Eat up, ladies and gents

2016-02-11 06:00

I LIKE to think I am observant, and one of the things I most enjoy pondering on is the various standards that are set for human beings and those we set ourselves.

Whether you are short or tall, thin or on the plump side, you will be aware of the rules that apply to you based on your physical appearance.

Things may be a bit different since the dawning of the age of Twitter and Justin Bieber­, but the general belief has been that black people are not bothered about their weight as much as people of other colours.

Even when it comes to food, our approach to it and the way we view it is seen as being different to most. I imagine this is greatly influenced by how one has grown up and what our relationship with food was growing up.

Most black people my age, and older, grew up in a time when we were encouraged, even forced, to eat every morsel of food on our plate because “there might be none tomorrow”.

It was etched into your mind that you need to eat as much as you could and as often as you could because, even though you may not be aware of it, the voice in your head was telling you “there might be none tomorrow”. You will still hear that voice even if you make a million rand per annum today.

As a black guy, society tells me I do not exactly fit the category of people who should be watching their weight or the way and what I eat. I am supposed to be a carnivore and eat as much meat as I can. I am then supposed to proudly display my ever expanding belly to show that I can afford to eat that way because I have “made it”.

I am not saying there aren’t any, but I have never exactly heard a black man saying he is dieting. Perhaps it is just the folks I know who are as reckless with food as I am. But I do know some black men who would ridicule other black men for dieting.

Black women seem to approach weight differently than women of other races. In black communities girls are encouraged to be “big girls” and “eat up”.

Of course, a girl has to store that fat in her bum and hips and become shapely so she can be seen as attractive in the Bantu culture. Problems start when the Bantu culture clashes with what the Western world considers beautiful.

Bodies of black and white women are obviously not at all similar. I recall reading a while ago that the way black and white women store and distribute fat has to do with how their bones and skeletons are structured.

Black women store their fat mostly on their buttocks and hips while white women’s fat is distributed mostly in the belly and thighs.

At this point, white women reading this will probably be seeing themselves as being unattractive because of their weight - but not the black women.

Black women earning praise and get pet names and are even complimented on how “healthy” they look when they gain weight.

It may be that this conditioning has influenced me too, because I have never had a thin girlfriend.

I am also not a thin man, and I still hear my mother’s “finish your food” voice every time I sit down to eat.

So the old story goes that as blacks were trekking southwards from east-central Africa­, they had to find a way of storing all those carbohydrates and calories for the journey and the buttocks were an ideal location­ to serve that purpose.

At that time, the diet consisted mainly of starch-rich foods for longer-lasting energy­.

The type of food we eat today may have changed, but black people’s food is still mainly starch, and we are still packing on the extra calories, now unnecessary, on our butts, thighs and hips.

Weight problems have no colour and I wish I had the motivation to be more active in order to burn that unwanted fat that is sneaking onto my belly.

My father died of heart problems aged only 43 and that is not how I want to go.

Until then, I will continue to appreciate and throw an extra stolen look of appreciation­ at that fine woman with shapely chubby­ curves.

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