HEALTH

Latinas Love Their Curves, Study Says

Rebekah Bihari, 2, exercises with her mother Ann, Saturday, March, 11, 2006., at the Ladies Workout Express in Hamilton, N.J. Members of the Ladies Workout Express raised more than $6,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital with a workout against cancer.   (AP Photo/Jose F. Moreno)

Rebekah Bihari, 2, exercises with her mother Ann, Saturday, March, 11, 2006., at the Ladies Workout Express in Hamilton, N.J. Members of the Ladies Workout Express raised more than $6,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital with a workout against cancer. (AP Photo/Jose F. Moreno)

It is official: Latinas love their curves.

At least that’s what a study released this week is saying about plus-sized Hispanic women they surveyed – they are overweight but don’t call them fat. They are perfectly normal, thank you very much.

“We are seeing Hispanic and African American women are more likely to consider their weight normal when they are overweight,” said one of the study’s authors, Abbey B. Berenson, a professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Though the study didn’t ask why they felt that way, she speculated it could have been because of cultural reasons.

“It’s what is acceptable in individual surroundings,” said Berenson, who co-wrote the study with UTMB assistant professor Mahbubur Rahman.

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Of course, one person’s “normal” weight is another person’s skinny physique. And well, not everyone wants to be wafer-thin.

“If you want to be a delicate flower ready for a man to whisk you away into the sunset, perhaps being that thin is useful,” said Josefina Lopez, an author and screenwriter who co-wrote the breakout hit movie “Real Women Have Curves,” starring America Ferrera.

“But if you’re going to be a warrior and create a life that’s larger-than-life, you might need a body that can last and is strong enough for the curves reality throws at you...”

Lopez, who described herself as a full-figured Chicana, created a sketch comedy group in Los Angeles called P.M.S. (which stands for Pinche Mentirosa Sisters) with three other Latinas with “real bodies and curves.” She said they started the group to protest sexist Hollywood standards that wouldn’t “allow” actresses their size (over size 6) to star in ideal leading roles.

“I like having large breasts and a body that looks like a woman's body with curves and fat where it's supposed to be,” Lopez said. “I think a lot of fashions are homo-erotic in that they glorify the body of a young boy and a woman with no curves so she looks like a pre-pubescent boy.”

The Texas survey found one in four overweight Hispanic women perceived their weight as “normal”, while only 15 percent of white respondents did. That means, the study says, those women are less likely to lose weight and “more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease risk factors and other obesity related diseases.”

The study surveyed 2,224 women, ages 16 to 25, over two years that went to public health clinics in Texas for family planning services. About 48 percent of respondents, or 1,076, were Hispanic, most of them Mexican or Mexican American. They were asked “how would you describe your weight?”

Lopez was not one of the women surveyed, but she would have gladly responded that she is happy with her weight – not despite of, but because of the extra pounds.

“I wish there weren't so much hatred of women and subliminal messages telling a woman that a woman will never be thin enough or good enough because she is not a man,” she said.

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