are overweight and/or clinically obese. This is a very sensitive issue for
the sistas, and I can just here what they’re saying to themselves, Im
not interested in looking like a Barbie doll, and I’m not overweight.
The idea that Black women are naturally
curvier and are therefore justified by weighing more is the greatest
excuse they use when reports are given that define them as
The first question the sistas
want when you say overweight is, “over who’s weight?” That is a very good question but it doesn’t even need to be addressed when you
know you eat whatever you want and exercise sporadically. This article
isnt about trying to look like a Barbie doll, because thats not real. This is about the desperate need for African-American women
to lose excess weight.
The high calorie, sedentary
lifestyle of African-American women is killing them. For an
ideal weight range for three different type body types (small, medium, and
large) visit www.cf4life.com/weight . When on the web page, scroll down and figure out
if you fall into a range based on your height. If your weight
is not on the chart, then overweight is what you are. Not big boned,
not big mamma, not queen-sized – overweight.
I’m assuming that at this time
something different is being said by African-American women: Well ok, Im
a little overweight, but Im healthy so it isnt really a big deal.
I found this statistic to be alarming for those plump yet hopeful women: Fewer
than half of people in the U.S. who are considered overweight are not advised
by their doctors to shed pounds. Its time for the seriousness of
overweight and obesity to be addressed in the African-American women’s
The Center for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) reports that African-American women suffer higher
percentages of diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer and
premature death. Compared to women of normal weight, those who are
overweight have a 60% greater risk of dying within 10 years from all
The CDC also says that when African-American
women get these diseases, they have more severe cases than white
women. The biggest increase in risk from being overweight is for
death from heart disease, which is more than three times greater for overweight
women and up to six times greater for women who are clinically obese
(i.e. Body Mass Index of over 30).
Not long ago, obesity was seen
mainly as a cosmetic problem. Being overweight today is no
longer about looking good, its a matter of life and death. But lets
answer the real question everyone is asking, “Why are African-American women
so much bigger than other women?”
habits. African-American women have
significantly higher intakes of cholesterol than other
groups according to new diet findings. For example, white
women were significantly more likely to meet recommended guidelines to
consume less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day. African-American women
are also more likely to consume a diet low in minerals versus other
nationality groups who have diets high in minerals.
A diet low in minerals was
found to be associated with hypertension, according to the 1997 study
by the CDC. People who consume at least the recommended amounts of
potassium, magnesium and calcium may have a reduced risk of developing high
blood pressure. These findings have been confirmed by other research, in
particular that African-American women tend to consume less calcium
and potassium than other groups.
Other studies have shown that Black
women are more likely to use animal fats in cooking, and women of other
ethnicities are more likely to use liquid or soft vegetable fats, nonstick
sprays or no fats. Beef, sausage and fried meat contribute to a very high
percentage of total fat consumption of African-American womens
Eating traditional foods (soul
food), many of which are unhealthful, or in unhealthful amounts. Most of
these food traditions date back to slavery.
Fitting in with their social
circle. Black women tend more than any
other ethnic group to eat what there friends are eating. Even while on a
diet, Black women are more subjected to being easily influenced
by their friends.
Allowing sweets to comfort them. This
is a huge problem with most women when they get depressed, but it affects African-American
women in a more adverse way because their inactive lifestyle.
toward physical activity.
Another major contributor to the increase weight among African-American women
is their lack of physical activity (i.e. exercise). Sistas are not
exercising, and the ones who do are not exercising intensely enough to make a
difference in their weight.
A study was
recently done and African-American women were asked why they didn’t work up a sweat in the gym
or didnt go to the gym at all. Some of the most common responses where
that their hairstyles don’t respond well to sweat and heat, and that the
men in their lives don’t think they need to lose weight.
It has to be
understood that less pressure exists in the African-American community
for people to lose weight through diet and exercise because of a cultural
acceptance of higher body weights and heavier body shapes. The term
“thick” is often used as a replacement word for shapely African-American women
that may be slightly overweight. In the other communities there are no
replacement words for an overweight individual. These are major contributors to
the attitude that permeates the African-American community in regards to
exercise or the lack there of.
Exercise attitude mistakes
I don’t need
to workout and lose weight because I feel comfortable with my size. Overweight sistahs are
two to three times more likely than overweight women of different ethnic
groups to say they are of average weight. Most African-American women
do not have enough knowledge about what is a healthy range for their height, so
they have a tendency to compare themselves to friends and family members.
If I workout
too much I will be anorexic and be to skinny. An Ebony Magazine columnist cited a study that found 40%
of overweight African-American women considered their bodies attractive. Its ok to be
confident, but when dealing with health issues, the acceptance of your weight
can be taken too far and eventually detrimental to ones health.
We know the problem the overweight
problem in our community is very real. You need only take a stroll down any
street in the African-American community and see that the problem is
real, but what is the solution?
Education and practical steps
toward a healthier lifestyle is the solution. You can buy books that list
the calories-per-serving of many foods. Additionally, the nutrition labels on
all packaged foods and beverages provide calories-per-serving information. Make
a point of reading the labels of the foods and drinks you use, noting the
number of calories and the serving sizes.
Many hospitals, community centers,
and medical groups offer weight reduction programs. The Internet, library and
bookstores are great references for fitness plans and healthy menu planning. Physicians
and personal trainers are an important resource tool as well. There
is help out there, use it!
Consistent exercising is also a factor
that will assist you with maintaining a healthier weight. To really be
motivated to exercise you have to know the many benefits of
exercising. We will go over a few here.
Exercise can help you age
well. Women are especially prone to a condition called osteoporosis (a
weakening of the bones) as they get older. Studies have found that
weight-bearing exercise, like jumping, running or brisk walking, can
help keep your bones strong.
Exercising helps you look
better. When you exercise you burn more calories and look more
toned than individuals who don’t.
Exercise helps enhance your
thinking. When you are taking deep breaths in and out, this causes the
body to produce endorphins, chemicals that can help a person to feel more
peaceful and happy.
Exercise will help you sleep
better. It can also help those who have mild depression and low
self-esteem improve on those conditions.
Exercise can give a real sense of
accomplishment and pride at having achieved a certain goal. Like finally
loosing that extra 20 pounds that you have wanted to get rid of for years.
Below is a list of practical steps that you can implement daily into your
routine to see an improvement on your health and fitness long term.
Eat smaller portions and more balanced meals. Most American portions are
not made for one person to eat. There is just too much food when you
order out, so what I suggest is that you always put half of your food in a
doggy bag and save it for later. Add more color to your meals. If
you don’t have a vegetable or complex carbohydrate with meat, the meal is not
Don’t skip a meal, because you’re likely to overeat the next time. If you are hungry
then eat, don’t stuff your self, just eat. I train clients that actually
miss lunch and try to make up for what they didn’t eat at another meal.
Avoid fried foods–grilled or baked foods
have less saturated fat. I know you secretly love fried chicken,
but at a certain point you have to make a choice, and I’m not talking about
hot or mild sauce. Your health, or a three-piece with a biscuit. By substituting lean cuts of meat for fatty ones,
avoiding high-fat packaged foods and snacks, and refraining from fat-rich
products such as butter, mayonnaise and salad dressings, you can cut out
hundreds of calories per day.
Eat early in the evening. The longer the time span between your
evening meal and bedtime, the more time you have to burn off fat and
calories. Between 4-6pm is the ideal time to eat. That gives you enough
time between dinner and bed to still be active, so the majority of your last
meal doesn’t sit in an inactive body through the night. Research also shows
that sticking with a regular eating schedule with meals and snacks planned
for certain times each day makes for the most successful approach.
Avoid “temptation” foods–out of
sight, out of mind. Every time I train someone who is trying to lose weight and I find
out their eating sweets the first question I ask is, “Where did you get
the sweets from?” I always get the same response, “From
home.” Stop buying things that you don’t want to be tempted by, and
stop saying that you are buying them for someone else.
Engage in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day. Physical activity not only appears to be associated with lower breast
cancer risk, but has other widely known health benefits, reducing the risk of
cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A mistake that most Black women make with
their physical activity is not sweating enough and never getting out of
breath. A rule of thumb for working out is, if you don’t have to take a
shower afterwards you didn’t workout.
Walk, walk, walk, and when possible, take the stairs rather than the
elevator. This adds so many years to your life and makes you
more active as you get into old age. Walking is also a form of exercise
that almost anyone can do. Lazy people can walk, active people can walk,
tired people can walk, energetic people, you get my point. The mistake a
lot of sisters make when they use walking as a form of cardio, is walking
too slow and not buying a decent pair of shoes. A stroll is
something you take to stay active, while walking for exercise is something
you do with the intention to strengthen your heart.
Enlist a friend
to exercise with you and help you stay committed. Studies show that African-American women have an increased tendency to work out in
groups, but a decreased tendency to workout alone. Get involved in a sport or physical
activity you enjoy and stick with it. Side note: dancing is exercise.
The most common mistake people make is they ask a friend that is the same size
as them and has just as much lack of motivation to keep them motivated.
If your friend doesn’t motivate you enough to stay active, then find
someone who will help keep you on track.
Siddiqu Muhammad is an ACE (American
Council on Exercise) certified personal trainer, NFPT (National Federation of
Personal Trainer) certified personal trainer and a Division 1 Athletic Strength
and Conditioning coach. To view more of Chicago Fit 4 Lifes eating and training philosophy visit www.cf4life.com