Tag Archives: Race

Race and Weight: Is Self-Esteem Better for Your Health than Weight Loss?

Black women in the U.S. are happier with their appearance than white women even though they are fatter, according to an article in the Washington Post by Lonnae O’Neal Parker. The article suggests that because most glamorous female images in the media are of white women, the images have less of an impact on black women. For once blacks benefit from being excluded.

Also, cultural beauty standards differ, as the article notes; black women and men don’t seem to buy that “you can never be too thin.”

(Ironically, this may help African-Americans lose weight: for what it’s worth, the monitor at my gym that alternates in-house ads with health-related factoids reports that people with better body images have more success shedding pounds.)

Black women value their health highly, according to a survey by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation (90% of black women consider a healthy lifestyle “very important,” compared to 78% of white women). How they have evaded our society’s current obsession with the link between fat and chronic disease I don’t know, but they have simultaneously evaded the corrosive low self-esteem that tends to plague white women — 67% of black women surveyed agree strongly that they see themselves as having high self-esteem, compared to 43% of white women.

High self-esteem correlates with good health, and low self-esteem with poor health, according to the MacArthur Foundation and others.

The data on whether it is better to be fat and confident or thin and insecure seems to be conflicting. Which would you rather be? Please pipe up by submitting a comment — and if you don’t mind, include your race & sex. Thanks!


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