I am a 33 year-old African-American woman.
About me? Well my body type is “curvy” somewhere between a pear and an hourglass. But I also have some weight to lose and I am working on it. I joined one of those weight loss communities and I noticed, most of the other black women had higher weight goals than the white women with similar heights and starting weights. Actually even 30-40%more. And I am one of them. I blame my mom.
Growing up, my mom ALWAYS complimented me on my “big legs.” She was jealous. Growing up her nickname was Olive Oyl because of her skinny legs. My sister and I have bigger calves, so we were
constantly praised about it.
When I was young, I was never small. I was always a little larger than my peers. My aunt always called me “solid.” I don’t think my body is meant to be very skinny. I have muscular arms and legs. It just isn’t happening.
As I was growing up, when out with my mom, she would always comment on other people’s bodies. We could be watching TV or whatever. She would say things like “she has no butt” “his legs are too skinny” or “she has no shape.” She would also comment if she thought someone was too skinny. It never felt mean-spirited, but listening to my mom, she definitely passed on a message that it was good to have a butt, have shapely legs, and have hips. “Not too much, like the Williams sisters.” (according to my mom) and that skinny legs on a man was a sin. She also commented on when people had too much cleavage or their breasts were too big. If she commented on someone who was larger, it was focused on the fit of their clothing, and not the shape. i.e. if you have a big belly, you shouldn’t wear a midriff baring top and the importance of clothing fitting properly. She would comment if someone’s clothing wasn’t the right fit or too tight.
My mom never really commented much on my weight. There were a few times here and there where she worried if I gained too much it would cause health problems but there has never been any pressure to be “skinny.” Just small enough to retain my curvy shape and waist definition was the only important thing to her.
I think for her, in a way, I had what she didn’t — big legs and a big bust — and that is the shape she likes. The opposite of skinny. AND looking at my weight loss goals, I am looking for something not skinny. And still curvy. So I guess her message sunk in.
Editor’s Note: This story illustrates the impact a message, especially from a mom has on her child. We hear comments our parents make as we are growing up and those comments sink in and become part of how we see ourselves and others even if we don’t realize it.