves by eating healthy food like we used to before western civilization was made.

Bantu Kelani.

Reply on: Mar 12th, 2004, 10:40am

Well I have a question: Are all women who are looked at as fat suffering from obesity or other eating disorders? All women? Regardless of social conditions, culture, geography or personal aesthetic inclination?

What I was trying to convey was that we need to think about this better and think of health in a more holistic way because weight is not the only indicator of health. If we start from the other way, adjusting lifestyle and not focusing on weight we may get it better. As I said, I know women who would not meet any societal standard of correct weight for 'health' yet they are VERY HEALTHY, IN ALL WAYS. Their bodies are completely in tune with what hey need to flourish. I suppose unless one has encountered such a woman it may be difficult to comprehend as all we see is images of heaving, 'unhealthy', sweating, fat women that are our media fed image of ill health. Indeed weight is not always conversely related to eating. Western or modern standards of weight and health are certainly not universal truths. As a matter of fact, no one culture or group's idea of size is universal.

Many people do indeed bury themselves in all sorts of distractions, food included to escape their own feelings of insecurity, but by the same token many (like I did) also attempt to fit into a standard category of weight to hide deeper insecurities. When we speak of morbid obesity, are all women in this assumed weight category unhealthy or at risk for diseases? Let's be a bit more discriminating. All fat women may not be unhealthy and all thinner women may not be healthy. This is a fact, but one that I guess maybe a bit hard to get. And yes I am speaking about all the weight categories that are deemed unhealthy 200, 300 pounds and over.

I find it interesting that so many images of our goddesses were big women, with large hips and thighs and breasts and stomachs. I also see many women in traditional African societies who are fat, blatantly fat and who are revered for it, for their abundance of size. Indeed the way many of us eat today is quite unhealthy, however what is to be said of a woman who maintains a healthy diet, who is careful about where she eats, from whom she eats and about the cleanliness of the food yet still weights 300 pounds? How do we judge such a woman? Should she then now seek to run 5 miles a day and go to the gym to reach an acceptable weight because this is the accepted standard of health, or get in tune with the needs of her individual body to come to an understanding of her own health? How are our bodies built for what we wish to do with it? If I wanted to run a marathon then I certainly would have to live a different lifestyle but it does not mean that my current body is any less healthy for how I want to use it. While I may be able to carry children far easier and have a less chance of osteoporosis, the marathon runner who may be considered 'healthier' than I, may have those problems and others later on. We simply don't have cookie cutter bodies. This is not a one size, one standard, fits all kind of thing.

I certainly never accused you personally of supporting euroccentric culture, although many people despite how informed they are may still be subject to eurrocentric views in many ways without realizing it. I must wonder of these studies and these institutes and the body type that they based their standards upon. I am sure not one of them has visited tribal African societies, Aboriginal societies, those of Samoa and the Tahitian islands and many others to study how women in traditional settings live there, what they eat, how their genetic makeup may influence weight distribution and health, how their culture influences size and their own standard of size and beauty and health. Do some of these women who are big live longer or just as long as their maybe thinner western counterparts? Can we even measure health that way? Are they just as healthy? And can we even place two disparate cultures along the same continuum of health? What diseases are they prone to? What diseases are they not? What was their quality of life? Also what the needs for their body and how does their size and weight accommodate those needs? Things to think about…

Anyone who is uncomfortable with the body they are in is welcome by me to change it however they see fit, but I cannot buy wholesale the 'fat argument' when I have seen, lived and know different. We may well be trying to tailor fit our bodies to accommodate a society that we all profess to 'hate'.


Reply on: Mar 12th, 2004, 2:19pm

With all due respect Yan you are in denial. Read for yourself the myriad of health medical statistics and you'll see what they all points out that the over consumption of fatty foods, junk foods and fast foods plays an important part in creating obesity, arthritis, high blood pressure, allergies, diabetes, ulcers, heart and other circulatory diseases, hormone disturbances, anemia, weak immune system, other generative diseases and other poor states of health. Of course, that is not to say that obesity is not related in part to genetic relatives but the fact remains that the development of obesity among males and females in the western world is commonly due to excessive consumption. Many researches on animals as well as individuals suggest that in the face of abundant poor and poison food production the populations of those countries are unhealthy overweight. And Black women are the fattest group of women in those countries. But Black women are certainly not the fattest group of people on the planet!

It seems I'm not the only one displaying "Eurocentric bias" in this topic, because if you really observes various researches on cultural studies as well as longevity around the world, you notice that the Bantu women as well as of the Nilotic women in Africa, rarely suffer maximal malnutrition from over consumption of sweetness and saltiness in fatty foods or -even rarely suffer from bone diseases although they live in poor countries. I know what I'm talking about I am Congolese Bantu. I assure you that within an environment of extreme poverty Congolese people have developed a successful resilience to malnutrition disease by eating simple food, mostly vegetables and fruits. As industrial food is scarce in Congo it also seems the majority of people are returning to raw food and raw juices..

Furthermore, no one saw firsthand any people during ancient times, so HOW can you compare the symbols and images of "archetypes" of Neolithic cultures to indigenous human beings? The depths of the depictions of Goddesses were crafted to represent apparent generosity and fertility. And it very likely that such images prevailed circa 4000-3000 B.C in ancient Summer, Babylonia, Canaan, Anatolia, Crete and Mycenaean. Far back in time the Goddesses and Gods of indigenous people of Alkebu-lan were scarcely human or even animal. Early deities of the prehistoric African people (Twa or Bahutu for instance) looked like the rock form, which they were carved, blank and monolithic, almost featureless faces which evoke the mystery of the Grand beginning. Thus, be objective if you can and accept that Bantu and Nilotic people in their overwhelming majority cannot be connected to westerners if we judge by longevity and appropriate weight associated with health..unless they are killed or sickened by invasions or sanctified genocides, extreme poverty and industrial pollutions perpetuated by those who continually keep Blacks in state of oppression.

I could understand you being offended if I was making false accusations but from readily available statistics what I'm saying is absolutely 100% true. A body built on high quality, natural, whole organic food is of higher quality than a body built on poorer quality commercial food or fast foods industry. How can we become seeker of Truth if do not even have a vigor of intellect and diet? HOW can we follow spiritual life if we indulge in appetite, which brings physical debility, and deaden the sensitive organs the Creator Source, Mother Nature, the Cosmic Spirits and the ancestors would not be recognized? To disregard this popular belief that Black men "prefer" big women (which is primary based on hypocrisy) is good because it cleans the lies of mind and causes to eliminate the poison stored in the blood. Our ancients ancestors didn't make a distinction between energizing and beautifying the physical and the spiritual, why should we? In fact, purifying and honoring the body as the physical aspect of the Spirit bring us to "love", because when we love ourselves, we worship ourselves as the temple of Divine Spirit that impels us to innermost love, healing and enlightenment, this is important.

At any rate, this topic is not meant to bash Black sisters habits, just to inform. Because even if I don't always agree, I can only LOVE, respect Black women choices, Black love, and Black families.

Bantu Kelani.

Reply on: Mar 12th, 2004, 3:34pm

I am not fighting or attacking anyone here. Nowhere in my statement did I say that there were NO obese people or that there were NO overweight people. I also never said that eating foods that are not good for our systems is a good thing. I stated that we need to look closer at our standards of health and weight and decide better for ourselves the merits of the standards that we are working with. I definitely feel that this is an important topic for Blacks to engage so will pursue it and continue to raise certain key questions. I ask again:

Do you feel that all women who are big or fat or in excess of 200 or 300 pounds are obese? Do you believe they are all overweight?

Also, where exactly from my responses do I seem to be in denial?


*I will be away for a few days without sure computer access. If I do not get access between today and Monday then I will definitely examine any responses on Tuesday - Yan

Reply on: Mar 16th, 2004, 3:56am


I have no objection to the theory that heavyset people can be healthier than our slimmer counterparts, only if they are healthy under exercise and healthy food habits.. Even myself, I have experienced the problem of carrying around extra pounds. I was fat for about 10 years living in France and the US with mainly sedentary work and abundance of food to eat. In Congo where I was born and lived for 19 years I was slim and athletic. I was healthiest possible, eating more fresh/organic food on intermittent rations and doing hard physical labor. But in the West I became a fat adult as a result of depression and bulimia combined, and a conscious and not so conscious desire to keep men at bay. Fat was a wall of protection against intimacity because I was ashamed of my own sexuality, force of character and intellect.. I was so insecure and morbidly unhealthy. I couldn't, squat myself or lift things from the floor, I couldn't climb a steep hill, I couldn't go exercise, I couldn't keep up with life!! Like the majority of fat women, being fat for me was indicative of severe depression, character flaws, laziness, lack of self-respect and greed. So, I know what feeling unhealthy and fat feels like. Fortunately, 2 years ago I had a wake up call when I started to develop my spirituality, wisdom and freedom.

Industrialized societies do not teach us to practice to eat the right foods. Notice how western countries have all kind of varieties of foods to eat. It would kill certain animals if we changed their diet to which the western world eats. Because the nature of these societies is not to give or prolong our lives. Their nature is to shorten our lives and they do a good job at doing it for 2000 years. With all these reasons readily known, you still support the theory that it's Okay to be 200 or 300 lbs overweight. It's certainly not all right to be 200lbs, 300lbs on a 5'0"- 5'5" frame. In my case, at 5'8" I never weight more than 280-300 lbs. Fact, The fatter you get, the less you move. The fatter you get, the less you live. When was the last time you saw a fat person make it past 60? And even if you have seen a fat person live beyond 60 I bet you don't see many of them do it. Every medical journal, every doctor is going to tell you that carrying all this extra weight is not good for us, that losing weight will have tangible health benefits.

In industrialized, mechanized, left brained, unbalanced partriachy societies Black women are grossly overweight and suffer radical diseases and great depression. I mentioned to you some of the related poor states of health affects of weighing 100lbs to 400 lbs overweight. But it seems you say it's Ok, that's why I said you are in denial. Look at hundreds of thousands of good sisters continuing to eat the type of food our enemies put in their stomachs, and see them shorten their lives because they refuse a little self-control and a nudge in the right direction. Black women are the fattest group of women in industrialized countries, they are the fattest group in the fattest coutries. It really scares me to the core of my soul.

Bantu Kelani.

Reply on: Mar 16th, 2004, 10:43am

Well I am glad to hear you share your personal experiences here. And I think you have proven one thing: you were unhealthy at the weight you were. The life you described was no life indeed. Not just because of your weight that limited your movement but you were psychologically unhealthy and unhappy. Your weight gain was manifestation of this… in your case. However my points still remain on the table:

1. Is everyone who is at that weight unhealthy,overweight and obese?
2. Are these standards and the standard makers objective? Upon what basis have they measured health as correlated to weight?
3. Indeed, what is health at all? Is it measured solely by how long a person lives for example? Is it the quality of their life?

I agree wholeheartedly that many people in the west live on an unhealthy diet, and lifestyle, both fat and skinny ones so to me weight is not even relevant there. I cannot readily accept that someone is overweight, obese etc through casual observation or through the standards that western indexes use to measure them. As I believe I said before, even at the smallest I ever was in my adult life, these standards judged me as overweight, and this was while I was living an active lifestyle, swimming, lifting weights in the gym etc so I do not buy their standards at all. I also know several others who would be judged as overweight who are in fact quite healthy. I thought the point I was trying to bring across was quite simple. Not everyone who is considered fat by these standards is unhealthy, or indeed OVERWEIGHT FOR THEIR FRAME OR LIFESTYLE. As a matter of fact it may be actually unhealthy for some to put unnatural rigours on their body to force it to conform to an unnatural size.

The standards of 'obese' and 'overweight' can indeed be quite flawed and I say this based on my personal experiences and the experiences of others that I do know quite well. There are females and males who will never fit into the ideal bracket of western size. The point is that this needs more than a casual observation. I remember years ago watching Oprah Winfrey struggle with her weight, how she swung up and down trying to conform to that size standard that she was never able to maintain for a long period of time. May it not simply be the case that she is a bigger woman? And her frame supports and was built for a larger size? Her story is not unique. There are many people who face this situation and make themselves sick, ironically trying to make themselves healthy. Having a larger size does not make one unhealthy, but being unhealthy does make one unhealthy!! You see what I mean? We cannot simply accept this carte blanche correlation. I have known people who run marathons, who lived at the peak of physical condition drop dead as young as 30 and watched others live to ripe old age who did not fit this standard. Which brings me to another point: can we judge health by the length of someone's physical life? I think that definitely limits our existence to the realm of the physical and you know that that is but a negative reflection of our true state of existence. Our level of health is simply not determined by our weight. Many of these people studied may indeed live unhealthy lifestyles and indeed be at risk, however I doubt that every person who is judged overweight is unhealthy, even in a casual sense.

Bantu Kelani wrote:
"I mentioned to you some of the related poor states of health affects of weighing 100lbs to 400 lbs overweight. But it seems you say it's Ok, that's why I said you are in denial."

Indeed I do deny that weight and health are a direct correlation and I stand by that. However I am not in denial about the health risks that result from unhealthy living and stated that from the very beginning of this reasoning. I do not buy many things about western standards across the board, not least of all their so-called scientific studies and medical breakthroughs. We must come to a more holistic understanding of health. Anyone who finds himself or herself obese should begin with their doctor and seek advice there. All are free to try all the methods known to them to achieve the body that they believe will bring them health and attractiveness…until they realize or begin to wonder whether they are fighting a useless debilitating battle with nature and decide to come to a better understanding of how their bodies work. We all accept that many things about western society are grossly flawed so I do not see why this should be any different. As with everything else, weigh, measure and find your own definition by seeking other informed opinions. Learn your own body and not the cookie cutter image that others have chosen for you. If health is about how you feel then your experience with your weight cannot be a total indictment on others who may happen to share your former weight but maybe not your experiences with their own bodies. Neither are my experiences with weight uniform. People's experiences are different and their bodies are unique in whatever shape or size they find themselves. People should examine all possible views, examine their own feelings on health both physical and psychological and come to their own decisions.

Continue to Part II