Eating Well, Eating Smart

According to AHA, being overweight is the main cause of many people's health problems. Today, all races becoming overweight. But obesity also complicates other health issues, such as heart disease, asthma, depression, sleep apnea, arthritis, and some cancers. Obesity is also responsible for the growing diabetes rate: African Americans are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with it.1 Being overweight also contributes to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can cause heart problems and stroke. Our children, too, are learning bad food habits and are getting fatter at an earlier age.

But it doesn't have to be this way. The sooner you get your weight under control, the better. Just a weight loss of 5 to 10% of your total weight may lower your risk factors for getting sick or lessen your need to take drugs for blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

Being overweight is even more pronounced among African Americans, where 60 out of every 100 men and and 78 out of every 100 women are overweight. There are also a higher number of black women considered obese than in the rest of the population. Childhood obesity is up, too, with African American girls the heaviest of all girls.

Why It's So Easy To Gain Weight:

  • Our culture: Studies show that African Americans are more inclined to accept a larger body size and feel less guilt about overeating.
  • Environment: Many families do not make nutrition a priority and, in some areas, going outdoors for exercise or recreational activities may be dangerous.
  • Heredity; It's true that some people inherit genes that cause them to easily gain weight and others inherit genes that keep them slim. The best way to lose weight and keep it off, though, is to eat less and exercise more.

What Can We Do To Lose Weight?

  • Watch what you eat. The traditional African-American diet is high in fat and salt. Replace deep-frying with broiling or sautéing in olive or canola oil or low-salt chicken or beef broth instead of bacon grease and butter. Use non-fatty seasoning and spices in collard or mustard greens.
  • Stay away from high-fat fast food. Fast food, like French fries, fried buffalo wings and burgers with all the saucy trimmings are very high in salt, fat and carbs—the three things that put you at risk for, or complicate treatment of, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Cook at home so you can control what goes into your food.
  • Eat less and eat slowly. Put food on your plate at the stove and don't go back for seconds. If you must snack, eat fruit or raw vegetables.
  • Be more active. A total of 30 minutes a week for adults and 60 minutes for kids is all it takes.(4) Turn off the TV, and instead, play sports like football and basketball, or go dancing. Get your family to join you. Go for walks (you can even do this inside shopping malls where it's safe). Every little bit helps.
  • "Take Our Wellness in Hand." As the wonderful African-American poet Maya Angelou said, African Americans can be healthier by knowing how to work with the healthcare system and learning about the diseases that afflict them. As an African American you are at high risk for many diseases caused by being overweight. By learning to eat properly you not only lead a healthier lifestyle, but you also start your kids down that same road to good health.

Eating well is one of the best ways to start taking your wellness in hand. So don't delay. Start your new year off right by eating right.


1 The Office of Minority Health

2 Net Wellness/University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University

3 The American Heart Association/Risk Factors (Statistics on Physical Inactivity and Obesity)

4 The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity