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Obesity Statistics and Facts for Black Women
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S. About four out of five African American women are overweight or obese."
Experts attribute cultural norms as a major factor. In the black community (as opposed to the white community), larger body types are generally more acceptable. The culture also derives from food selections at church festivities and family gatherings. Although the typical African American diet is quite tasty, it is also loaded with tons of fat, calories, grease and starch. Once a black woman continually consumes this diet and grows older, the metabolism slows, weight increases and health problems begin to arise.
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A Healthy Diet Solution for Women of Color
The wonderful thing about diet is that you can change it. Anytime you want, any day you want. To commit to a healthy lifestyle, start by visiting your doctor and getting a complete physical, screening for medical ailments, such as diabetes. Then with your doctor's approval, begin the best diet for African American black women.
Any doctor will tell you to put down that frying pan. Especially in southern American culture, frying is one form of cooking that is used often. This turns even the healthiest choices, such as vegetables (yes, southerners fry vegetables!) into the unhealthiest splurges. The grease, fat and oil from fried food alone are enough to cause serious heart problems, obesity and diabetes.
Blackwomenshealth.com was started by Dr. David P. Pryor, M.D. The website provides diet tips for African American women. It also discusses specific foods to consume, instead of the fried, fatty options. Here are some low-fat food choices that Black Women’s Health recommends:
- Buy lean cuts of meat such as skinless, white meat chicken and turkey. Avoid red meat and fatty options such as lunch meat and bacon.
- Select fresh and frozen vegetables as opposed to the canned variety. There are more nutrients in vegetables that are fresh or frozen.
- Choose low-fat salad dressings like balsamic vinegar. Avoid the creamy, cheesy dressings with all the fat.
- Buy cold cereal and hot cereals that can be cooked on a stove. Instant hot cereals do not have much nutritional value.
In general, also think of eliminating desserts. Not completely because you are human, but learn to cut back on sweet treats and refocus your taste buds to yearning fruit and vegetables. How is this possible? The more refined sugar—the sugar that’s in sodas, cookies, etc.—people eat, the more they crave. To stop the cycle, avoid eating these sweets. Instead, drink more water and opt for organic, fresh fruits and vegetables. Once you’ve stopped consuming an overabundance of refined sugars for a little while, you will begin to notice that fruits and vegetables taste sweeter. Thus, you will retrain your body and mind to crave the healthy stuff!
Also, learn to steam vegetables as well, instead of frying or smothering them with creamy sauces or melting fatty cheeses atop. Let your taste buds adapt to “naked" vegetables. You can bring out their flavor with a bit of spices; for example, some people sprinkle a tiny bit of salt, pepper or even Adobo on vegetables.
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Tips for Eating at Social Gatherings in the Black Community
A study done by the American Diabetes Association authored by Leandris C. Liburd, MPH, discusses how black women culturally associate social gatherings and food:
“In African-American culture, food is the quintessential symbol of love, and those who prepare it want to heap large amounts on the plates of people they allow in their private space. Rejecting the offering of food can be construed as a rejection of the person offering it. Family, friends, and guests often feel obliged to eat to excess as an act of receiving the love embodied in the food."
Therefore, rejecting food is a faux pas. And temptation looms. Here are a few tips to help in these situations:
- If attending a weekly family dinner or church gathering, cook a few healthy side dishes and bring them along. Then you have options to choose from.
- If you know the cook i.e. your grandmother or church pastor, politely ask if you can cook a piece of lean chicken or turkey that you bring along with you.
- If there are no options to either bring side dishes or cook for yourself, then eat at home before you go. Once you are full, you will not be as tempted. As not to reject your family or friends at the event, select a small piece of fried chicken for example, and take off all the skin to eat. You are creating a much healthier option for yourself.
- If your grandmother offers you her famous peach cobbler and refuses to take no for an answer, accept it. As stated previously, you don’t have to eliminate all desserts completely (unless you are diabetic, but that’s a health situation your family will understand). A very small portion of peach cobbler once a week won’t kill you or your diet. Drink lots of water afterwards to reduce the refined sugar taste.
As you learned in this article, the key to a healthy diet for black women is to retrain the mind. Examine your food choices carefully, shop and eat healthily and only splurge a little.
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"Obesity and African Americans," The Office of Minority Health, The U.S. Department Health and Human Services
"Food, Identity, and African-American Women With Type 2 Diabetes: An Anthropological Perspective," Leandris C. Liburd, MPH, Diabetes Spectrum, American Diabetes Association, July 2003, vol. 16, no. 3, 160-165.
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