I was trying to conform to the beauty standards of others all the time. Then I’m redefining my own.
What fit looks like for a black woman’s journey will depend on her goals, preferences, and experiences.
However, with a growing focus on inclusivity and representation in the fitness world, there are now more opportunities for black women to find the support and resources they need to achieve their goals and live their best lives.
I have a serious love affair with mirrors. It began as a teenager dancing in one, then two, and later three different studios. Jazz, ballet, tap modern, acrobatics, and modern could do it all.
At first, it was an enjoyable experience. I was doing it because I loved the art form and also for the people I met.
At the age of 14, I began to think about it more seriously and consider it a possible job- a career that would allow me to combine my passion for the performing arts and my passion for writing.
When I was 18, I made the decision I wanted to pursue a degree in dance and English to be able to compose and choreograph musicals.
However, I had a secret. I wasn’t in good health. I consumed a lot of food to stay slim before any big performance, audition, or any time the scale climbed higher than I liked.
It’s not a secret that the dance industry has traditionally set standards of fitness and beauty, which are unattainable for many people- especially for Black girls.
My goal of pursuing an aspiring professional career in dance required me to fulfill expectations that weren’t made for me.
This was my first experience where I experienced what many Black women have felt trying to get through the world of fitness in which it is said to believe that an “ideal” body isn’t a Black body.
Let go of impossibly high standards.
The rejection added to the pressure I felt as a dancer. After auditioning for a variety of college dance classes, all of the top programs told me “no,” and those I was accepted to, I did not want to go (though now that I’m an adult I’m genuinely questioning my motives for not attending Howard).
Rejection and the unattainable standard can be a powerful combination.
I consumed a lot of food when craving desserts, junk foods, or any time since I also loved eating. I am a foodie and enjoy eating it, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s baked salmon sautéed with dill, a bowl of sauteed kale, or garlic. Or a vast chicken finger dish from Zaxby’s. The mealtime experience makes my stomach content.
Then, I purge whenever I feel I have to manage the result.
When I first started college, I attempted to join the dance department at my college twice. I was turned down twice. When I was 19, I realized that dancing was not something I could make a living at, regardless of how much I enjoyed dancing.
I decided to dance at an on-campus extracurricular group and then switched my focus to writing and journalism.
In letting go of the pressure I placed on myself to be the best in dancing, I was able to get rid of some of my unhealthy behaviors, too. When I began university, I stopped my habit of binge eating as well as drinking.
“The “freshman 15” was my most trusted friend. I would go to the gym whenever I was feeling up for it and went through phases of exercising heavily or not working out in the first place. These are my routines a decade later, for better or worse.
My path to health
My relationship with my fitness, health, and overall health is complicated and complicated. The present, I’m going through an unproductive period. Out. I hadn’t stepped on my mat on my yoga mat since October when I discovered I was expecting my second child.
I glance at my mat and realize that I should take it out and move through a routine, mainly because I continued practicing yoga for 36 weeks after expecting my son, but I’m not.
It’s been a while since I’ve owned a gym I utilized. I would go thrice weekly, exercising for an hour and then another hour or 90 minutes of strength training.
I’ve had memberships at numerous yoga studios, which I’d visit every week at least once. Recently, while exercising, I listened to the live Baptiste yoga classes on podcasts (because there was no cost) and boosted my fitness up and running or with an electric heater in my bedroom or outdoors in the heat and humidity during the peak of Florida summers.
However, I am attracted by the mirror and my vanity looking at my reflection and hoping I can recognize what I like about my body. But I’m not attempting to get slimmer. I don’t wish to be.
I’m a Black woman. I’m a boob and an elongated booty. I’d prefer to be heftier — as well as some thighs and hips. I’m not upset by it. We’re not trying to rid ourselves of it.
I’m determined to maintain my stomach in its flattest position. However, I allow myself a little grace. My body has given birth and will be doing it again in the near future.
It took me some time to arrive at this level of acceptance. To start at the scale and feel happy with it. To look at me in clothes and say, “Damn, you fine girl.”
Yet as I examine the numbers in the BMI (BMI) chart on my health app, it always declares that I’m obese — even when I’m at my lowest. I dismiss it with a laugh by calling it “racist.”
The definition of the standards we have set for ourselves
The ideal is light and white in health, fitness, and beauty. These are adjectives that will never be a description of me or others. Black women.
However, we must navigate all the health and fitness and beauty sectors aware that, although we’re not the typical -or even the intended group — we’re beautiful and worthy of having protected spaces in which we can work out and take a break, meditate, and even vibrate a bit higher.
As per The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), non-Hispanic black adults are the most likely to be affected by obesity. While obesity rates tend to decrease as income increases, the CDC discovered in the case of Black women; there is no variation in the obesity prevalence, no matter the amount or how little we earn ( 1Trusted Source).
It’s well-known that Black females that they tend to do the last thing to ensure that our families or friends, as well as our coworkers, are well taken by the right people.
The stress of this overextension is amplified and can result in weight increase. If we’re busy taking care of everybody else, we often find ourselves exhausted to look after ourselves even though we ought to.
The way forward
That’s why organizations like Black Girls Run exist. The group was established in 2009 to address the rising obesity epidemic affecting the Black community, specifically Black women.
Groups like these help make the fitness industry more accessible and inclusive. They know their members’ specific health and fitness challenges, are available to us, and even show us love.
The same compassion is evident in a group such as Black Girls Hike or in the works of the yoga influential yoga instructors Jessamyn Stanly and Britteny Floyd-Mayo, who are part of Trap Yoga Bae.
We’re living in a moment where “the “quarantine 15” is a direct result of the stresses of living amid a global pandemic, and the stress is exacerbated by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) due to a variety of reasons ranging from health disparities to racism to income disparities ( 2, 3Trusted Source).
In a time when women have suffered the most in terms of their position and standing in the workforce, and the economy in general, fitness might not be the top priority for most women. Black women today ( 4).
When it’s that, it is an essential thing for you, and for me too, there are places specifically designed for us. If we’re ready to say “yes” to us, people are helping us be our best and most healthy selves.
If I’m honest with myself in the future, I hope that someday (likely when baby number two’s appears in the world), I’ll figure out ways to return to my yoga mat as I take care of my physical health.
In the meantime, I am optimistic because I know that Black girls can run, Black girls, walk, and hike, Black girls cycle, Black girls swim, Black skaters, Black girls dance, Black girls, do yoga, and much more.
Health is a priority for us. It’s a vital aspect of our lives, and being fit is essential to us.