From Frugivore — Popular stereotypes of healthy and fit include: white, upper to middle class, and moderately thin. When you think of the word vegetarian, almost certainly a non-person-of-color comes to mind. If you imagine a yoga class, your imagination likely populates with a room of thin, fit white women. While fitness visionaries, such as Dr. Ian Smith, Billy Blanks, and Jeanette Jenkins, have revolutionized the face of the fitness industry through representing the black community, the rest of our race has yet to push aside the soul food and take control of our health. The beautiful family pictured to the right is a rarity.

Why does black continue to represent an antonym for healthy? The answer is complicated, ranging from our cultural relationship with food to our continued struggle with preventable diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Focusing on food, why aren’t more fresh vegetables, fruits, and healthy cuisines included in black cultural traditions? Arguably, the black community’s intricate relationship with soul food dates back to slavery and limited access to fresh food. While the racial climate has progressed, low-income communities primarily populated with black people still lack fresh food resources and encourage dependence on processed foods. It is no wonder that the vast majority of African-Americans are overweight and struggling with their health. Convenience kills. If fried-everything is around the corner and fresh food is ten bus stops away, expediency trumps doing the right thing.

When unhealthy habits become embedded in culture, it perpetuates unhealthy behavior. Not only is it common for African-Americans to indulge in unhealthy food, but also eating healthy has become somewhat a cultural anomaly. Other than First Lady Michelle Obama’s mainstream push to get America to “move” and adopt a healthier lifestyle, how common is health advocacy within the black community? It’s not enough to state the dire statistics. What about encouraging individual action? Is it safe for each of us to tell our grandparents, parents, siblings, and children that we will not have fried chicken for dinner? Can we cook a meal of primarily vegetables without being labeled a health nut or accused of acting white?


(Continue Reading @ Frugivore…)

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  • whilome

    I get it: blogs need hot button topics to get folks a-clickin’ in either righteous indignation or to co-sign on some revealed truth, but seriously! Is Black an Antonym for Healthy is a header that is killing me. Killing me more than the occasional indulgence in Soul food and high sodium snacks I nosh on. Killing me more than my monogamous sex with a man who adores me. Killing me more than the 3 to 6 miles I run on a daily basis. Killing me more than my low cholesterol level and clean work-up at the physician’s office.

    There are WAY too many of us healthy, conscious, educated Black folk for articles to keep lumping us in with every scourge, condition, or epidemic our people are implicated in. We are not, as a race, a vector of vice and disease. Ask yourselves who does it serve to keep trying to convince us that we are?

    • PGS

      that’s where there is a question mark after the title…

      it’s not a statement, it’s a question. and by judging from the remarks…it’s a valid one.

      it could also say, “Is America an antonym of healthy?”…same issue, but this site is for/about black folks, so…

  • Vegan Girl

    Black is a synonym for healthy, if you are no longer eating slave food. Decolonize your diet, ladies! What did your ancestors eat? Surely not post-industrial soul food. Check out Breeze Harper’s Sistah Vegan project for more on the topic.

  • This “acting white” statement is a coping mechanism for those who worry that they’re not measuring up. If I can hurt you first, you’ll be so focused on your pain that you don’t see I’m hurting because of your success, your ability to try something different, your willingness to strive for more, etc… It’s really past time we cut it out because it’s holding us back as a people.

    As for the topic of eating healthy. Being a vegetarian doesn’t necessarily equate to health, if you don’t know how to do it correctly. There are plenty of non-meat items that can make you fat and unhealthy if you don’t prepare them correctly. Also, remember that carbs fall under a vegetarian diet. This is not to attack vegetarians. Simply stating that this doesn’t have to be the be-all and end-all of healthy living.

    Saying all this, I am a quasi-vegetarian (or better yet, a Pescetarians) for two simple reasons: 1. I prefer the taste of fish and other seafood; and 2. I’m too lazy to cook meat. Growing up, fish was reserved for Good Friday. But what should have been healthy was strip of its benefits because of how it was prepared – fried instead of grilled or baked.

    It wasn’t until I left home that I understood that you can measure a food’s level of healthiness by how it is prepared. I also learned just how much little changes to the diet can make a big difference to one’s health. I’m Caribbean so rice and beans was a staple in our household – it was eaten a minimum of three times a week. Rice and beans can be a very healthy option, but not when it’s (a) piled up on your place; and (b) when it’s white rice. Changing from white to brown for even one of those meals during the week would have significantly decreased our chances of so many health issues – hello diabetes!

    For many in our community (and I personally can speak for my family) the assumption is that healthy equals flavorless. Our taste buds (I completely understand this as it relates to white vs. brown rice) are accustomed to certain flavors and we think that as soon as we change the way we prepare a dish or substitute an ingredient, we’ve lost the essence of it. The reality is that doesn’t have to be the case. Sometimes changes that are made can enhance rather than diminish taste. There’s also the chance that you won’t even notice the difference. For those times that you do, you’ll just have to train your taste buds to get used to the subtle changes.

    Whatever the solutions we encourage in our community, we must remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Celebrate those small changes that our families and friends are making so they’re not left feeling that this is an impossible task.

    P.S. This is also not a black phenomenon…although for the purpose of this audience that’s our focus. I recently attended a health symposium in Vancouver, BC where the focus was on the diet of the Native American people of the area. A lot of the work that was being done had to happen from a place of cultural sensitivity. As is the case with the black community, the Native American diet is as much a source of emotionally connecting with one’s people as it is to feed one’s hungry stomach.

    • WoW

      I applaud this well articulated statement. Thank you.