Archive for the ‘black women and fitness’ Category

A Body Prayer

Monday, March 30th, 2009

For every woman and girl who looks in the mirror and wishes she could change this or that about her body:

God, this is MY BODY.
She is an expression of Genius.

This is MY BODY.
She is more than fatigue, infirmity, soreness, cellulite, estrogen loss, and drooping breasts.

Lord, I want to LIVE in my Body.skeeping woman
Cleanse me of every thought that makes me
shame of my body.
Help me to experience LIFE
in my heart,
fingers and toes,
bosom and legs
arms and thighs
buttocks and uterus
lungs and belly
ignite a quickening fire in every cell of my body.

For I am
a woman in a Body.
My body.

I am the bird of Paradise.
I am consort of the Lion of Judah.
I am a 12 winged accolade to African women who died while trying; cried beyond tears; and loved when it hurt

There is Life in my Body.

May I never again be ashamed
For this is My Body which is

A Gift of God
A Sanctuary of my Divine Purpose, and
an Expression of the mystery of God.

This is My Body.

How Did She Let This Happen-Again?

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Somebody explain it to me.

Why should anyone give a twit about the fact that Oprah Winfrey is back to being fat with all that’s going on in the world?  Aren’t there enough real crises to pray about — bail outs and a recession, war and suicide bombings, political corruption and missing children –without being distracted with pablum?

Hey, I can appreciate Oprah’s decision to own up to her weight gain and to talk about her disappointment in herself in the next month issue of her titular O magazine. That’s a topic one expects in a women’s magazine such as O (which, by the way, I enjoy reading while on the plane). But I don’t expect to turn on the tv and find that annoying Rick Sanchez CNN anchor guy or that equally annoyingly self-important CNN guy Wolf Blitzer touting Oprah Winfrey’s forty pound weight gain as news.

So, Oprah has put back on the weight she lost a few years ago. So, what else is new? Who would have thought? Stand in line. blah, blah, blah. Many of us struggle with our weight. As I’ve pointed out before, America as a whole has a weight problem but black women have an even bigger weight problem.  Something is wrong when upwards of 70% of African American women, says researchers, are overweight and over half of overweight black women fall within the obese range. No, you’re not big-boned, girlfriend.

winfrey weight gainOprah’s disappointed, embarrassed, and mad at herself, she says in next month’s O magazine.  I know the feeling as I try sucking in my gut while sitting here typing this blog piece. But there are no excuses and very little pity to dole out right about now. Not for someone as rich and famous as Oprah Winfrey anyway from what I can tell.  Those who live by the sword end up dying by the sword. Meaning , you make losing weight a part of your fame, you shouldn’t be surprised when you’re pelted and lampooned by the public for putting those pounds back on.

You gotta give it to Oprah, though. She’s a smart business woman. She knows how to make money off her personal failures. Instead of the typical air-brushed, photo resized glamorous self-portrait that we’ve come to expect on the cover, next month’s O will feature two photos on the cover- a skinny(er) Oprah and fat(er) Oprah. Now that’s savvy.

If there’s anything noteoworthy to be taken from Oprah’s weight gain story here in December, let it be a reminder to all of us not to gorge ourselves and overeat this holiday season. Take care of your body this holiday. Eat, drink, and be merry. But listen to your body. Pay attention to your heart. Have that scoop of Blue Bell’s ice cream. But only one scoop.

You Are Not Big-Boned, Girlfriend

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

My husband brought home a big fat slice of chocolate cake on Sunday which one of our members had made and handed to him after church service because she knows how much her pastor, my husband, loves chocolate cake. (Don’t ask why she didn’t send a slice for me.) I could barely think of anything else the rest of the day for thinking about that piece of cake. I sat at the dinner table with family eating spinach, rice and peas, brown stew fish, and the other delectable West Indian dishes peeping back at the chocolate cake  sitting there wrapped on my kitchen counter. I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into a slice of that cake.

Did I mention that I don’t even like chocolate cake? But I do love ice cream (which there was a gallon of in the freezer). And, trust me, BlueBelle ice cream makes chocolate cake taste so much better.

Never mind that I’d just spoken two days earlier at the 25th Anniversary of the National Black Women’s Health Imperative. Never mind that I stayed over on Saturday to walk and sweat my way with 300 other black women through the closing 5k Walking for Wellness event and felt pretty good about finishing in a little over 35 minutes.

I wanted that slice of cake. I needed that slice of cake. I earned that slice of cake. Along with a bowl of ice cream.

But I need to lose 30 pounds. Minimum. It doesn’t help that all the women in my family are, as they say, “big-boned.” There was my mother, Big Mama and my aunts Mae, Kate, Anne and others. But how can I be sure they were big-boned women? After all, the women in my family fried everything they cooked, used heapings of Velveeta in their macaroni and cheese, and never set a table without four starches to pass around. So, maybe the women in my family aren’t big-boned. Maybe the women in my family are “girthy” because of the food we eat.

Okay, so I’m not big-boned afterall. Like the women of my family, I am, um, overweight.

America as a whole has a weight problem. But black women have an even bigger weight problem.

Something is wrong when upwards of 70% of African American women, says researchers, are overweight and over half of overweight black women fall within the obese range. African American women suffer from obesity at an alarmingly disproportionate rate when compared to women of other races. Come on now. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, breathing problems, arthritis, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea (breathing problems while sleeping), osteoarthritis, and some cancers. It’s no secret that black women’s lives are at risk and that we have had the worst health on nearly every health index when compared to other groups of women. The soaring death rate among us alone from preventable health afflictions ought to shame us. Racism and sexism take their toll. But some things are not about racism and sexism.

overweightWhat’s our problem? Word on the street is that African-American women are more inclined to be overweight because our men (if you’re heterosexual, that is. cough. cough.) like women who carry around some (como se dice?) “junk in the trunk.” The Commodores referred to curvy, full-figured women as “brick houses” back in my day. But let’s be honest. We’re not talking about those 10 or 20 extra pounds of booty, breasts, hips, and thighs that make cars in black neighborhoods slam into each other when you walk by. We’re talking about those 50 pounds and more that has you slathering on corn starch and talcum powder in private places to keep from rubbing yourself raw in the summer heat.

Come on, girl, push away from the table.

Our eating habits are killing us. I was speechless when a month ago one friend brought a bucket of Popeye chicken and another one brought a huge Pizza Hut pizza to a Sunday evening book club pot luck dinner. Clueless and tasteless. Both women struggle with their weight and are always asking the group for prayer for their health. I know it’s part environment. To pick up good, healthy food these women would have had to drive way over on the other side of town. Yeah, but that’s no excuse. Bring a salad. Boil some eggs. Offer to stay afterwards and wash dishes.

Word: Aretha Franklin will forever be my “Queen of Soul.” But my heart breaks every time I see Aretha on tv these days. Aretha is not big-boned. Aretha is obese. So are half the women I see in church parking lots. Breathless by the time they reach the church door.

Food is comforting. But overeating is killing us. And our children. 25% of African American children are overweight. That’s absurd.

These days when people greet me with the words ”It’s good to see you,” I respond back “I’m just glad that I’m being seen and not being viewed.” (As in lying in a casket). I’d like to live to see grandchildren. Heck, I wanna be able to belly dance at 75 years old.

You and I owe it to ourselves to try to eat right and to exercise. It’s not about losing weight, it’s about getting healthy. It’s about quality of life. It’s about being able to live as long as possible and in good health. It’s about loving your body enough to take care of it, and doing your part to avoid the threat of losing your legs or eyesight to diabetes or winding up in a nursing home due to a stroke.

Stop making excuses. You are not big-boned. You need to lose weight. Pronto.

Start by committing to walking around the neighborhood in the evenings instead of watching reruns of Law and Order. For the cost of that perm you can hire a personal trainer. Instead of ordering a burger, fries, and a diet coke at the drive thru, order a salad and a diet coke instead. It’s a start.

Did I mention that much of my extra weight is here in my middle area which, of course, puts me at risk for particular set of health problems? I could point out that it’s leftover fat from having carried an 8lb. 15oz. child inside me all those months. But that child is now a teenager who’ll be going off to college soon. Sure, I could try exercise that targets the lower stomach muscles. But I’m constitutionally opposed to doing stomach crunches. I walk. I work out on the elliptical. I don’t mind pressing weights to enhance my arms and strengthen my upper body. But stomach crunches? I’d rather face a firing squad.

Getting back to that piece of chocolate cake. Along with that bowl of Blue Belle ice cream. Don’t ask.

I’m lacing up my sneakers right now. I’m off to the track for my late evening three mile walk with the sound of Aretha singing “Rock Steady” in my headphones.

That Other Mary

Friday, March 7th, 2008

I like to end the week on a lighter note whenever possible.

I’m always amused when my younger friends talk about old-school hip hop music and new school hip-hop music. I don’t have the faintest idea what they’re talking about. I stopped paying attention to music in earnest in 1991 when Gladys Knight left the Pips. All the soul groups I grew up listening to had split up or faded off the scene by then, and I be darned if I was gonna plunk down money on music I couldn’t understand.

New school music, however, is not completely lost on me. From time to time a singer  comes along that makes me forget that mail from the AARP arrives in my box weekly.  I like everything India Arie and most things Jill Scott. But put on a tune by Aretha Franklin (”Don’t Play that Song for Me”) or Deniece Williams (”Silly”) or Oleta Adams (”I Just Had to Hear Your Voice”) or Roberta Flack (”First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”), and I’m apt to throw my lunch money at you.

But before heading out to the airport for a week of travel I remembered to download a tune onto my Ipod I’d caught on the VH-1 channel. Mary J. Blige was singing and telling her story. I liked what I heard. I even liked the young woman I saw (minus the blonde wig, of course). The girl can sing. She also has a lot of soul. If you’re old school, you know what I mean. Mary J. was singing the song that has become something of her anthem, “No More Drama.”

In my old age senility, I managed to click the wrong button and downloaded a different Mary J. Blige tune onto my Ipod.  I’m so glad that I clicked the wrong button. The Lord knows what you need, when you need it. The wrong Mary J. tune ended up being the right Mary J. tune to listen to as I find myself this week at a “chopping high cotton” hotel here in New York where I’m probably the only black woman walking the halls of the hotel who’s not a part of the housekeeping staff.

If you’re a woman and you don’t have Mary J. Blige’s “Just Fine” as part of your music collection, get it.

Believe me when I tell you that working out on the ellipitical machine goes better when you’ve got “Just Fine” blasting in your ears.  The white guy working out next to me could barely read his newspaper for glancing over at the black woman singing at the top of her lungs, head rocking, one hand on one elliptical bar, the other hand high in the air with fingers snapping.

Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, ooooh
Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, ooooh
Just fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, ooooh
You see I won’t change my life, my life’s just fine

I aint gon’ let nothing get in my way
(I ain’t gone let nobody bring me down, no, no, no)
No matter what nobody has to say
(No way, no way, no way)
I ain’t gon’ let nothing get in my way
No matter what nobody has to say

Makes me wanna go out and buy myself a blonde wig.