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We talk so much about overweight Black women—from “concerned” discussions of studies that reveal troubling rates of obesity in sisters, to snarky comments about how fat Black women should stop thinking they’re “cute” and focus on getting fit (’cause, you know, you can’t possibly find yourself attractive and work on your health at the same time).
What we rarely hear about, though, is how 70% of Black men, age 20 or over, are currently overweight. When it comes to high blood pressure, men have the ladies outnumbered; 26% of Black men are sufferers, in comparison to 23% of Black women. Type 2 diabetes? More Black men are being diagnosed with the disease and, unsurprisingly, 30% more Black men are succumbing to diabetes than women.
If “Black America” is facing such a serious health crisis, why isn’t the public fully informed? We see messages that tell Black women that one in four of us over the age of 55 has type 2 diabetes, and documentaries tell us how half of all Black children born today are bound to develop diabetes in their lifetimes, but what about men?
When Big Pun died of a heart attack in 2000, we kept our mouths shut. We didn’t tell men the alarmist’s trope: it could be you. When Fat Joe lost 100lbs and specifically mentioned his boy as a part of his motivation, we nodded, smiled, but we didn’t press anyone on it. We didn’t rub that in anyone’s faces and say “Look, you can do it!, too” When legendary Power 106 DJ Kurt “Big Boy” Alexander penned his weight loss memoir An XL Life: Staying Big At Half the Size, about his journey with his weight loss surgery, we didn’t hand copies of his book to the men in our lives en masse, hoping they’d take the hint.
Yet, the Internet is full of woman-bashing, fat-shaming and general-purpose hatred admonishing Black women for their size…
Even fat men ridicule fat women and this is a shame. We’re all in danger.
Kind of OT but I cram to understand why women are put down or expected to look a certain way when men seem to find it acceptable to look unkempt.
Whew, that was a throwback. Peace to MC Lyte. LOL
That’s a damn good question! I can’t remember the last video that I saw, but none of the men were overweight, all had 6 packs. Rick Ross is very big, but like my son says..if your’re a big man you HAVE to have style. So I guess if you’re a man rockin a size XXXXXX as long as its fly..its all good. Sad, but that doesn’t work with women, you can SANG but if you’re big society tends to give you the side eye
Oh no nooo, Christine! 6X??!!! WTHeck?! JMO, but there is no such thing as fat fly – Male or female. Even when I was carrying my 100+ pounds (down 62 pounds yay me!), I did not find that attractive. A fella doesn’t have to have bulging muscles, etc, but for real, fella can’t have “stuff” hanging off and around. I’ve seen enough hairy breasts strolling around Brooklyn …. uh … no. Or the belly button that my entire forefinger could fit in. The only reason why it’s acceptable is because women accept it. I’m getting fit and I expect my fella to be man and take responsibility for his health, just like I must take responsibility. And that includes those choppers. No hijacked dentures ….. no. Oh no. There is not enough money, status, or personality …. no. I have a thing about teeth. Anyway, like I said before, he doesn’t have to be Sir Buff, but pull yourself together man! Let us show some restraint! I no longer look like a little brown russet potato so it can be done. Let’s go walking instead of sitting around snacking so you can keep up with me! HA!
“there is no such thing as fat fly”
Pfft. Maybe not for YOU, but some of us were well-dressed and appropriate.
You can be “fly” at any size – society doesn’t determine whether or not you’re “fly.” YOU do. Stop perpetuating devaluing beliefs. Y’all give society WAY too much power sometimes. Dang.
Being fat is not healthy and that shouldn’t be regarded to as “fly”. We already have a short enough life, why do people have to promotote fat sexiness when its clearly more then just a media issue. We are not meant to be 5’9 and 230 pounds of mostly fat….not cool.its easy and makes people feel good…well let’s all do drugs and drink all day too. Being fat or obese should never be glorified, period
“Being fat is not healthy”
No – being unhealthy is not healthy. And, as according to mountains of data that doesn’t get anywhere near as much press as the “OMG EVERYTHING FAT IS BAD” stuff, being fat doesn’t automatically translate to being unhealthy.
“Being fat is not healthy and that shouldn’t be regarded to as “fly”.”
So a person should think the worst of themselves until they’re skinny? Or, should they love themselves, take their time with their weight loss journey so that their success will be PERMANENT, and think highly of themselves and their efforts? The ultimate [wellness] goal in life should be to set your own standards for health and well being, work to meet your own standards, and be proud of yourself. Not shame yourself into silence and submission. Get real.
“We are not meant to be 5’9 and 230 pounds of mostly fat”
I can agree with this and simultaneously say that I’m not going to shame that 5’9″, 230lb person into doing what EYE want them to do, either. Nor do I have to. I can simply support them on their endeavors when THEY are ready to achieve it for themselves.
“its easy and makes people feel good…well let’s all do drugs and drink all day too.”
Drugs are illegal – being fat is not. Alcohol in excess is a byproduct of addiction, without a doubt. The same cannot be said for “being fat.”
“Being fat or obese should never be glorified, period”
We’re not glorifying ANYTHING, for that matter. We’re simply saying that shame needs to be removed from the equation and replaced with love, support, encouragement. Not assholishness and disrespect. ESPECIALLY when the tables are NEVER turned on black men, ALWAYS only black women. Nah – either EVERYBODY deserves this judgment, or NOBODY deserves it.
I think it’s broken down here
” Keep it 100: this was never about “our health.” It was about continuing the legacy of telling women what to do with their bodies. It went on unchallenged for so long, because there were actual statistics to back it up, that it literally felt like justified fat-shaming.
and then also here
“Let me be clear. The challenges that have presented us with a health crisis in the inner city—limited access to quality food, limited health care, minimal knowledge of what to do with healthy foods, poverty—have plagued the Black community in immeasurable ways. For crying out loud, the entire country is struggling with any number of ills as well as an increase in the rates of obesity. Not only did we not see this coming, we clearly had – and still have – no answers.”
I mean … there’s also all the justifyin’ about “He have to be big … he’s a DEFENSIVE BACK” and all that. And there’s also the general cultural “men are let off the hook for ‘sins’ women are hung for” thing and the whole wrapping up of the critique of women’s bodies in their “status” as sexual objects.
But I think all that’s part of a piece.
” Keep it 100: this was never about “our health.” It was about continuing the legacy of telling women what to do with their bodies. It went on unchallenged for so long, because there were actual statistics to back it up, that it literally felt like justified fat-shaming.”
*waves church fan*
Me, I get jealous too easily, couldn’t deal with a man who has bigger breasts than mine. You know how it is in this society–woman get old and men age gracefully. But the tide is turning, and men are now finding out their being male is not enough to secure, “the prize.” I would like to know that someone has interests in their life, other than eating and drinking.
Tell it. And they’re usually hairy. Imma get censured probably but I’ve got to say it: can you imagine a man’s response if a woman got fat enough to have a third appendage? Nowaumsayin? He would lose it! It’s the same principle here. We should all strive to be healthy for health’s sake alone.
Unhealthy is not equal to fat!
Healthy is not thin
Some of your comments border on disturbing, I hope you can take a pause and see how.
I am sure when most men make disparaging remarks towards women it has not a damn thing to do with health. They comment as if they are entitled to do so. What is interesting is when they get that behavior back–they remain incredulous–now that is disturbing.
You nailed it: it’s not about health, it’s about aesthetics. Most of the men I meet have terrible eating habits and they don’t work out consistently. Great piece!
I think it’s amazing how totally acceptable it is for any man to be overweight. Actually they are praised for being overweight and having a thin or gorgeous woman on their arm. Other men find that aspiring. Funny how you never see the opposite.
In my opinion, it’s part of society’s distain for black woman in general. We are either 2 loud, bossy, outspoken, independent, fat, fake, 2 real or whatever they deem us on any given Sunday. But men in general, be it black or white seen to have a whole other set of standards, rules and accountability.
Great article…and really I think we let men have a pass when it comes to looks. Truth be told, I think part of the reason that women have been such a target is because as women our looks are usually the most closely scrutinized, and as a result our health becomes an issue too.
I almost want to say that, for men, it’s expected that as they get to be a certain age that it’s expected for them to be big. And you won’t hear most women talking about a man’s health…I mean hell, look at Rick Ross – he can walk around shirtless and women still think he is sexy. *gag* No one is asking our men about their health, because no one minds that our men are sorely out of shape.
That’s because for a lot of women any man is better than none. We still have not learned how to be without one. How sad! Things that we would not accept from ourselves, we accept from our male counterparts, without question.
Even though Black men are the victims of racism, they still actively participate in and benefit from sexism. The sad part is, so few of them ever realize this fact.
it’s a shame that society is so sexist that men can walk around doing their own thing and no one bats an eye at them in criticism. at the same time, it is not all on the black women to get these men into shape. yes, we can help them and try to see that they go in the right direction, but at the same time it ultimately depends on them. one thing i have learned throughout the process is that your mind has to make changes to fit your lifestyle. if a man cannot come to the conclusion that he is alarmingly unhealthy and not willing to make a change for himself, no one can force him. it starts within first, and a lot of these men are either just to stubborn and hardheaded to get their health in order.
Sing it, Kendall.
And will drop you after they have the nerve to call you a “fitness buff”, just because you’re trying to get your workout on … even though you have heard them talk like dogs about the ladies who are not yet in the best shape.
The last time it happened to me – and trust that it will be the last time it happens to me, LOLsideeye – I thought “You have yet to see ‘fitness buff’. Some of those fools who teach me Pilates, with their surfing and their aerial acrobatics … boy, you haven’t even begun to see a fitness buff.” How are you going to talk about a sister when she doesn’t have time to get to the gym, then talk about her worse when she is trying to get her workout on not only to get some muscle and flat abs but also to deal with the stress of your clearly trifling behind??
/still mad, clearly
personally, I don’t talk about fat men, cos well..
I don’t talk about fat grown people in that way.
And quite frankly, I’m exhausted of defending or teaching people stuff for free.
Erika you are doing great work highlighting biases with regards to health, food and fitness.. well done.
If you want to start helping the overweight and/or unhealthy men in your lives, look for these two documentaries: “The Last Heart Attack,” and “Escape Fire.” The former can be found on youtube and was a CNN special report. The tests that are shown should be asked for to ensure that your doctor is up to snuff. The second is on netflix.
I’m not going to lie, I think women and men are half the reason we always talk about women. My husband doesn’t care about his weight, he doesn’t care about what he eats, he doesn’t care about how he feels and he really doesn’t care to go to the doctor. Do you know how often he finds himself googling “weight loss”, “diet”, and “clean eating”?
He’s not alone in not caring. Most of his friends are the exact same way. One of his single friends had an infected spider bite on the underside of his arm that was getting progressively bigger and more disgusting for three months. He said he would clear up eventually and he didn’t need to go to the doctor. Not a single male disagreed with him. Eventually he passed out and then the guys got worried but that’s OT.
My point is, women care more about our health and our bodies so we’re more likely to change. Once we change it facilitates change in the men. The hubby has lost seven pounds since I started the clean eating boot camp (two weeks ago, btw). He didn’t lose it because he cared, he lost it because when I started putting new food on the table and giving him vegetable snacks his exact response was, “Did I eat all the chips?” as he picked up a carrot stick and felt absolutely no cares.
Honestly though, talk to married men about how often they go to the doctor and see how many of them only go when their wife schedules an appointment. If someone doesn’t care enough to see a doctor when they’re ill, how could you expect them to care enough to make intentional minor changes to their diet?
Oh, also, I’m recruiting his best friend (ex Marine, does not like being pudgy) to help me get the hubby to the gym.
First, congratulations on sneakily converting the family to clean eating!
“My point is, women care more about our health and our bodies so we’re more likely to change. ”
This, here, is like selling me a board game without the pieces. You’re missing an integral part of the discussion.
Nothing you’re saying here is negating what I’ve written. There’s a REASON why both men and women can feel comfortable disrespecting women and shaming them for their size and their health. There’s a REASON why “type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease” and only such major problems when it comes to women, especially when men are outpacing women in both the development of and death from those diseases. There’s a REASON why a community that has every reason to be concerned is only concerned when it comes to women, and the people raised by women.
To try to explain that away without including that REASON…to try to talk around that REASON… is to basically try to defend and protect a system that says its okay to shame women and excuse men for the same behavior. I’m not interested in that.
Men of all races and communities have been in positions of power since the beginning of time. Women have been objectified since the beginning of time. The conversation hasn’t been shifted towards men because our community doesn’t measure men’s value by their physical appearance they way they value women. It’s not just the black community. Look at any tv show or movie – the women actresses are nearly always attractive, yet there are plenty of unattractive actors. No one bats an eye at seeing an unattractive actor as a love interest for an attractive woman.
Thank You. This is so on point. Discussions of weight are always focused on women.
The black men who tell women what they need to do with their bodies typically are not black men with nice physiques (which there are many) just as many white men have nice physiques too, but instead it is usually black men who are some freaking out shape piglets instead of the many in shape black men. There are many in shape black men but the ones who most tell women what to do with their bodies are usually piggie, piggie and out of shape and the woman they are telling it to is usually not interested in that man in the first place. Here is what many men dont get: If a woman is not interested in you, then that woman probably does not care what you like in women.
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