Researchers found about two of every five African-American women said they avoid exercise because of concerns about their hair, and researchers say that is concerning given the United States’ obesity epidemic.
Exercise, exercise, exercise is all you hear directed at black women these days in response to a slew of reports pointing out the obesity epidemic plaguing our demographic. But now all of a sudden, a pair of British researchers have published a paper in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent saying black girls and women don’t benefit from working out as much as white ones do.
In another study it is stated, “No population in the United States has a higher obesity rate than African American Women, four out of five of who are overweight or obese, according to a 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
So what do we make of this? Do we discuss what compels so many women to prioritize their hair over physical fitness? Do we discuss corporate American culture that says you have to look like a wh– er, something you’re not, in order to succeed? Do we discuss media standards and fashion industries that imply that looking the way we do is unacceptable, and we must change? Does anyone in the media ever feel complicit in contributing to an environment where women sacrifice their health for vanity’s sake? Does anyone ever express any guilt? Shame?
There seems to be an extreme with black women and exercise. Either we’re super fit or we’re… well nothing. No real in between.
I have tried to defend the notion several times thinking, “Maybe these women are working out at home” or “Maybe it’s unreasonably expensive and time consuming”. Maybe that’s the reason I don’t see many of us at the gym or jogging in the streets. Maybe that’s why we see more men training with female personal trainers than black women? Just a thought.
But I feel the major reason is mostly because of our most prized asset that we spend the majority of our money on. You guessed it, our hair! Most of us prefer not to be seen with our hair not “done”.
Lots of women confide in me, telling me how they want to start a routine BUT have a list of excuses that stop them from making the time or effort to start and so there is still a huge majority of black women who don’t exercise at all.
When I asked them why, the top reasons listed were: I don’t like exercise, and I don’t like sweating; it ruins my hair; my man doesn’t want me to get too muscular; I don’t have the money or I only want to train certain areas; I don’t want to lose my butt.
There were also quite a few who felt they don’t need to exercise because they “looked fit” already! They have what I call the “I’m already thick fine syndrome”
At the end of the day, whatever the reasons are, the question is, what do we do to change the mindset of a growing obesity problem among Black women? How do we get through to the growing problem the food industry creates and even the time challenges facing many single parent homes?
There are no quick answers. There is no one size fits all; but it is my hope to do my part, daily, weekly, monthly to not only set the example, but help educate my beautiful Black sisters on the many benefits and facts surrounding their health and being physically fit. I don’t know what we can do about that hair challenge but if I find a way to answer that part of the dilemma I am more than sure I will have a multibillion-dollar idea to market and save the day!