Are “Fat” Black Women Really Unhealthy, or Do They Just Not Fit The Standard (read: White) Beauty Ideal?

Every other week, a new report is released purporting to reveal how black women are happier and higher self-esteem than non-black women. While there is nothing negative about having a healthy body image and healthy levels of self-esteem, one has to wonder how and why black women have a healthier self-image of their bodies than do non-black women, yet black women suffer from higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease–among other ailments–that are linked to obesity. Do the scientists know how to properly measure black female self-esteem and to determine what a healthy weight is for a black woman?

According to a study published in the research journal Obesity, on January 6th, 2011, black women can have a higher BMI [Body Mass Index] than white women, and yet not be deemed to have a medically unhealthy weight.

A recent study reveals African American women can weigh significantly more than white women and still be healthy. By examining two standards of measurement — BMI (body mass index) and WC (waist circumference) — researchers found that while white women with a BMI of 30 or more and a WC of 36 inches or more were at greater risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, black women with those same numbers were considered medically healthy. In fact, African American women’s risk factors did not increase until they reached a BMI of 33 or more and a WC of 38 inches or more.

Assuming that the results of this study are sound, this could mean a few things. Number one, there are many more black women who fall into the category of having a BMI of 33 or over than white women, which thus explains why black women suffer from higher rates of diabetes. This could also mean that black women have significant non-weight related factors–such as poor eating habits, high stress levels, and less exercise–that are contributing to their rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.