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African Americans & Obesity

Obesity in the African American community is growing at an alarming rate. We are considered 60% less likely to engage in physical activity when compared to whites according to a study in 2007(1).We are also twice as likely to develop heart disease than whites.

So what exactly is being overweight or obese? According to the NHLBI Obesity Guidelines, when your BMI (Body Mass Index) is between 25.-29.9, you are considered overweight. When your BMI is 30.0 and above, you are considered obese. By these standards, 77% of African American women are overweight and 50% are obese. Obesity is the 2nd leading cause of preventable death in the US (2).

African Americans (compared to whites) are most likely to smoke cigarettes, drink excessive alcohol and eat a diet high in fat (Soul food). We are less likely to get medical attention and we suffer from hypertension and diabetes when compared to other races. Socioeconomics is believed to play an important role in these stunning statistics.

They are a few factors that play into the socioeconomics in our community. Culture, environment, and heredity are some of the factors that affect what we eat and how our bodies process food. (3) When we examine our culture, it seems that we like our women” thick”. This concept could be very hazardous especially if their BMI is over 25.

Environment plays a part when you think about how fresh foods are not readily available in poorer communities they are in some upper class areas. Proper nutrition can’t be a priority when you honestly can’t afford to eat healthy or when fast food restaurants are more convenient and easier to access than a market that sells fresh produce, lean cuts of meat and foods made with whole grains.

The Good news is that it is NOT too late to start to correct bad habits and to teach our children better eating habits for the future. Here are a few tips you can start today.

Get moving- 10,000 steps a day can burn 500 calories. Do this every day, and you can lose 1 pound just from walking.

Do bodyweight exercises at home- Squats, lunges, jumping jacks, walking up and down the stairs, push up, sit-ups all can be performed in the comfort of your home. Pick an exercise to do in between commercial breaks and watch the transformation on your body.

Eat 4-6 small meals a day- Small meals will give your body enough fuel to keep it energized and burning fat instead of the 3 meals a day which are usually consist of large portions and can cause your body to store fat. Also follow these nutrition tips:

*If you usually deep-fry, try saut?ing vegetables in low salt chicken or beef broth.

*Replace fats like bacon grease and butter with olive or canola oil.

*Try steaming vegetables, and add a few spices for flavor.

*Taste your food before you add butter- you may be surprised at how good fresh corn is all by itself.

*Replace heavy cream sauces and butter with low fat or non-fat sour cream and try putting sauces on the side.
*Enjoy seasonal fruit for dessert, such as berries, citrus fruits, pears, cherries or grapes.

*Try eating your vegetables raw with some low-calorie salad dressing.(4)

These small changes can make a huge impact in your health and waistline. Taking care of yourself has to be top priority, because if you are like me, a lot of people may be depending on you.