I have a confession: I am a black woman, and I work out


I’m a black woman and I work out.

Actually I work out a lot, and I am damn proud of it. So yes, black women do work out. I almost killed myself in the midst of my kick ass cross fit workout  this morning, so again, yes black women do work out.

Recently, there was a large stir surrounding a NY Times opinion piece insinuating that black women want to be fat. Black Women and Fat, was written by Alice Randall, a writer who has embraced her own weight loss journey. Randall states “many black women are fat because we want to be.” With that point I would have to disagree. I know many black women who are overweight, but  they do not WANT to be that way. Not to make excuses, but to lose weight and keep the weight off requires a true lifestyle change, many black women are not yet ready for that lifestyle change.

As the article proceeds, I can completely understand what Randall is saying. Though the title may have turned off a few readers, she actually makes good points. As a black woman I embrace my curves and thick figure, black men love that. Black men love that my hips are thick and that my butt is big. It is what makes me sexually attractive as a black woman. I accept that. I have never had a man tell me that I need to lose weight, or I should eat less. In fact since I work out 5 days a week, and 6 days on a really good week,  I am often asked why I work out so much, or I get the “you’re trying to lose weight?”, in a sideways crazy sounding voice.

Obesity truly has been a generational problem in many African-American families. The problem stems from years of unhealthy eating and lack of exercise. My grandmother used to make fried pork chops, butter grits with cheese, and biscuits  when we would visit her at her home in Georgia. When we would go to the south I would drink the sweetest iced tea, and lemonade I have ever tasted in my life. Full of flavor and loaded with sugar, it was delicious.  Subsequently my mom would cook the same way. Food wasn’t good if it wasn’t friend, or soaked in butter. I remember my mother used to put a slab of pork fat into collard greens to add flavor, and yummy it was.

But it also kills you.

My grandmother died from heart disease, both my parents have type  2 diabetes, my father has high blood pressure. I don’t want to die before I have ever had the chance to live.

So yes, I work out a lot.

Eventually my mother did start to change the way that she cooks, no more fried everything (awww I miss those days). No more full sticks of butter used on food, for now on it is baked or steamed, which I have grown to enjoy. With healthy eating, I also feel a hundred times more healthy.

Not only do I work out, I eat healthy. The combination increases overall health and happiness.

No matter how much I work out, I will never be a size 2 or model thin. Actually I don’t ever want to be. Curves are what make me a woman. I have had a personal struggle with weight all my life. Yeah I was the “fat kid” in school. It sucked. When I was in college I lost a lot of weight, nearly 40 pounds, everyone thought I was sick, how ironic. Well I actually did start to look sick, so I gained some weight back. Since then I have felt great.

I truly enjoy working out. It is a lifestyle requirement for me. To kick start my day, I start with a work out. It gets me going. To fight my periods of depression, I turn to working out. I am a true believer that a great consistent workout it better than any anti-depressant.  I get bored easily, so my workouts always change. I recently added cross fit to my regiment. While doing cross fit, I have periods of feeling like I either want to die or vomit. I am still alive, and no, no vomit yet. I get out of breath, winded, my muscles are screaming, but it is great! In a few short weeks I have started to feel stronger, I am eager to go back, ready to do it again. Despite the unbearable soreness, and my screaming quads I always go back for more.

My goal: to go longer, stronger, harder, faster.  I also do spin classes, yoga, running, and when I need a quick filler workout I’ll even hit the gym and run on a treadmill. However when you live in Hawaii, running on a treadmill at the gym can get very old, very quick.

The key to sticking with a workout out routine is to do whatever works for you. Find something you like and grab on tight. It may not be the same as what everyone else likes, or what everyone else is doing. Once you find it, continue with it. Watch yourself improve, the improvement will keep you going.

I suck at cross fit. I have absolutely no upper body strength and can not do 1 pull up. My personal goal is just to do one pull up. Just because it is hard at first doesn’t mean that I won’t get better at it. Each day I return, is one more day of improvement.

Have a vision of what you want to accomplish. Maybe you want to get stronger, maybe you just want to fit into old clothes that you have in your closet. See your vision in real life. Become that vision. Make it a realistic vision. If you dream of looking like a model…well that may not happen. Work with your mind and body on what you want to become. If you see that mental picture, believe it, stick to it, your body will follow.

At 30 I am now in the best physical shape of my life. Who would have thought. I never thought that I would be signing up to run races, and continuously look forward to running the next race. By the way, I still hate running, but I love competing against my own personal best time. Each time I race, I want to beat my time from the previous race. That keeps me motivated. I am excited I have realized what I could really do. I am doing activities that would have been an easy, “no, never, get the hell out of here” a few years ago. So far this year I have ran an 8 mile race, and two 6 mile races, with more to come. Slowly working my way to that half marathon.

I love being able to walk, to move my limbs, to run fast, to hike, to struggle while trying to do pull ups. I am working now to prevent years of having to be on medication for diabetes, or heart disease. I am working now to do my part in staying alive.

So yes, I am a black woman and I work out! And I love it. 🙂

Positive thoughts, positive energy, positive experiences

4 thoughts on “I have a confession: I am a black woman, and I work out

  1. I don’t like running either. I used to run long distance (poorly) in high school and was on our very competitive soccer team. At this point in my life, I associate running with high school sports trauma. When I lived in my old city, I bought a bike and it changed my life. I hadn’t biked a lot since I was a kid, but I just love biking and will go on 20 mi bike rides now. It was a new way for me to enjoy fitness. Sometimes you need to find a different outlet–the US is so running-centric–but swimming, yoga, dance, biking, etc, are all great options.

    I find your experiences of exercise so different from me as a white lady. How fascinating. I read the NYT piece. I am from the Northeast and went to a super-expensive elite liberal arts college where everyone was a superachiever and had all sorts of control issues. At a size 12, I was literally the fattest person I knew in college; the gym was a place of self-hate for me because I used to go and hate my body and feel the judging eyes of people who had obsessive exercising tendencies. I could feel people judging what I ate. We had this shitty anonymous posting forum and men would post about the women they drunkenly hooked up with, complaining about their thunder thighs. I was terrified to have sex and become that woman men regretted sleeping with. My friend quit the XC team because long distance running was a cover for eating disorders–it was so bad on the team that the coach began pre-meet weigh-in. You had to weigh *enough* to run.

    I have struggled in my adult years to find a healthy relationship to fitness and exercise that doesn’t invoke all of these negative emotions. I play some pick-up soccer and do swing dancing and ride my bike, but I need something more indoors and regularized now that I live in winterland. It is encouraging you have found such peace with fitness and your own cultural situation.

    Great post!

    1. Body image is something that many girls struggle with no matter the race. I know other black girls who feel they are too skinny and try anything just to gain weight because a be a size 10 or 12 is a more acceptable image for black women. However, there are also other black girls who suffer from eating disorders but they frequently go unnoticed because to have anorexia or bulimia is usually seen as a “white girl” problem, yet in reality eating disorders can affect any one of any race.

      I find that in order to maintain a great relationship with fitness is that if I constantly remind myself that I am doing this solely for me. No one else matters as long as I feel good, I am healthy, happy, and enjoy what I am doing. And I also realized along the way that no one really pays attention to me at the gym, so that helps. But as long as working out is fun, I am ready to do it. Good luck finding winter workouts, I do not miss that part about living in NY, outdoor workouts are really refreshing.

      Thanks for the comment!

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