Black Women Battle Obesity With Dialogue, Action

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Star Jones

Nicole Ari Parker was motivated by frustration. For Star Jones, it was a matter of life or death. Toni Carey wanted a fresh start after a bad breakup.

All three have launched individual campaigns that reflect an emerging priority for African-American women: finding creative ways to combat the obesity epidemic that threatens their longevity.

African-American women have the highest obesity rate of any group of Americans. Four out of five black women have a body mass index above 25 percent, the threshold for being overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By comparison, nearly two-thirds of Americans overall are in this category, the CDC said.

Many black women seem to be unaffected by being generally heavier than other Americans.

Calorie-rich, traditional soul food is a staple in the diets of many African-Americans, and curvy black women are embraced positively through slang praising them as “thick” with a “little meat on their bones,” or through songs like the Commodore’s “Brick House” or “Bootylicious” by Destiny’s Child. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post earlier this year found that 66 percent of overweight black women had high self-esteem, while 41 percent of average-sized or thin white women had high self-esteem.

Still, that doesn’t mean black women reject the need to become healthier.

Historically black, all-female Spelman College in Atlanta is disbanding its NCAA teams and devoting those resources to a campus-wide wellness program. In an open letter announcing Spelman’s “wellness revolution,” president Beverly Daniel Tatum cited a campus analysis that found many of Spelman’s 2,100 students already have high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or other chronic ailments.

“Spelman has an opportunity to change the health trajectory of our students and, through their influence, the communities from which they come,” Tatum’s letter said.

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article courtesy of BlackAmericaWeb.com

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