Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: What About Men? What About Non-Blacks?

Q&A Wednesday: What About Men? What About Non-Blacks?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Q: I came across your website I think from looking at the Black Web Awards. I really enjoy what you have to say (I am even following it on Facebook)and I just had a question for you. I think I know the answer but I wanted to get your opinion anyways. I am someone who used to workout pretty religiously, but over the years gained too much weight after stop hitting the gym in the manner that I used to. I

I am curious as to how do you feel that your blog could be or should be followed by men? I am not asking you to change what you are doing, again I love your site, and have even forwarded it to a few women friends who are lose weight, yet are not black women (by the way they love your site too).

So in short, do you think men such as me can be just as successful as you taking in what you say and do?

I actually really appreciate this question, because I’ve been trying to figure out how to approach this subject for a while. This question pretty much just gave me an easy way in.

The short answer is yes, men can be just as successful by following basic principles of clean eating and increased activity levels as I or any other women. The long answer is a little more complex, I think, so I figured I’d at least give you a cheat sheet. Yes, yes you can.

I started this blog – and named it as such – because of an experience I had in the gym in 2009, where a Latino was discussing with two Latinas about how he lost 29lbs (yet, he admitted to not being able to keep it off and his weight was increasing over the years.) He talked about how their culture contributed to their weight gain, how social stigmas affected the amount of responsibility he felt to be fit as a “strong Latino” and how he had to work hard to overcome that… and advised those women to do the same. His conversation started out in Spanish, until he saw me trying to decipher it and went on in English to include me.

The blog is A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss because I am, in fact, a Black woman. There are things in America (I cannot speak on any other country, I’m sorry to say) that I face, as a Black woman, that happen to me because I am Black. There are things that happen to me because I am a woman. And, quite frankly, there are things that happen to me because I am a Black woman. The place where the two of these painfully important characteristics intersect is the place where my experiences come from. It’s “girl” as opposed to “woman” simply because “girl” is casual speak.

My culture puts pressure on me to think a certain way, act a certain way, look a certain way because of those characteristics.  The choice to buck those things for my betterment is a difficult one. The choice to dismiss “thickness” (which is defined differently in each region) for fitness – even though your culture tells you that you’ll never get a man – is a difficult one. The choice to change how you live your life – even though you run the risk of having your Black card revoked – is tough.

In my opinion, all cultures may not be the same, but cultural pressure to conform is the same across the board. Deciding to remove or change parts of your culture feels insulting to the people who live and enjoy it. You’re tacitly implying that they way they’re living is wrong – otherwise, why would it need changing? – and it’s pretty much an all-out request to have your way of living attacked.

I mean, looking at the situation with the Latinos earlier… while I couldn’t relate to his struggles as a man, I could still understand that there are pressures put on me because of my gender. They’re different, but they’re there. While I couldn’t relate to their struggles as Latinos, specifically with their traditional foods, I could relate in the sense that there are foods in my culture that might need a little work. Sure, there are/were a lot of tips that he gave about working out and eating in general that were applicable to everyone, but the deeper it goes, the more you begin to dive into your differences.

Do I think that men can benefit from something here? Absolutely. Do I think that persons of other cultures could benefit from something here. No doubt about it. I don’t even think that all Black women could relate to everything I write, and that’s okay too. We aren’t a complete monolith. But it absolutely does help to talk about these things, instead of pretending they don’t matter.

That being said… everyone is welcome here. Come in, take what you can use, and leave the rest behind. Oh, and don’t forget to bring good food. We love food, here.

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14 comments

Sharilyn August 10, 2011 - 1:13 PM

I’ve been wanting to comment and this post is an excellent chance. I’m a MAWG (Middle-aged white grandma) and I have been enjoying your blog immensely. You really have wonderful insight and a great writing style and I think it is very relevent to any person who wants to be educated about what they put in their body and mind. Keep up the good work and I’ll be watching!

T.R. August 10, 2011 - 1:48 PM

Nice. I’ve also heard people say they focus on women because, right or wrong, women still run the household and kitchen and if you can get them to change their habits then you have a better access to the men. I think there is some truth to that on the surface. But I wonder once you start getting into those “deeper issues” how it works. I think at that point we each, man or woman, black, white, latino, asian or everything in between, have to take our own individual stand.

But I am glad to see men following the blog, that definitely helps with the conversation.

Gloria August 10, 2011 - 3:12 PM

As a non-black girl from the Mediterranean shores I’ve got to say that ever since a good (male) friend shared a link to this site, i’ve been a regular reader: I find it gives great food for thought and, in my opinion, sound and helpful advice. (Around here, we are having trouble as well, for the fast food and processed foods have been gaining terrain in places where just a generation ago people used to eat more healthily *sigh*)

Misty August 10, 2011 - 7:59 PM

I’m a black male, and I love this website. I would never read a blog focused on weight loss and men. Nothing to relate to, what with the pervasive -phobias and -isms and that weird way men write (boobs! muscles! cars! manstuff! and advertisements for each of those). I’m sure some sites aren’t like that, but I haven’t seen them. And every website is focused on white people, by default, so it’s nice not being excluded (actively or passively, w/e). Moreover, your blog is just entertaining, informative, and well-written.

Misty August 10, 2011 - 8:02 PM

I’m totally replying to myself but one last thing I like: the rules! This website has rules, so the comments aren’t horrifying. And the rules are inclusive (“Everyone is welcome here”).

Caitlin August 11, 2011 - 10:04 AM

I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now, and I really love it. I enjoy reading what you’ve got to say on the intersection of health and culture, specifically as it relates to you as a black woman. It not only helps me to understand more about the world around me, but also to turn more of a critical eye on the way my own cultural expectations interact with my desire to be as healthy and fit as possible.

Plus, I’d say that the vast majority of what you write is good information that can be used by anyone, regardless of race or gender.

Theresa August 12, 2011 - 10:10 AM

I just wanted to add that I am also a white woman following your blog, and think it’s pretty wonderful. Much of what you write fits me to a “T”. Those things that don’t are a valuable education and I appreciate it all. Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

Amanda August 12, 2011 - 6:06 PM

If people are willing to keep their minds open and expect (and even embrace) learning from people who don’t share their exact backgrounds they can only be enriched for it. I’m not black so there are some issues you discuss on here I’ve never thought of or been exposed to and even though they might not directly bear on my life there’s certainly nothing but benefit in learning new things. Then again, the abundance of fitness blogs that are authored by white women in their forties living on the East Coast at a higher socioeconomic level don’t always discuss things that I’ve thought of or can “relate” to.

And there’s no reason that can’t hold true across gender lines. I love my Papa’s muscle building mags because even though the target audience is clearly men heavily into weight-training there are still many things I can learn from them. Hell, a couple issues ago I learned all about how Little Caesar’s pizzas came to cost five dollars and the environmental and economic impact our “cheap pizzas” are having on other nations. Useful information! That I wouldn’t have had if I only read “women’s” magazines.

You should learn where you can – if you don’t think it’s relevant to you in your situation than discard or back burner it but don’t avoid learning from people you can’t relate to. You miss out that way.

jenita September 3, 2011 - 11:03 PM

I absolutely love your response to the question and can definitely relate. Great job on your site and kerping it authentic and relevant and inclusive.

Nannette Wade September 7, 2011 - 10:54 AM

I am a black woman and I love your site. Recently, I was reading some of your archived posts and came across one where I commented about having lost 30 pounds. I am now down 50 pounds and still working on developing my new lifestyle. You are an excellent writer and I really relate to your experiences. I am older than you and so moved by your love for yourself, your daughter and your fiance. I look forward to losing another 100 pounds and happily living in optimal health. You inspire me to pursue my dreams.

LBrooke February 23, 2012 - 3:35 AM

I’m a young white sista 😉 and love the heck out of this blog. Like you say, I’m one of the people who reads every article (well, not every article yet- but I’m working on it!) and takes a little something away from it– whatever it is. Even the articles about the cooking soul food and that being a blame for obesity in African American culture was something that was really interesting to me; it also furthered my understanding of just how processed food has become in this country. Especially when you said something about there not being so many different choices for rice, because rice was JUST RICE! I love every article on here and think anyone can benefit from it- age, gender, religion, and ethnicity– we’re all just humans! =)

Suzette June 2, 2012 - 8:24 AM

When I discovered your website I sent to all my lunch buddies that are a very diverse group and we discuss this website once a week on different topics….LOVE THIS SITE….I’m down 14lbs in 6weeks…Thank you for your inspiration!

El May 1, 2013 - 9:31 PM

I’m a Queer white woman, and I love this site and the advice and community here more than any other fitness site I’ve seen. I learn so much and I love the intersectional discussions. I feel this is a safe place for those overcoming eating disorders, and women, in general. I love to see advice that uplifts so many of my friends, too. I think everyone can benefit from the content here. It’s life changing, life affirming stuff.

Ruth October 15, 2015 - 1:32 PM

I’m new to the blog, and love what I’ve read so far. People should note that your title is A black girl’s guide to weight loss, not THE black girl’s guide to weight loss, so it just describes who you are, not who it is aimed at, thank-you for the Everyone Welcome.

Anyway, even if it was THE black girls guide, isn’t the web supposed to be where can meet in specific groups to discuss our specific interests?

Personally I’m glad to find some thoughts coming from a slightly different perspective to my own.

One more thing! You look fabulous in all your before, transition and after photos. Celebrate that everyone!

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