Advertising to women: Weight loss and Race. Why you can’t reach all heavy women the same way

A new study out from the University of Alabama at Birmingham finds that black women are less psychologically affected by being overweight than white women.

The report, which looked at physical function, self-esteem, sexual life, public distress and work, hypothesizes that social norms and body image contribute to larger black women being happier with themselves than their white counterparts.  While all women experienced a fall in quality of life as their BMI rose, black women had “particularly higher” self-esteem.

Author of the report Dr. Tiffany L. Cox said, “The implications of this relationship between weight and quality of life in black women remain unclear. While the highest quality of life is desirable as an indicator of overall well-being, black women’s perception of experiencing a high quality of life despite having a high BMI may also dampen motivation for attempting weight loss. Additional research is needed to understand the potentially bidirectional relationship between weight and quality of life in black women.”

Commenting on the study, women’s website Jezebel celebrated black women’s resistance to being shamed into losing weight; although their response may be considered confrontational, their appeal for proactive, psychologically healthy approaches to marketing to women is spot on.  As they put it, “how about every pro-health push focus on the physical benefits of health rather than the emotional punishment of non-health?”

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