It’s a difficult line for all of us, encouraging (and embracing!) body positivity while also recognizing the importance of being fit. Michelle Gibson, the woman profiled in Parker’s article, is a wonderful example of someone walking this line skillfully. The 41-year old size-14 fitness instructor says that instead of fixating on weight, she focuses on being fit and healthy.
“Do you,” Gibson says, “and be okay with me being me. I can never be mad at this thin person. I say, ‘You’re sexy, you’ve got it going on. But don’t think for one minute that I don’t feel the same about myself.’ ”
Which … awww. I love her. (And that’s exactly what Briana here keeps saying).
But while recognizing that a range of body types can be healthy and attractive is so so so good, the ugly side of body positivity is its potential to normalize unhealthy attitudes or behaviors. As the average American body weight continues to creep up, our collective assumptions about “normal” body weight also change. To some degree, that’s a good thing. But weight, diet and health can’t be completely delinked.
Black women have higher rates of obesity than white women (43% versus 25% in 2009). And though so many ranked fitness as important, two-thirds said they eat at fast-food restaurants at least once a week, and only half cook dinner at home regularly.
If anything, though, I think this points to the importance of emphasizing nutrition—and changing the way we all consume and think about food—in the so-called War on Obesity. Fat-shaming doesn’t work (and we’re glad, of course). Changing habits does. Meanwhile, recognizing that no matter how much someone works out or how healthfully they eat, they may never be a size 2 (or 4, or 10…)—and that’s okay, they can still be beautiful/healthy/confident—is also a step in the right direction, and black women seem to be leading the way.