Home Standards of Black Beauty Black Women, Our Bodies & Perceptions of Beauty: “White Girl Stuff”

Black Women, Our Bodies & Perceptions of Beauty: “White Girl Stuff”

by Erika Nicole Kendall

You know, the Black female perception of beauty is a peculiar one to me. I know, I know that I say that in a way that implies that I’m on the outside looking in… but for this one, I think that I am. I literally feel like an outsider on this one, because there are contradicting philosophies that – while they tickle me a little… okay, a lot – I just cannot co-sign.

Anything to avoid the scale?

When my family left Cleveland, we moved to a predominately white city in central Indiana. Approximately 2% of the student population at my high school was Black. All of my dearest friends were white.

I remember going to lunch and always having a full plate on my tray, and at my table I’d see nothing but salads.. poorly made ones, at that. I’d see the single, solitary, lone bag of fries and a bottle of water. I saw girls chugging the diet soda, but nothing else in front of them. I rarely saw anyone with as much food on their plate as me, but then again… I was a size 18.

I suspect those girls were always told “you need to watch your figure,” but were never quite taught exactly what that meant. ‘Cause I know now, it certainly doesn’t mean “have a diet soda for lunch.”

Either way, “you need to watch your figure” was never a message I received. For me, it was genuinely harmful and catty statements something like “If you don’t quit eating all that crap, you’re going to be big as an elephant.” Well, seeing as how that “crap” was making me feel better about life (though it would be another ten years before I could understand why), and seeing as how hearing statements like that only made me miserable… you can imagine what being told “you’re going to be big as an elephant” did to a young girl who already thought she was “big as an elephant.” Not only did I not learn anything from the dialogue, but it ran me right back into a bowl of some-stuff-I-had-no-business-eating.

I bring this up to say that I am, interestingly enough, familiar with and can now recognize the philosophy of curtailing your eating and watching your figure at a young age because of those girls… even though I never embraced it myself (ironically enough.) Because those girls were white, I never really felt a need to adopt it for myself. To be fair, I never felt the need to dye my hair blond every month, either.

I get it. This healthy eating thing is hard. It requires a lot. But for some reason, eating healthy is often brushed off and regarded as a “white people thing.” You have no idea how often I hear “Um, naw – that’s white people food.” And I can’t help but think of really rude and snarky responses to this… because that kind of assertion often comes from the mouth of someone with a thin and bone straight haired weave on their head, or faux colored contacts, or someone fawning over “light” skin, or… whatever. I suppose that if I asserted that those were “white people things” as well, that would’ve ended the conversation. Quickly.

Using the excuse of “eating healthy is a white girl thing” makes me giggle that much more, because I think of those girls in high school who, apparently, didn’t know how to eat healthy, either. And sure, they were in high school… but one would think that if their mothers taught them enough for them to know to watch their figures, they would at least have shown them how to do so, as well. It also makes me laugh again because as 68% of America is overweight, 12% of America is Black and 60% of Black America is supposedly overweight. That means that 60% of 12% is roughly 8% of the overweight population. Black America contributes a whopping 8% to that overweight population… leaving about 60% unaccounted for. But “eating healthy” is a “white girl thing.”

Back to where I started, though. The Black female standard of beauty is so peculiar to me. For example… even the most unhealthy of us get “passes” because we have long (straight) hair, impeccable makeup, freshly finished nails and amazing shoes. We get a “pass” from our peers for being unhealthy if we have a fat booty. We don’t even call it “fat” anymore. We call it “phat.”

For some reason, we as women of color have allowed ourselves to embrace American culture’s (read: capitalist culture’s) materialism and Europe’s hair… but we’re doling out passes left and right when it comes to our bodies. What do I mean by “pass?” Simple. I mean ignoring and excusing the poor health of our loved ones because they’re “still pretty,” which should be an extremely insulting compliment, but ironically isn’t seen as such. I mean we allow ourselves to accept poor health because we can hide it by dressing to the nines or by having a mean shoe game.

So what keeps us from embracing an un-Black standard for figures, but embracing un-Black standards elsewhere? Questionably, everywhere else? That’s a question that, for every answer I can think up… still leads me to wonder why we don’t dole out passes for every other superficial concept we cling to and judge others by. For goodness sakes, we’re still judging people by the shade of their skin. If that’s not painfully European, I don’t know what is.

I was one of those girls with the perfect hair – spent every Saturday in the shop – perfect nails, perfect shoes, kept my clothing appropriate. Every girl should, no matter her size. But using those as justifications – “I don’t want to lose weight… I’m not trying to have to give up my wardrobe!”/”Why do I need to lose weight? I look good!” – to not pursue better health is more than likely what’s killing us.

I’m not even done… but there’s always tomorrow.

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Curvy Jones July 26, 2010 - 10:01 AM

Feelin you today! Here is the thing.

I feel pretty, among my Caucasian friends. Why? Because I’m different. I have clear, caramel skin, plump lips, deep brown eyes. Hair that will do… anything but just lay there. Shiny, silky, strong. I have a booty that won’t quit and cleavage my friends covet.

Among my black friends…. I don’t know why I don’t feel cute. I always feel like a light in a lit room. I look just like them. Nothing different about me. And my friends are GORGEOUS. I always feel like I come in underneath them, because they have longer hair, lighter skin, moar bangin’ bodies.

Thing is… I feel ‘fatter’ around my Caucasian friends and more normal around my black friends, even the thin ones because we have similar shapes. It seems like my Caucasian girlfriends, even the thin ones, worry CONSTANTLY about being fat. Always counting calories and exchanging something for something else and worrying about gaining 5lbs or losing 5lbs or maintaining 5lbs. I’m not saying my black friends DON’T worry about that… we just don’t obsess about being rail thin. And I feel more comfortable there… there’s got to be a bridge between ‘eating like a black girl’ and ‘caring about our health’ like a white one. Ya know?

It doesn’t really make sense to me, in my head. It’s something I ponder a lot because my friendships span cultures and race. It’s often very hard for one group to understand my plight while another group completely commiserates.

Erika July 27, 2010 - 8:58 AM

I think there is always something to that “I’m the only ME in the room” thing… I mean, it makes sense. We all want to stand out, but its the lengths to which we go to achieve that which make the difference.

I’d be lying if I said I felt fat around my white friends. It never crossed my mind once. In all the ways we related, we never related in that way. My culture didn’t put that kind of premium on our bodies like that. It’s funny because had I embraced that, I might not’ve had to do the fighting to lose weight that I did. Granted, I might’ve had a few health issues, but size? Probably not so much.

Ty July 26, 2010 - 10:47 AM

I’ll be honest. I’ve always envied how proud and confident black women were and always wished I could have that kind of confidence too. I got insulted like you as a kid too. I was really depressed and gained some weight and my dad used to tell me that I was going to be 300lbs and bedwritten. That was probably the nicest thing he’s said to me. But I do obsess over my weight and it’s weird, I see girls who I know are bigger than me but I think they’re so beautiful and have nice shapes. But when I see myself I see a disgusting filthy b—-. Sorry for the language.

Erika July 27, 2010 - 9:03 AM

I often question that pride and confidence in ANY women, because if you listen closely enough, you often can hear that they are placing their value in the wrong elements of themselves.

I hate that ANY woman feels the way that you do about her body… but I hate even more that this is connected to the first part of your comment. So many of us get away with placing our value in our body parts, and it leaves those of us who don’t have those same bodies feeling like we have reason to feel disgusting and ashamed. That frustrates me and breaks my heart. 🙁

I’d write more, but I think Thursday’s post says it better than I can.

Norn July 26, 2010 - 11:29 AM

You really are a great writer, and I love that you see the connections between politics, capitalist culture (that ACTIVELY ENCOURAGES POOR HEALTH & BODY IMAGE) & physical fitness!
I assume you’ve got spirit in the mix, too!

Erika July 27, 2010 - 9:05 AM

Thank you! It’s ironic because though I have an anti-capitalist attitude… I’m definitely self-employed. LOLOL

Ladi Ohm July 26, 2010 - 11:47 AM

This is right on time!!!! I just went out with a girl friend who warned me not to lose any more weight because “I’ll look like a white girl.” I’m still perplexed because I’ll still have my nose, lips, hair, butt, skin color, perspective, history, social context, parents (heck… everything about me besides my healthy eating and workout habits) that makes me black in the first place. Not to mention I started to lose weight after my family doctor went in on me about family health issues and the path I was headed for…

Erika July 27, 2010 - 9:06 AM

So you can’t help but wonder if that “friend” has your best interests at heart, if she was probably too ignorant/not-knowing to be advising anyone on anything, or if something else was influencing her statements toward you? Hmmm….

Kirsten July 26, 2010 - 3:28 PM

About five years ago, I made a decision to change my lifestyle, what I ate, how I ate, and so on. I decided to go super nutritious and strict. I began following the advice of a local, grassroots-type healer by the name of Queen Afua. I began fasting and eating live and raw foods. I completely shifted the types of foods I ate and my eating habits.

The man I was seeing at the time would come to my house looking for food and tell me I had ‘white people food’ in and around my kitchen. He said it in such a way that I felt kind of embarrassed by it.
It didn’t change what I did or how I did it, but it was something I never forgot. (Nevermind that he seemed to love the ‘Africa’ that was resting in the seat of my jeans — guess he was trying to prevent it from converting into a Europe!)

I went on to work on a book about transforming the ‘soul-food diet’ into more healthy fare. The book was published independently, but I learned a few things about food and our (black-folx) relationship to it.

Today, I find myself ‘flexing’ I don’t eat all of or none of anything. I decided to eat healthier ‘for me’. Which right now means, more ‘clean eating’ fewer processed foods, and more live/raw foods with my cooked foods.

Plus I have added websites like this one to provide my mental/emotional re-up. It helps to know that I am not the only one thinking and feeling the way I do about weight and what is unique to us black girls.

Erika July 27, 2010 - 9:14 AM

It didn’t change what I did or how I did it, but it was something I never forgot. ”

YESSSSSSSSS! There are women out there who will straight up give up all their hard work for a man, only to find how NOT worth it that man truly was. No person who loves you will question or stand in opposition to what you are trying to do to better yourself. Ever!

tdixonspeaks July 26, 2010 - 9:46 PM

I’m self-conscious when eating at work. Its like everyone (read: white girls, but now that I work in an all-woman office) is on dietary autotune. Breakfast: yogurt/fruit, lunch: salad and water, snack: pretzels, half a bag of M&Ms. I never see dinner but I’d be hongry by 6pm!

I’m all for watching your diet, and I love a good salad too. Everytime I pick up a salad or a diet soda, I get a “watching your diet?” comment. Damn, can’t a size 20 have some veggies and curb some sugar?

It still makes me weary, especially when the conversation veers into “omg I ate soooo much today,” when its typically what I’d eat in an average day.

When I worked in finance (mostly men), I could get Taco Bell and never flinch. Of course, that’s worst case scenario, but at least I could talk about a bacon cheeseburger without looks of horror and thoughts of “omg you’re going to eat THAT?”

Erika July 27, 2010 - 9:22 AM

Don’t be weary about that “I ate so much today” line, because that’s just how it happens. People who weigh less… eat less. If they ate more, they would have to eat more to maintain that weight. That’s just how the body works (unfortunately.)

I think women are generally nitpicky in close-knit environments like that if they were bred to always be competitive… comments like that are like, psychological warfare. I just wrote about this today – there’s some kind of “benefit” to telling people that you don’t “diet” (in the American sense) or workout to achieve your stunning figure… and part of that is “giggling” at people who might, by their definition, struggle with being skinny (because, let’s face it, that’s what those types of chicks take pride in – being skinny) by making snide remarks about their diet.

As if “dieting” is the only reason why someone would enjoy a salad. Idiots.

I am going to give you a look of horror and type out loud, “OMG A BACON CHEESEBURGER?! GROSS!” Not because I’m a girl, though. #teamantibacon

LBC June 8, 2011 - 10:46 AM

I have to say that few things were as bad for my eating habits as working or living in all-female environments. The only actual diet I ever tried was when I was in college . . . living with a female (of course) roommate. Results? I learned I can’t do low-carb. I was ready to mug my own grandmother for a bowl of oatmeal.

I thank my lucky stars that I now work in in a more mixed, both in terms of gender and race, setting where nobody gives a naked rat’s patootie what I eat.

Hey, Kirsten–where can we get this healthy soul food book??

Sarah July 26, 2010 - 9:58 PM

Thinking of some of the original vegetarians and vegans: the Rastafarian folks…

Also thinking of not just so-called “white people food,” but also so-called “white people fitness activities,” like swimming, or kayaking (which I so very much love to do), or anything involving the great outdoors (hiking, camping, etc.). Still an existing issue of history with and access to those places, but those places/things/activities belong to Black folks as much as non-Black.

Erika July 27, 2010 - 9:37 AM

THIS TOO! When I tell people that I go kayaking or hiking… I get “Um, that’s white people stuff. You don’t ever see Black people doing that.” and it only makes me sad because it’s like, “I’m willing to bet that has way more to do with exposure and means than race.”

And co-sign on the vegetarians and vegans notion… it only reminds me of a comment I saw on another site.. when whites partake in these activities, their actions have a holy light shone upon them “they’re doing it to save the environment” but when Blacks do it, it’s “they probably can’t afford anything else.” It’s stupid and frustrating.

Rita July 26, 2010 - 11:24 PM

I never faced this school of thought more then when I started becoming knowledgeable about healthy living and began wanting to share the things I was learning with friends and family. Literally every other person said I was “acting white” or “looking like a white girl” because I began to eat better and add more activity to my life like running and yoga so the weight was literally falling off. Mind you these same people referred to me as a “nappy head” when I went natural not recognizing that it was the first step in the journey of taking care of me. And I started to realize that when discussing hair, health, fitness and nutrition with my loved ones I have to literally curve the conversation to the person I’m discussing the subject with. For instance, I can talk fitness candidly with the men in my life like my diabetic father who always encouraged activity. Talk to my white friends about health then I have to invetibally discuss the quest for “thinness” and with my black female friends, weight is discussed but only superficially and they’re more willing to discuss quick weight loss schemess/diets versus eating properly. Its saddening not to be able to fully share with them but I take comfort in being an example and at least opening up their world view.

Erika July 27, 2010 - 9:45 AM

See, in a family setting… I feel like they’re just trying to give themselves a good reason to not embrace what you’re doing, especially when its obvious that its better for you. I cringe at that language, because its still considered “acting white” to not speak in “Ebonics.”

So… I’m sayin’. Just let them watch how your decisions better your health, and they’ll start coming to you one by one asking for help. Shoutout to “being the change you wish to see in your world.” 🙂

Kirsten July 27, 2010 - 9:57 AM

I’m just re-reading all your comments.

It just let’s me see how deep the weight loss thing can be…It seems that not only do we have to watch our calories, we also must take in the perceptions of our friends and family and seems like culture when it comes to wanting to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

It is beginning to strike me as odd, that more of us will proudly display on our own bodies other things ‘borrowed’ from white folks, but give flack to those closest to us when it comes to what we put in our mouths.

To eat healthier, for some, means eating like white folks. The minute you put down the pork-fried-rice and chicken wings for some fresh greens and hummus, folks act like you’ve lost your natural mind!

Erika July 27, 2010 - 10:09 AM

That’s EXACTLY what I find so frustrating. That we’re so choosy with what we decide to identify as “white people stuff” and that the least harmful of these, we shun people for enjoying? Really?

It IS the culture, because the culture is beginning to embrace unhealthy living as a way of life, and diseases like diabetes as a “typical end.” Um, naw. That needs work. Like, today.

Alix March 15, 2012 - 2:12 AM

I totally agree with you. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 11 and an on-again off-again vegan. And yes, I have had the “white people” food comment and others that eluded to it. How rude is that? How are you gonna go up in someone’s fridge and start dissing their food? lol

The community needs to stop limiting itself with the whole “black people don’t do this” or “That’s what white folks do.” Like if you’re black then you’re not allowed to like skiing, listening to opera, or playing soccer. Sadly, when I was in high school it was “acting white” to behave in class and get good grades. I’ll never understand this attitude some black folks have. I truly believe we unwittingly reenforce stereotypes and negative views on our race by assigning healthy or otherwise “good” behavior with whiteness.

If we started eating more of this “White food” then we wouldn’t be the most unhealthy group of people in the country.

Kirsten July 27, 2010 - 10:22 AM

I’m telling you lady, you got something here. The fact that you would put it out there this way…seems revolutionary – to me.

I mean, I’ve been hearing about black women and our weight, but it seemed like more of a ‘point and complain’ kind of thing. Never have I seen anyone address this particular point. It’s not just that we are slovenly and love friend food — we really have a kind of “conditioning” to reject what could be more beneficial to us. There is a book I read recently called Brainwashed, and he talked about the ‘myth of black inferiority’. How deep does the feeling of inferiority get when it comes to what we put in our mouths to nourish our bodies and minds — we are what we eat…and look at the conditions of our communities, they certainly do reflect the results of what we consume…

I’m taking it deep, but I really just got it so I feel like I’m having an “AHA” moment here.

Erika July 27, 2010 - 10:51 AM

That feeling of inferiority traces back to what our ancestors subsisted on.. so inferior, they were to eat the parts of the harvest that “Massa” didn’t want. Oh yes, girl. It gets rough. And gross. And sad… especially because we tend to do it to ourselves.

Sarah July 27, 2010 - 12:33 PM

@ Erika: Have you heard of the Vegans of Color blog? http://vegansofcolor.wordpress.com/

It’s one of my favorites to read. And I love their tagline: “Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue.”

Erika July 27, 2010 - 12:48 PM

I’ve only heard about it briefly, because I think the woman who wrote Sistah Vegan is a part of that blog. Either way, I appreciate that tagline, as well. 🙂

uhura July 29, 2010 - 8:51 PM

You don’t have to be thin or skinny to be attractive, beautiful, pretty, or gorgeous.

Thin does not equal healthy. There are some right unhealthy people walking around who get a pass because they don’t *look* unhealthy, e.g. fat.

Get healthy. The outward changes are a side benefit. But don’t chase the Thin is Beautiful dragon. Nothing there but danger and going down in flames – mentally and physically.

ChellBellz August 1, 2010 - 9:24 AM

I think we talked on twitter about this like a month ago. I’m glad you did something about it on your blog. I’m still a bigger woman, and when i make certain food choices while going out people call me “white girl” or say that i’m eating white people food. I remember getting that flack at work as well. i would eat fruit, with yogurt, and some cereal on top and I was being white, while they ate a greasy bland liquid egg omelet. I think people are so backwards sometimes and would rather see you down with them then exploring something new.

Rooo August 26, 2010 - 4:07 PM

“The minute you put down the pork-fried-rice and chicken wings for some fresh greens and hummus, folks act like you’ve lost your natural mind!”

Even though the latter have in fact been what folks of color have eaten for centuries.
*rolls eyes @ stupid peeps giving you a hard time*

We just came back from my aunt’s with fresh tomatoes and hot peppers from her garden. That used to be the norm — on this very blog I know a commenter was saying one of her elder friends down the street made sure everyone had fresh greens for dinner *every* night when she was coming up.

Now, not so much. The ag-industrial complex truly conspires against us, and also truly does not want us to be hip to it.

Rooo August 26, 2010 - 4:10 PM

“How deep does the feeling of inferiority get when it comes to what we put in our mouths to nourish our bodies and minds — we are what we eat…and look at the conditions of our communities, they certainly do reflect the results of what we consume…”

That’s …
a deep thought, Kristen.

Lyn December 20, 2010 - 2:05 PM

Its really funny, because when I was thin I was living in an all white community. But because of my muscles and butt I was percived as something other than thin. I have heard ‘white people food’ said before when talking about VEGETABLES! I have heard many a black person proudly proclaim they never eat veggies or fruit! ‘I didnt grow up eating that white people stuff’ they would say.

ChellBellz February 28, 2011 - 3:33 PM

One of my favorite articles.

Robyn Reyes February 28, 2011 - 6:55 PM

I think the point you missed here is that most white men like a woman to be as thin as possible. When they start preferring bigger women; white women will be bigger. Mothers tell their daughters about figures because they know they will not get a husband as quickly being big. Black mothers do not seem to care if their daughters get married. White men are obsessed with thinness in women. They dictate what white women look like. This is why many white men are so focused on asian women. White men will openly tell a woman that he will cheat on her if she gains weight. They are driven by men and not health. If they were that driven by health they would not be the biggest drinkers, smokers, tanners and recreational drug users. I also think most women who are obese would like to be thinner. I think it is a fallacy that black women want to be bigger. There are women who want big breasts and a big bottom; however, I have yet to hear a woman say she wanted a big gut and mounds of back fat. Most women want a more shapely physique. White women do not rush to get boob jobs because of health. I do not understand why people are so focused on other people’s weight. It should take a person 23 hours to control their weight and another hour to keep themselves from minding other people’s business. I think it makes certain types of people feel better about themselves if they can constantly beat up on others. This is becoming one more issue that will become a divide between black women. We already deal with the color issue, the hair issue, the man issue–and now the weight and fitness issue. White women and Latin women comport themselves so differently with each other. We can be a miserable group of women. Perhaps, this is also why our men choose others. There is just always some kind of finger pointing we have to direct at women who look like us. White and Latin women mind their own business and do not cause constant friction. Most intelligent people know what they should weigh and what they should eat. Many of us hate ourselves whether we weigh 120 or 320.

Erika Nicole Kendall February 28, 2011 - 7:17 PM

I didn’t miss that – I don’t personally feel like it matters in this context. The reality is that it doesn’t matter WHAT white women and girls are driven by…. there’s this misconception that says its okay to reject “white people stuff” when it comes to THIS, but we will embrace “white people stuff” in countless other ways. White men also like their women blonde, causing white women to bleach the hell out of their hair, too. We “embrace” that, don’t “we?”

I’ve said all over this site that women (black AND white) let men control far too much in regard to their bodies – and its a byproduct of patriarchy, no doubt – but here? I’m talking about a very specific element of this “phenomenon.”

Toni May 22, 2013 - 1:54 PM

Preach Robin. Preach.

So true.

Their men expect them to be as thin as possible but at the same time have big boobs which is usually not possible hence the race for boob jobs

Personally I care about my health cos of myself, has nothing to do with white woman this white women that. I cant relate to that at all.

Dr. MJS March 30, 2011 - 4:16 PM

I always thought our (black women’s) non-obsession with body image was a blessing and a curse. I’m 40+ so when I grew up the skinny models were all white and I didn’t identify with them; I identified with my beautiful and plump mother. So I didn’t have the self-esteem, self-hatred, eating disorders that white girls had. I think now there’s more pressure on black girls to look thin than there was when I was a kid, but it’s still harder for white girls I think.

So it’s a blessing that we don’t have the obsession, but a curse that our models often lead us to diabetes and heart disease.

But I don’t envy white girls and their sick obsessions either. I’m glad there’s a little less societal pressure on me to be rail thin.

Azalea K. July 18, 2011 - 1:35 PM

Idk why this reminds me of a convo I had with my friend yesterday. I work out “hard” (I’m African American) but I’m not small by “media” means I am a size 9 in juniors nowhere near skinny but my shape is nice. My friend is small size 3 and she told me how she wanted to be “thick with a booty”. It was funny to me because in my younger days I wanted to be skinny I mean really small I wanted to be “bone thin” I eventually grew out of it and accepted my body for what is but it was amazing to me to hear her say that. I feel like the way we feel about our bodies as black women is completely different from “white girls” lol. It’s all fine and dandy to be “thick with a booty” but work that thickness out and eat right. I work out hard and eat fairly well I’m still “thick” but I’m healthy that’s what’s most important. My thin friend does not workout at all and she smokes AND “wants to be thick with a booty” ??? Sometimes it just seems like us black women WANT to be thicker not “big” and on the brink of obesity just well proportioned. And some of us to not lose that thickness will continue to eat bad and not workout? Man. :/ This is so off the point but it just made me think.

Gizzle March 15, 2012 - 2:48 PM

My mom has told my sister and I that we’re getting “too thin” whenever we’ve been working out a lot. We’re already petite, but my sister goes hard in the gym (I try . . .). She probably hasn’t changed her weight in numbers, but she’s definitely firmer from working out. Moms has asked if either of us had an eating disorder before, SMH. I’ve found the “lead by example” is really the only way to communicate with people about these issues. Same as when I first went natural: I got all types of negative comments from my family. Now almost all the women in my immediate family are natural. You can’t be thin-skinned. You have to push past the negativity and the insults and know what you’re doing is GOOD FOR YOU, cause its not about living for someone else. I will say that my parents/family eat healthier than many other folks I’ve seen cause they’re from the country– meaning their pantry is STOCKED with foods they grew themselves in their garden. We always had greens planted along the side of the house, tomatoes on the deck etc. We’ve always had a garden and Pops cooked a home-cooked meal for us every weekday. Now the weekends was another story . . .

Bee April 29, 2012 - 7:51 PM

Ok hard for me to argue with anything you’ve stated. After reading your fascinating article, I did think of two additional “somewhat” related matters. 1) I think a lot of this clearly unhealthy thinking was accepted as ok b/c most Black men whom I’m assuming most Black women may have been trying to attract appeared to like at least a healthy-looking woman with curves as oppose to a thin/slinder type. 2) I also think some of this unhealthy acceptance by Black women has an even deeper cultural history than even what I’ve noted in my #1 rationaile….that being an ECONOMIC culturally learned behavior by our parents to “always eat ALL of that food on your plate” and not waste as “there are kids who are hungry somewhere.” At least that’s what my mama always drilled in our heads and you’re so right as “healthy eating” was NEVER a conversation in our home. With it being 7 of us, my reality was that I “should” eat ALL my food b/c in a week or so there may not be much food left (sadly I don’t think my family’s cultural thinking back in the 70’s were any different than most other Black families living in an urban neighborhood).

With that said, I completely understood everything you wrote and appreciate the underlining message that TODAY we must start living more healthier lives and s/b teaching our children that “eathing healthy” is NOT a white thing but a “healthy and smart choice” if WE (Blacks) ever want to conquer such diseases as: Diabeties, High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, Strokes etc. I made my “HEALTHY CHOICE” change a few years ago after the passing of a parent & sibling of which both were Diabetic and one also struggled on and off with weight issues. So thank you for this important and thought-provoking article.

allhoney April 29, 2012 - 9:37 PM

I’ve lived in Atlanta for the past 37 years and have been a member of Atlanta’s Africentric Conscious Cultural Community for almost that long, and the norm is to be some sort of vegetarian and to have natural hair. In that arena yoga or some sort of martial arts or African dance fine, but for years I would hear comments if I spoke about joining a gym or trying to lose some weight. And the commentary would be somewhere in the line of “white folks stuff”. The level of pathology we internalize and spew back at each other is beyond sad, because it stems from a Post Traumatic Slave Disorder hatred.

I’ve never, ever gotten my hair done every week. I could never afford that. The one time in my life when I could buy clothes the way I wanted I stopped myself when I had Evan Picone pumps in black, brown, grey, navy, and two colors of spectators plus black, brown, and burgundy flats. I’ve never been much for tons of makeup (although I love it, and will buy it-I just seldom get around to wearing it), and have always felt that good health was the way to achieve beauty. Now, I have challenges with my weight and always have. The last time I was “skinny” was in 1992 before my 18 year old son was conceived. I weighed 147 lbs on a 5’7″ inch frame. I gained 40 pounds during pregnancy and it’s been a battle since then. I do not feel attractive when I weigh more than I think I should, and I never have felt that hair make up and clothes can negate weighing 300 lbs. I don’t weigh that much; I am 205-215 these days, and will be happy to reach a fit 160-170 (I’ve grown quite fond of my new full breasts. I had what looked like empty socks with marbles in them the last time I was under 150), and am working with that end and normal blood pressure in mind. I do know that I will hear commentary about being too thin, not having a booty (I already hear that it is flat-only in Atlanta…), or whatever. But I don’t care. getting off of blood pressure meds and not having a belly that sits in my lap will be my reward. I don’t care what anyone else says.

Monica October 27, 2012 - 11:41 PM

I agree with this article. What’s funny is that I really didn’t start eating my veggies raw until I worked with white people in my early 20’s. I also learned it was better to eat raw vegetables. Now that I absolutely love raw vegetables when I am around black people, I hear the comments, it’s white people food. Also, I think deep down, any woman wants to be healthy and not overweight. I have always been slim but I have had my own weight battle and was able to lose the weight but it’s sad b/c where I live may African American women are overweight. They look at the slim person angry but don’t want the help from the slim person. They assume you are just skinny but I actually do work out. I try to eat healthy.

Rooo April 23, 2013 - 12:42 AM

This article


knocked me out on this topic. Wish I’d found it long before this.

Um Bilal July 28, 2013 - 10:00 PM

Your “editor’s remarks” on the Body Magic by Ardyss piece got me to come, but this entry got me to stay. Really insightful and I can’t wait to dig through your site some more…

That being said, I find it ironic that vegetables and fruit are considered “white people food”. I’m a convert to Islam and I’ve never seen people eat healthy, chock-full-of-vegetables like Kenyans, Somalians, Nigerians, Ethiopians and Palestinians (not black of course, but not really white in this sense either) eat at the mosque. Certainly not white people. Where do we think okra, greens, lentils, hummous, and all these other “white people foods” came from? These are our heritage!

Annette August 18, 2013 - 5:15 PM

Hmm as for being the only one who was fat of four girls I didn’t have the luxury of feeling fat was okay. I was always the one that my mother or father’s friends gave them grief for.. like what happen to her. It sickened me to hear them give excuses as to why I was so heavy.

I just loved hearing my father’s friends rate me like I was a heifer on the blocks for sale. I was constantly berated for my weight. My family had no idea how to help me get my weight under control. Since both grandmothers had health issues that started when they were younger they had their eye on me.

It was until High School that I worked on it myself figuring out what would work for me diet wise.

I feel we are in denial and hiding a whole lot of self hate, low self esteem, anger, rage even. We talk a good game but what is the real truth that we are hiding even from ourselves.

Joanna August 19, 2013 - 12:06 AM

I totally agree with Um Bilal! I’m assuming here that “white girl” food is salads, veggies, etc. and “black girl” food includes both processed “junk” foods and some home cooked foods like fried chicken (which wouldn’t be unhealthy but for the bleached white flour and refined oils it’s likely fried in). Anyway, it’s pretty ironic that processed foods and foods cooked at home with processed fats are considered appropriate “black girl” food since they were pretty much invented and brought to market by white men. :-/ I hate that in this country we have this mentality where we racially type things that have nothing to do with color. Good, real food is for everyone and nasty processed junk should be for no one.

Darrecia August 19, 2013 - 8:10 AM

So true! Even at my smallest, I received more compliments from other races whereas the sisters focused on my lack of weave. I was proud of my hard work and dedication, but some could only focus on my hair not being styled to their standards! Excellent post!

QueenTika August 21, 2013 - 12:31 PM

I am so excited to have ran into this blogsite. I just turned 30 am 5’5 247lbs and wear a 42j size bra. My initial reason for changing my eating habits was so i could have less hassle buying bras. My goal is to go into walmart or anystore and buy 6 CUTE bras without spending $68 for one. Now my motivation along with that is to be healthier, toned and more comfortable in my body literally! I have one son who is 2 years old and i want him to see healthy habits. I don’t mind the ridicule because i have been told all my life i was a white girl trapped in a Black girl body just because of the way i talk, dress and carry myself. Ladies keep the blogs coming it motivates me and makes me feel powerful as a woman to know that my sisters are in the fight with me!

Erika Nicole Kendall August 21, 2013 - 3:40 PM

“i have been told all my life i was a white girl trapped in a Black girl body just because of the way i talk, dress and carry myself.”

Well, lucky for you this blog is full of Black* girls in Black* girl’s bodies who love their Black* girl bodies….and looove learning about their Black* girl bodies…so welcome! 🙂

*Really, I’ve lost count of the ethnicities and nationalities that contribute here. We’re all multi-culti and whatnot, now. ROFL

Christina August 23, 2013 - 12:17 PM

First, let me say that I LOVE your blog and find it more helpful and relevant to MY experience with weight than any other I’ve come across.
That said; I’ve been mulling this comment over since your post last week
‘For goodness sakes, we’re still judging people by the shade of their skin. If that’s not painfully European, I don’t know what is.’
I feel like I have to address that comment. As a person of (mostly) European decent, I must disagree. I have heard far more comments about the color of a person’s skin coming from people of African decent than from white people, even taking into account several family members who tend to be quite racist.
In my experience, my black friends and acquaintances (& even people on the street) are far more likely to comment on skin color and to judge a person based on how light or dark skinned he or she is.
I also don’t feel that one race or the other is more attractive; as discussed in your post about Brandi (who I think is a beautiful woman – period. I was disgusted to hear that her mother taught her differently, ALL mothers should tell their baby girls how beautiful they are ALWAYS).
I wonder how often the racial issues we have in the US are more about what we think others think of us (or of what the collective ‘we’ thinks but projects onto others), and I wonder what would happen if we were just able to have honest dialogue.

I know that you mediate posts and understand completely if you choose not to post this, but I hope that you will consider my comments and point of view. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thank you so much for your blog! I’ve learned so much about eating properly and loving myself – two of several things that I didn’t learn from my family of origin.

Erika Nicole Kendall August 23, 2013 - 11:23 PM

“As a person of (mostly) European decent, I must disagree. I have heard far more comments about the color of a person’s skin coming from people of African decent than from white people, even taking into account several family members who tend to be quite racist.”

People always say things like this, as if to imply that racism started with and is perpetuated by the people who are largely the ones harmed by it. Like, come on.

What is the logic behind this argument, anyway? “See, look! It’s not all only Europeans!” or something? Is it “If Black people just stopped judging one another, whites would stop, too?” Like… I need to understand the end goal in order to fully grasp the point. If you think that it’s only Blacks who do the colorism thing, I’d have to interrogate that heavily.

Look at it this way – it’s no different than women who defend sexist behavior and in some cases praise it, even though it’s to their detriment; it’s no different than poor people in the Southeast who vote for public policy that is to their detriment; and yes, Blacks who defend and perpetuate racist behavior even when it’s to their detriment. It’s about more than “Oh, if those people would just be/think/do different, then everyone else would fall in line.” No, it’s never been that easy in the history of history… there’s nothing in the world that leads me to believe that that’s going to change anytime soon.

Janine September 14, 2013 - 10:27 PM

Plus, the reason that light skin is valued and darkness is critiqued is because of the systematic oppression and de-valuing of black people by the light people in power. (Colonialism, imperialism, racism, slavery). These values get culturally diffused in complex ways. So just because black people do it doesn’t mean it’s not racism or related to European oppression.

Andie February 17, 2014 - 1:04 PM

I just stumbled across this website today and I love it. As a white girl, I never realized it, but you’re right; my mother put a huge emphasis on my weight, but never taught me to eat right. In high school I was 5’10” and 133 pounds and lived off of Kit-Kats and Cherry Coke. She used to poke my stomach and tell me I was getting fat, even though I was on the verge of being underweight. Over a decade and 70 lbs later, I now understand what eating right means (although I still have an issue with follow through), and have made it a goal not to do the same things with my daughter.

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