Black Women Heavier and Happier with Their Bodies than White Women, Poll Finds

Lonnae O’Neal Parker, Washington Post, February 27, 2012


Like many black women, [Michelle] Gibson describes her 5-foot-4, size 14-plus physique as “thick,” and considers herself ultra-feminine—no matter what the mainstream culture has to say about it.

She’s one of the most full-figured women in the gym, but she’s in love with her body. And it’s a sentiment that syncs perfectly with a recent survey conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation that focused on African American women. The poll found that although black women are heavier than their white counterparts, they report having appreciably higher levels of self-esteem. Although 41 percent of average-sized or thin white women report having high self-esteem, that figure was 66 percent among black women considered by government standards to be overweight or obese.

This is not news to Gibson or the other women in her morning boot camp class. They grew up listening to songs like the Commodores’s “Brick House” and hearing relatives extol the virtues of “big legs” and women with meat on their bones.

The notion that all women must be culled into a single little-bitty aesthetic is just one more tyranny, they say. And black women have tools for resisting tyranny, especially from a mainstream culture that has historically presented them negatively, or not at all.

Freed from that high-powered media gaze, generations of black women have fashioned their own definitions of beauty with major assists from literature and music—and help from their friends.

At this gym in Capitol Heights at the crack of dawn, and in myriad other places, that thinking has made black women happier with their bodies than white women in many ways. And in some ways, it’s put them on the slippery slope toward higher rates of obesity.


Gibson, who says she’s over 150 pounds but under 200, has been plus-sized most of her life. And it took time to come to terms with that.

“High school is where I started to realize I was different,” said Gibson, who was captain of the cheerleading squad at Suitland High School. “My quads were big, I had these boobs, and I had a butt. Not only that, I was dark with short hair. That’s when I had to look in the mirror and say, ‘Either I’m going to go with it, or I’m going to go against it.’ I always went with it.”

Doctors have long told her she needs to lose weight—30 or 40 pounds, according to their charts. She’d be cool with 15. She tried weight loss programs such as Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem in years past, but “I came to realize that I have to have some freedom to eat.”

Instead of fixating on shedding weight, she focuses on being fit and healthy and finding her joy in that: “This is how I’m genetically designed, and I’ve accepted that.”

And though she’s never married, she contends she never lacks boyfriends, black and white. “Men have always said to me, ‘You’re not fat, you’re p-h-a-t fat.’ And when I’m not teaching, I’m all girl.”


According to the Post-Kaiser poll, which offers the most extensive and nuanced look at the lives of black women in decades, 28 percent of black women say that being physically attractive is “very important,” compared with 11 percent of white women. White women were more likely than black women to say being attractive was “somewhat important.”


Gibson’s mission is to get women to embrace their size but to work toward being fit. She preaches acceptance but says white fitness professionals often seem almost resentful of her confidence.

“If I were this plump, meek person doing the same thing I do, I think they would embrace me.”


Topics: , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • crystal evans

    Full figured curvacious women have always been accepted in Black women. For example, Oprah Winfrey was able to have a daily talk show while she was obese. A white woman would have had to lose weight. I remember the teasing of Kirstie Alley for being obese. Sarah Ferguson was also teased a lot because of her weight.

    • MikeofAges

       Martha Stewart, man.

  • Sonya610

    It is simply not normal for females to be bigger and heavier than their male counterparts. Okay,  for some species, like snakes, it is normal; but not for homosapiens. The whole skinny male huge black woman (or sadly huge white woman) pair up is just plain awkward.

    • KenelmDigby

      What’s ‘normal’ for Whites is not necessarily ‘normal’  for blacks.

      • Anan7

        Haha it reminds me of the argument that it is racist to apply White standards of behavior to non-Whites, especially concerning crime statistics.

        Somalis will be Somalis whether in Somalia or (God forbid) here in the USA.

    • The whole skinny male huge black woman (or sadly huge white woman) pair up is just plain awkward.

      Hehehehhehehh…..sorry, I don’t have anything to add, you just made me laugh….. lolz

  • “The poll found that although black women are heavier than their white counterparts, they report having appreciably higher levels of self-esteem.”

    I suppose ignorance and living in denial can do that. Higher leves of “self-esteem” in black women generally manifests itself in the way of a nasty attitude that not even black men want to be around.

    • Sonya610

      Black women also have higher levels of testosterone which causes aggressive/assertive/overly confident behavior along with a higher sex drive.

      • I think you’re right Sonya. That nasty attitude that we all know so well cannot be the result of ignorance alone.

      • radical7

        White men have higher levels of estogen. What is your point?

  • sbuffalonative

    “The poll found that although black women are heavier than their white counterparts, they report having appreciably higher levels of self-esteem. “
    Here we see the ‘obesity crisis’ in America today. Blacks overweight and they’re proud of it. While that’s fine with me, the problem is we’re the ones who are now going to pay for their health care. 

    • radical7

      Have you seen the alarming number of overweight White people? Especially lower income Whtie people?

  • crystal evans

    On reason why Black women have high self esteem despite their size is because Black men tend to favor heavier women. I have seen both overweight Black and White women with Black boyfriends. White men are just the opposite, they prefer thin women, which is why most white women strive to be thin.

  • In other news stupid people cant tell they are stupid.

    • Heinrich24

      Wonderfully stated!

  • Tim in Indiana

    The notion that all women must be culled into a single little-bitty aesthetic is just one more tyranny, they say. And black women have tools for resisting tyranny, especially from a mainstream culture that has historically presented them negatively, or not at all. 

    Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute! If black women have had to resist so much “tyranny,” then why is their “self-esteem” so high, as this very article points out just a couple of paragraphs previous? 

    Hasn’t the left been beating into us that all black pathologies are the result of “low self-esteem,” which is caused by all this “anti-black tyranny?” Now, from reading this article, it would seem that “tyranny,” as a sort of overreaction against it, actually causes  high black self-esteem?! 

    It seems the left can’t get their story straight. Of course, when you control the debate as the left does, you needn’t fear being called out on your contradictions.

    Another interesting point we learn here is that blacks are far more comfortable with being overweight than whites, even though it has well-documented health problems, and yet the left has been telling us for decades that shorter black life expectancy is the fault of “institutional racism!”

    There are all kinds of interesting orthodoxy-challenging  issues raised by this story, but of course the MSM will ignore all of them.

  • “grandiose sense of self” is a key trait of the sociopath. blacks have never been accused of lacking self esteem. 

    • Sonya610

      No, a key trait of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a “grandiose sense of self”. A key trait of sociopaths is not empathizing with most others, except sometimes their inner circle.

      • gemjunior

        Sociopaths also known as antisocials may also have narcissistic features such as grandiosity.  One type of antisocial behavior exhibited in these type patients is known as malignant narcissism – which is just what it sounds like.  Coupled with their lack of empathy or conscience is a sense of self-importance and selfishness that is deeply entrenched.  But in the case of black women I believe it’s just stupidity and a complete willingness to believe anything positive about themselves and disbelieve anything negative since this is what’s been taught to them by a liberal society.  They are taught never to criticize themselves or examine themselves in a critical way.  It’s just sick. 
        They absolutely love themselves. 

        • Sonya610

          They are taught never to criticize themselves or examine themselves in a critical way.  It’s just sick. 

          They are taught that? They are taught to be Anti-Socials? 

          And taught to love themselves? How is that taught exactly? It is genetic, but if it CAN be taught we need to figure out how that is done ASAP.

        • Xanthippe2

          Actually if you are 5’9″ and size 16 you still have a healthy BMI — you are not going to be on the cover of any magazine, but you are not medically over-weight, let alone obese.

      •  google “profile of a sociopath” , it’s right there in black and white.  don’t you think that personality can share similar traits?

  • anew

    “This is how I’m genetically designed, and I’ve accepted that.”
    This is, more or less, a healthy and natural attitude. A “thick” black woman generally is more healthy than a white woman of the same proportions.

    This story illustrates the problem with multiracial societies in a nutshell, which is that to be one is to have competing notions of beauty (which goes far beyond physicality, and influences every area of life) occupying the same country. Of course everyone’s idea about this is a little different, but in a mono-racial society, opinions will cluster closer together, and the society will better reflect the individual. 

    • Anan7

       “This is, more or less, a healthy and natural attitude. A “thick”
      black woman generally is more healthy than a white woman of the same

      Where did you hear that?  I’ve heard that blacks are more prone to hypertension than Whites or Asians.

      • anew

        After accounting for the different bodily compositions, more of them are still overweight, but they are made to look even fatter because the bmi is calibrated on the white norm. By the same token, Asians are made to look even less fat than is really the case-same old racial breakdown. 

        This article has a couple of links:

  • gemjunior

    Eww .  I’m 5’9″ and 14 is NOT acceptable.  If I pass 12 husband starts laughing every time I eat candy or cake, because he’s not allowed to tell me I’m getting fat or putting on weight, so the laughing (we both know what he means) is as good as saying “You’re fat”.  The amazing thing is that white women are FAR more self critical than black women, who could be 300 pounds and insisting “I be fine – you jealous.  You white ladies jealous cos you got flat butts and black men don’t want that small flat butt.”  They are convinced that all white women secretly want a black man (insane I know) and they’re even more convinced that all white men are dying for their fat bodies.  They will tell you about how bad white men have always wanted black women down through the centuries and were always raping their beautiful fat slaves because they couldn’t contain their desire.  This is what they really believe and discuss; I’ve heard them at it.  They live in a fantasy land where everyone thinks they’re gorgeous, and they’re at the top of the admirers list.

    • crystal evans

      Do you know that the average woman in America is 5’4″ 140 pounds and a size 14?

      • Alexandra1973

        That described me when I was 20 (and I am 5’4″).  Suffice it to say I’m trying to get back DOWN to that…and then some. 

        I for one am not happy being overweight and am doing something about it.  It seems that blacks don’t mind the “junk in the trunk” and I’ve heard them say, on TV, that they like “cushion for the pushin’.”

        Like another poster, I couldn’t care less, except we get to pay for the consequences…and they blame whitey.

        • Sonya610

          they like “cushion for the pushin’.
          There are no doubt practical reasons for that too, aside from appearance. Black men probably like “vigorous” activity and generally speaking fine boned thin women don’t tolerate that very well.

          Heavier black women are likely also more confident because they live in a very sexualized culture where suggestive comments and passes are frequent,  they believe they are sexy because they are TOLD they are sexy by the black males that will have sex with just about anything.  White culture is less overtly sexual, if heavy set white women received frequent comments or passes from strangers they too would likely believe themselves to be sexier.

        • crystal evans

          Haven’t you heard of Baby’s Got Back? and that Black men like women with a big butt. 

          • Anon

              crystal evans
            Haven’t you heard of Baby’s Got Back? and that Black men like women with a big butt.

            If that is true, then why don’t black men stay with their black women?  Why do they go after White women?  Something is not jivin’ here. Think maybe they are a lyin’?

          • crystal evans

            Look at the Kardashian girls. Why do you think that Black men are attracted to them. They have the Black girl parts such as big butts without the drama that Black women  often give.

  • Sonya610

    The sexual insinuations, the cuss words, the gyrating…none of that was all that disturbing but the black BABIES thrown into the midst of the promotion?  Sheesh that was just nasty.

    • Heinrich24

      Maybe those first things mentioned aren’t disturbing to YOU…

      • Sonya610

        Perhaps you prefer to live in a sheltered environment which allows you to be easily shocked. It takes a lot to shock me; a very sexual video with babies thrown is shocking.

        I don’t care if the babies saw the activity, sheesh they are lucky to avoid being molested in their home environment, but the overt suggestion that this ghetto behavior creates MORE of them and that is a good thing was just….a bit too overt.

        • Heinrich24

          You are playing word games here. I didn’t say I was “shocked” by this. Little the failed-race does shocks me anymore. It IS “disturbing” however, to see women – of any race – behave this way IN THE WESTERN WORLD – aka the formerly White world. 

          Adding children into the mix certainly makes it that much MORE disturbing to be sure – but that doesn’t mean the remainder of this behavior isn’t also so.

          I prefer to live in a White world utterly unaffected by this Black backwardness and swinishness. “Sheletered???” Hardly…  

  • Up to my neck in CA

    Blacks have low IQs, enough said.

    • Rowena

      Wrong. I don’t see how that is even relevant.

  • Xanthippe2

    This does help explain why dating and marrying within one’s own race is a good idea tho.  Black women can handle Black men far better than White women can.

  • Xanthippe2

    Well, generally the more intelligent one is the more self-reflective and self-critical one is.  This is not a bad thing unless carried to an extreme.

  • IstvanIN

    Watched 45 seconds:  GROSS

  • KenelmDigby

    Well basically the black American preference for obese females is an atavism, likely gentically determined, from their long sojourn in Africa.
     It is likely a sexually selected male preference that has operated over countless millenia of evolutionary time, the sceondary sexual characteristics of the obese female being selected as ‘desirable’ features.
     One thinks of the ‘Hottentot’ venus’, for example.

  • JackKrak

    Their pride and contentment with their “thick” bodies and their general lack of interest in losing weight is also reflective of another trait that is responsible for so many of the differences between us – their lack of a sense of introspection and self-criticism. Blacks are rarely troubled by questions like “Is this good for me?”, “Should I do this?”, “Will this hurt me in the future?”, etc. This allows them to be generally carefree on matters of health & self image but it means that as race they cannot progress much beyond a fairly basic & primitive state. For whites, who are just the opposite, it means that we alone suffer quilt, self-consciousness and regret but using that we learn from mistakes and thus can lift ourselves and progress in the world.

  • Christopher_Nelson

    That’s good to know.  They can keep going to the black worshiping mcdonalds with their 365 black website. “We be lovin’ it. “

    • Alexandra1973

      And they be luggin’ it!

  • Even without obscenities- this was a display of animalism.

  • The fattest, smelliest ugliest gender/race combo is so arrogant and full of herself.

    If they were really so mentally, morally and physically attractive why are 75 percent of their kids out of wedlock? Why doesn’t anybody want to marry these Nubian princesses and Ebony Goddesses?

  • Well, let’s be fair (I don’t care for Oprah & have watched only a few of her shows. But I remember vividly snapshots of her struggle with obesity). Truth to be told- she, unlike most Negroes- sincerely tried to get herself into shape, but it didn’t work, long-term. Genes, physiology, whatnot… were stronger.

    And she wasn’t happy with it, just resigned. What, in the end, is a realistic behavior. You tried, tried, tried,… it didn’t work, ..and, well, go with your life.


    • crystal evans

      Oprah was not always fat. I have seen pictures of her as a teenager when she won the Miss Black Tennessee title and she was at a normal weight.

  • Up to my neck in CA

    They have delusions of grandeur, the bottom line. Black women confuse sex with beauty and being desirable, this gives them a false view of themselves. Blacks guys will have sex with anyone/anything and blacks have low IQs. I’m still waiting for my grant money for this “study”.

    Before clicking on the image, remember what has been seen, can not be un-seen. Viewer discretion is advised.

    • crystal evans

      This reminds me of when I went to get my tags on my car renewed when I lived in Georgia. I saw this huge Black woman wearing a tight spandex body suit. Her body looked like a huge sausage. I was shocked that anyone of that size would wear that in public! 

  • Let’s simplify things: Black women are not happy with their “full” figures. They just don’t care about themselves very much. There’s a big difference between the two.
    Many are flat out jealous of the average White woman, because Whites are not as heavy, far more attractive, and they have IQs which do not borderline those who are Mentally Retarded. Period.

  • crystal evans

    They are told from childhood that long straight hair is good hair and they straighten their hair and get hair weaves. However, due to the negative effects that these can have on hair, at least 30% or more are wearing their hair natural, braided or in dreadlocks.

  • crystal evans

    I can just see it now, after this video came out, the welfare office got busier when all these chicks showed with another baby for the state to support.

  • Well…Rihanna.

    • I don’t know about Rihanna’s beauty, but she has no common sense.  Chris Brown turns her face into pizza a few years ago, and not only is she going back to him, she gets “Thug Life” tattooed on her knuckles.  Any slight glimmer of sympathy I might have had for her is gone.  If Chris Brown whacks her again, then it will be partially her fault, not criminally or legally, but morally.

  • Sonya610

    It is pretty obvious most of the ADULTS here know what I am referring to; if you don’t understand I am not going to explain it to you.

  • Of course mirrors are racist! Everybody and everything is racist, didn’t you know that??!!! Well, at least that’s what blacks think.

  • schmenz

    Walking behind one of these “plus size” black gals and watching the rear action I am reminded of two Volkswagens trying to pass each other.

  • GregHood

    No she didn’t.

    Another pretty lie goes to die.