I was having a heated conversation with a female friend of mine a few days ago about whether there’s a stigma associated with being black and fit/healthy. Are black women who are health/fitness conscious the ‘odd women out’? Have black people come to view being fit/heath-conscious in negative terms? I’ve heard the following comments among black women when discussing health/fitness:
“I like to eat and girl, healthy food is bland.”
“Those black girls at the gym are just trying to be skinny white girls.”
“I’m thick and my man loves it, so why should I work out?”
Here are three myths I think get in the way of black people becoming more fit and healthy & why I think we need to let them go!!
Healthy = Bland
Let’s talk about that first quote for a second. I think part of the issue here is that there’s a perception that healthy food just can’t be flavorful. And whether you’re African-American, Latino, Asian, whatever your culture- it’s the kiss of death for someone to come over to your house and call your food bland. But not all healthy food is as bland as a rice cake! In fact, healthy foods are FULL of flavor. You just have to remember that flavor doesn’t just come from salt and pepper, it comes from a variety of herbs (like cilantro!) and spices (like fenugreek!) That’s one of my goals in creating this blog; to dispel the myth that healthy food can’t have the same spice, tang and kick that can be found in delicious cultural/ethnic foods. Tandoori chicken and Escoveitch fish are both ethnic foods that are flavorful and (if carefully prepared) can be very healthy. The same goes for fish tacos! So if you think healthy has to mean bland, you’re missing out on the ways foods can do double duty: delicious & nutritious.
Fit = Skinny
I remember back in the day -before she lost weight coincidentally- Monique was famous for using the term “skinny b*tches”. She threw the term around early and often & to be clear, she wasn’t using this term to talk about women who were actually skinny (see the picture above of the late Ana Carolina Reston). Monique was using “skinny b*tches” to describe anyone who wasn’t plus size. I think this “saying” was a classic case of trying to make fitness seem extreme (by using the word “skinny”) in order to make people who were plus size feel better about themselves. I don’t think that everyone should be a size 2, but shouldn’t everyone be trying to be the most fit and healthy that they can be? In the same way that it’s unfair to ridicule someone for being overweight/obese, isn’t it unfair to put down someone who doesn’t want to eat certain foods because they’re watching their weight, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc? Before you make a comment on why a dear friend is turning down your famous mac&cheese recipe- remember that being fit is about an individual achieving their “health best”, not yours.
Sexy = Thick
Where do I begin on this one? The Coke-bottle, 36-24-36 figure has long been coveted. Women everywhere want a curvaceous body like Kim Kardashian, JLo and Nikki Minaj. In the black community, people often make jokes about women who don’t have a voluptuous body shape as being flat-chested or having a flat behind. Coupled with this is the worry that if a woman diets and/or exercises she will “lose her curves” and become less attractive to her man. But at what point does the desire to be thick and have curves give way to the need to take care of our bodies? At what point do black women need to be more selfish when it comes to doing what’s best for their own health (regardless of what cultural norms may dictate)? I would argue that having a shape should never take priority over having a healthy body. You may lose some of your hips and thighs, but you may gain a new appreciation for what your body can do and how much better you can feel!
***What do YOU think? Are there certain myths you’d add to this list? Have you ever found yourself being criticized for trying to be more health conscious (skipping certain unhealthy cultural foods, being told you’re losing your curves)? Sound off!***
P.S Check out my thoughts on the criticism of Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas’ Hair here!
P.P.S. Check out this hilarious Funny or Die skit with Blair Underwood on being a black hiker: Funny or Die: Black Hiker w/ Blair Underwood
(Photo credits (in order of appearance): enlivenmagazine.com, wikipedia.com, photo.cefapa.com and nickiminajmusic.org)