Black women’s appreciation of their curves is hugely bolstered by many black men’s frank admiration of “thick” women. In a recent Sports Illustrated article on offensive linemen — illustrated with photos of eight massive black players — a coach said such athletes’ power comes from their “hips and ass — that’s where your biggest muscles are.”
I couldn’t help think, “And many sisters’ biggest source of sex appeal to black men.”
But the focus, Tatum insists, should be less on what’s attractive and more on what’s life-extending.
Too much weight, too little exercise
Embracing your full hips and thighs needn’t mean ignoring Centers for Disease Control reports that more than 40 percent of black women older than 20 have hypertension, or that black women are twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and are more likely to die from stroke, heart disease and other maladies linked to being overweight and not exercising enough.
“Thirty minutes a day of exercise will address many of those things,” says Tatum, who attacks her treadmill’s “hill burn” program daily. “Being sedentary is as damaging to health as being a smoker.” A National Institutes of Health study that found that by age 17, most black girls reported no leisure time physical activity.
Life coach Lynn Johnson of Silver Spring, a “legacy” Spelman grad whose forebears have attended the college for a century, cites overweight clients who learned from their mothers and grandmothers to “take care of everything for others while stuffing down their feelings.”
Many such women “eat because they’re holding in their emotions, overcompensating for feelings of worthlessness fostered by denigrating images or how they’re treated in relationships,” she says.
In the past year, Kennedy Center employee Monica Reeder has lost 120 pounds under a doctor-supervised diet. As a child, the D.C. native hid her shame for being physically abused by a family friend while she was acting as caretaker for her depressed single mother, who “went to work, came home and went right to bed,” Reeder recalls. “I had dinner ready for her, delivered it to her bedroom, got the dishes afterward.”
Her mother was “too shut down” to talk, so she became silent, too. “We learn when taking care of others not to express a need for anything,” she explains. “Food was what I had.”
Reeder hadn’t been to a doctor in 20 years before visiting Sakiliba Mines, a Washington holistic physician — and Spelman grad — who’s supervising her weight loss.
With 80 more pounds to lose before hitting her goal weight, she feels “very blessed” to have avoided high blood pressure, diabetes and any other chronic illness.