In the “tell me what I’m pretty sure I already know,” department, a recent study performed by the University of Alabama has found that obese black women have it way better than their white counterparts.

The Huffington Post reports:

[The researchers] analyzed data between 2000 and 2010 and found that most obese women are dissatisfied with their quality of life when compared to women of “normal” weight, but black women report a higher quality of life than white women of the same weight. (Quality of life measures included physical function, self-esteem, sexual life, public distress and work.) Self-esteem also ranked particularly high among black women.

Have you ever noticed that whenever science analyzes society and “discovers” that black women have higher self-esteem than white women, it’s always treated like some type of malady? As if there must be some dysfunction within us that causes us to have higher self-esteem, not one in white women that causes them to have lower self-esteem than we do? There’s more.

The study, published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, also found that black women appear to be more concerned about the physical limitations resulting from obesity, than by the potential mental and emotional consequences of being overweight or obese.

This finding sounds so functional that it makes me proud. You mean to say that black women are more concerned about the brass tacks consequences of obesity than about feeling however society has shamed them into feeling about their bodies? That a black woman who is obese and working on herself visualizes, for example, a lack of knee pain or lower cholesterol, while white women are more like to use not feeling sad and ugly as motivation? Interesting.

With nearly 80 percent of black women over the age of 20 weighing in over their recommended BMI, Cox fears that the idea of experiencing a high quality of life despite having a high BMI may dampen motivation for attempting weight loss. 

We can do the whole “why do black women have higher rates of obesity,” dance every time a relevant study comes out, but it’s pretty unproductive. As much as it is important for science to gain a thorough understanding of people whose concerns are not necessarily represented in the mainstream, watching black women be framed as “the other,” doesn’t seem to be helping matters much either. It seems to me that the medical community’s approach to fighting obesity in America isn’t working, not just its approach to fighting obesity among black women. Every demographic group in our country is dangerously overweight and I’d love to see more solutions for that widespread problem; even if black women were “normal” in this regard, we’d still have a lot of work to do.

What do you think? Do these findings sound right to you? Furthermore, could high self-esteem be at the root of black female obesity?


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