For as long as the word “mammy” has existed, there’s been a stereotypical image of Black women that has held the national imagination. It says that we are fat and lazy and love to cook greasy, fatty, bad-for-you foods. That idea wasn’t helped along by the other popular notion, that Black women don’t exercise because we don’t want to mess up our hair and if given the choice between a healthy lifestyle or a bouncy ‘do, we’re choosing a frizz-free look every time.
Although this is what conventional thinking will have you believe, what is actually happening is a lot more promising. Yes, Black women are disproportionately affected by obesity and diabetes and other lifestyle-related illnesses. However, we are also on a collective health kick that includes exercising (and even creating headbands that will keep our hair intact, thank you very much Nicole Ari Parker), juicing, meditating, walking and enlisting our friends or starting organizations, like Black Girls Run, to make fitness a group activity.
The results are all around us. Instagram is full of Black women tweeting photos of themselves at the gym, Facebook feeds detail cleanse regimens and anyone logging on to Twitter around 6 a.m. will see many tweets from Black women who are using social media to whine about crawling out of bed before sunrise to get onto the treadmill. And of course there is Michelle Obama, the most photographed and famous Black woman in the world, whose commitment goes beyond keeping her arms in Angela Bassett-shape. She's dedicated to healthy eating and teaching children about nutrition.
Aside from guaranteeing that more women will live longer lives, this upsurge in healthy living may have another, unintended side effect. It may also encourage women who do need to make the necessary exercise and dietary changes to realize that this isn’t just a “white girl thing” and that they can find a lot of support, advice and sisterhood among the women they know and love.
So, if you didn't know, now you know: Black women are dedicated to loving themselves and honoring their bodies.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Leonora Hamill/Getty Images)