Perpetuating irresponsible concepts about body image is a dangerous thing, even when attempting to make a joke.
This photo was posted on the Facebook Group “Black Women Do Workout" which is supposed to be a group that encourages Black women to exercise and supports those who are on weight loss and fitness journeys.
From their “About” section:
Join and be a part of HISTORY in the making as Black women from around the WORLD work together at reducing health risks by promoting the true essence of fitness! Our ultimate goal is to spread AWARENESS as this Call-To-Action against obesity is our grassroots effort for getting the Global Attention that we deserve!
Inspire, Motivate, Promote, Celebrate Black Women in Fitness!
BWDW want you to work together with us at changing the statistics even if we have to hand-deliver them to the White House ourselves.
There is so much literature and research supporting the idea that most of us inherit the eating and fitness habits of our parents or those who raise us. Those responsible for raising us shape our connection to food before we can even form full sentences. This image struck me because it is joking about a baby losing weight. Anyone who knows anything about healthy child-rearing knows that babies need a lot of calories and healthy fats early on in life to help with physical and mental development. Babies burn calories in their natural exploration of the world around them, which should be encouraged by their parents. No baby this young should ever be on a “diet” or any significant fitness regimen. That’s not the answer.
Black women do battle eating disorders, despite the common idea that it’s something only White women do. In fact, eating disorders among Black women are on the rise. Most women, regardless of race, begin developing body image issues before becoming adults, so this image shook me, as it seems to promote this idea of obsessing over weight loss at such a young age. Black girls are less likely to be diagnosed with eating disorders because doctors don’t consider them to fit the typical profile of a person with bulimia or anorexia. We seem to think that, because Black women are so often portrayed as being big bold and confident, sistas don’t struggle with body image issues and eating disorders or obsessive compulsive exercise disorders. This isn’t true.
I know the admins wrote this off as a joke, but I think it speaks to a larger issue of women and body image and how too many of us become so overly obsessive about losing weight, that we resort to unhealthy approaches to doing it. It makes me think more about what we push onto our children. Having lost 126lbs, I know that I’m very conscious about my fears of becoming “fat” again, and I have to make sure that I don’t project any of my own insecurities or concerns onto my child. He is slim, underweight even, and I focus on trying to get him to eat healthier and stay active in positive, affirming ways, not using prohibitive or shaming language. I have to talk myself into eating more and exercising less when I find myself slipping into periods of insecurity and vulnerability, so I know this struggle is real.
We have to be more responsible with the images and ideas we put out there. Those of us who are vocal about weight loss and fitness efforts, whichever paths we’ve chosen, have a responsibility to promote positive, healthy, and safe images, ideas, and tips. People are watching us, turning to us for help and guidance. What are we saying?
I’m leaving this group. I was really bothered by the justifications and brush offs that not just the members but the admins made. We have got to do better.