On Blacks and Fat: Dr. Michelle Gourdine
This author says black women can embrace their curves as long as they know their health stats, too.
TR: If you could make just one suggestion for people to implement in their daily lives with respect to weight and health, what would it be?
MG: This one is really important to me. African-American women in general have a very accepting attitude about each other, and it's not dependent on size. In other words, we know we can be beautiful and we can be confident at any weight. But part of that self-acceptance and self-love means paying attention to your physical health.
There's a big difference between simply being curvy and being unhealthy. So the one suggestion I would make would be that, in addition to paying attention to the number on the scale, you pay attention to other numbers as well.
Just like you know your phone number and your Social Security number, you need to know your cholesterol, your blood sugar and your blood pressure and the size of your waist. These numbers, if they're off-kilter, are like a dashboard. They indicate that your arteries are clogging up, that you're not processing insulin properly, and that can mean you're teetering on the verge of diabetes, heart attack and stroke. So know your numbers so you can maintain a healthy weight and live a healthy life.
TR: Are there any other cultural, historical or psychological issues that you think make the black community's relationship with weight and health unique?
MG: In addition to our being more accepting of curves, which is something that's healthy, we tend to judge our weight in comparison to people who are our peers -- people who we're around at the job, in the neighborhood, et cetera. Black women might perceive themselves to be of normal weight because they might have friends or contemporaries or peers who are heavier than they are. But in fact, they're all obese.
Not to put too much emphasis on the weight number, but it's important to understand when you're moving toward that overweight and obese range. When the doctor measures your weight and tells you you're in that zone where you're headed toward overweight or obesity, pay attention to that. Don't harp on the number, but make sure you get the other information you need to make sure you're maintaining good health overall.
Jenée Desmond-Harris is The Root's staff writer.