Next Level Training: Brenda Got A Big Ole’ Butt

The Problem   The numbers are in, and 7 out of 10 African-American women 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, “I’m not interested in looking like a Barbie doll, and I’m not overweight.”    The idea that Black women are “naturally […]

The Problem


The numbers are in, and 7 out of 10 African-American women

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, “I’m

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

isn’t about trying to look like a Barbie doll, because that’s 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 .  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 b####,”

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, I’m

a little overweight, but I’m healthy so it isn’t 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. It’s 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, it’s a matter of life and death. But let’s

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 women’s






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


. 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 didn’t 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  sistah’s 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. It’s ok to be

confident, but when dealing with health issues, the acceptance of your weight

can be taken too far and eventually detrimental to one’s health.



The Solution


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.


Eating Solutions


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. 



Exercise Solutions


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 Life’s eating and training philosophy visit