When Amani Terrell walked the streets of Hollywood Boulevard earlier this week, she was trying to prove a point: Bodies come in all sizes and should be celebrated.
Rocking a blue-striped string bikini, the 20-year-old, 260-pound woman strutted down the street spreading messages of self-love. She told Good Day LA:
“All you see are thin women. I came up with this idea because I live in Hollywood and there’s this mass hysteria about perfection—especially in this town. It’s a misconception that big women have low self-esteem. I don’t have low self-esteem.”
Despite her intent, the reactions to her were good, bad and ugly.
Some praised Terrell, calling her brave and courageous, while others called her classless and labeled what she did a publicity stunt. And then other folks have been downright cruel.
And it’s this type of cruelty that is all too common for obese folks. (Just ask Gabourey Sidibe and the Twitter battle about her Golden Globes dress.) Which is why messages of self-love are so important in a world that goes out of its way to devalue you.
But in these celebrations of all body types, no one wants to mention the obvious: Obesity is still not a good thing.
In certain circles, pointing out the science on obesity is looked at as “fat shaming.” Part of this is because we have allowed for pop culture to guide the conversation on obesity and body image in this country. Not to mention, we have allowed for our culture of loving “thick bodies” and curves to jade us from the truth.
Now no one is saying that you have to look like Beyoncé. But obesity isn’t about the aesthetics, it’s about our health.
And ladies, let me be real: Our health is failing us.
Almost two-thirds of all African-American women in the U.S. are overweight or obese, according to the Office of Minority Health. And these stats are problematic given how many poor health outcomes—such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and strokes—are linked to extra pounds. A 2013 study found that Black women had the highest risk of dying form obesity: One in four obese Black women will die from an obesity-related disease.
And so as we continue to walk this tricky line of doing something as revolutionary as loving ourselves, it’s equally as revolutionary to put our physical health first and make lifestyle changes. Even Terrell herself admitted that she needs to lose weight.
Is it easy? No. We face plenty of barriers in the battle of the bulge—poverty, food deserts, living in unsafe areas to exercise outside, racism, sexism, our hair and even genetics—but it’s not impossible. And if we really love ourselves like we say we do, we have to at least try to do better.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: My Fox LA)