Racism is exhausting! However, it seems Black women carry more than their share of it on their backs, hips, shoulders, thighs, hearts and everywhere else. We know that obesity is an issue in the Black community that leads to chronic disease. So does our outlook on life.
A new study finds that overeating and stagnation of the body is not a response to racism in Black women and girls. But, a positive outlook on health, good eating habits and exercise are – in other words: self-care.
For a study published in Health Psychology, researchers examined the impact of racism on the physical and mental well-being of Black people over 14 years. Studying 889 families living in Iowa and Georgia who have been participants in the Family and Community Health Study, they found Black women and girls eat healthier and exercised more as their perceptions of racism increased.
“In this study, Black women and girls didn’t just survive in the face of racism, they actually responded in a positive manner, in terms of their health behavior,” said lead researcher Frederick Gibbons, PhD, with the University of Connecticut. “This gives us some hope that despite the spike in racism across the country, some people are finding healthy ways to cope.”
Do these findings suggest Black women use healthy eating and exercise as a replacement for policies that seek to eliminate systemic racism? Of course not. They do, however, suggest that while racism is stressful, we have continued to find ways in which to be resilient, to not let it destroy our bodies, our minds, to remain focused, and to pass these healthy habits down to our girls.
Most importantly, during these times, Black women’s foremost response to racism should be self-care. That doesn’t mean leaving behind the cause. It does mean knowing what is healthy for your mind, body and spirit before you can help others in a safe and meaningful way.