Black women and weight: Relocating to the South helped one woman change her self-image and accept her body
From Clutch Magazine: For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with my weight. I’ve never stepped over to the extreme side and become the girl who only ordered salad with light dressing while dining out or the annoying friend who asked if she looked fat every five minutes. I did, however, become the girl who experienced a bit of anxiety whenever my favorite pair of jeans seemed to be a little snug or, God forbid, I’d move up a size or two.
A few months ago, I relocated to New Orleans from Washington, D.C., and the good time I’ve had enjoying all my new food choices grows increasingly evident as my waistline spreads. But, who can say no to late-night runs to Café Du Monde for beignets or the occasional over indulgence in healthy portions of crawfish etouffee and po’ boy sandwiches? Oddly enough, though, my weight gain hasn’t bothered me as much it may have in the past.
I was completely devastated the first time I reached a double-digit dress size. It was the second semester of my freshman year in college, and I was a daunting size 10. Although I went to a historically black university where thicker girls were accepted and embraced, I personally didn’t feel content with how I looked and exercised to shed the pounds. Standing at a petite 5’1, I thought a smaller size better complemented my stature.
Fast-forward seven years later, and my views regarding weight are much more relaxed. I’m positive being immersed in Southern culture has influenced this change. Here, women with more hips, thicker thighs, and fuller bottoms constantly surround me and are praised for their curvaceous frames. At times, I have felt inferior and pressured to pick up a few pounds to attain a more voluptuous body and be seen as “desirable.” This has prompted me to kindly embrace my new-found extra padding and ponder just how much size, big or small, affects my self-esteem.
My best friend, Rachel, felt the same as I do now when her weight became a big issue in her dating life. “I’m now struggling to accept my physical appearance. Now that I’m skinny, I feel inadequate and insecure about my weight. I feel like I have to eat everything in sight to restore my previous weight, but I’m basically binge eating,” she explained. “I want to feel confident again no matter my weight. I also don’t want to attract men who only end up liking me for my size.”
Of course, health should be at the forefront of any conversation on weight standards, but how others perceive me and my level of attractiveness also plays a dominant role. As a 25-year-old, thoughts of marriage and appealing to a possible suitor are on the horizon. I want to be healthy, pleased with my own image, and able to turn heads of the opposite sex.
“I’d like to think of myself as an equal opportunist. I’ve always preferred conversation more than curves. But I do think the fact that I’m from the South allows me to appreciate a woman with a little meat on her bones to a higher degree,” said my close guy friend Allen. “I can have and have had fun with the 4s as well as the 14s, but given prior experiences, and as I think back, I’m probably more prone to lean toward the women who are size 14.”
My size is a big part of my life. It always has been and I’m sure it will continue to be so. My current goal is to ensure that my obsession doesn’t turn into obesity as I find a happy medium between health and accepting my God-given curves.