FOUR out of five black women are seriously overweight. One out of four middle-aged black women has diabetes.
What we need is a body-culture revolution in black America. Chemically, in its ability to promote disease, black fat may be the same as white fat.
Culturally it is not. I know I did. I asked God to give me big thighs like my dancing teacher, Diane. There was no way I wanted to look like Twiggy, the white model whose boy-like build was the dream of white girls. Not with Joe Tex ringing in my ears.
How many middle-aged white women fear their husbands will find them less attractive if their weight drops to less than pounds? I have yet to meet one. But I know many black women whose sane, handsome, successful husbands worry when their women start losing weight.
My lawyer husband is one.
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When the biologist Daniel Lieberman suggested in a public lecture at Harvard this past February that exercise for everyone should be mandated by lawthe audience applauded, the Harvard Gazette reported. A room full of thin affluent people applauding the idea of forcing fatties, many of whom are dark, poor and exhausted, to exercise appalls me.
Government mandated exercise is a vicious concept. But I get where Mr. Lieberman is coming from. The cost of too many people getting too fat is too high. I live in Nashville. There is an ongoing rivalry between Nashville and Memphis.
Black women and fat
In black Nashville, we like to think of ourselves as the squeaky-clean brown town best known for our colleges and churches. In contrast, black Memphis is known for its music and bars and churches.
We often tease the city up the road by saying that in Nashville we have a church on every corner and in Memphis they have a church and a liquor store on every corner. WE have to change.
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Black women especially. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blacks have 51 percent higher obesity rates than whites do.
Now I weigh less. It will always be a battle.
My goal is to be the last fat black woman in my family. For me that has meant swirling exercise into my family culture, of my own free will and volition.
I have my own personal program: walk eight miles a week, sleep eight hours a night and drink eight glasses of water a day. I call on every black woman for whom it is appropriate to commit to getting under pounds or to losing the 10 percent of our body weight that often in a 50 percent reduction in diabetes risk.
Sleeping better may be key, as recent research suggests that lack of sleep is a little-acknowledged culprit in obesity.
But it is not just sleep, exercise and healthy foods we need to solve this problem — we also need wisdom. I expect obesity will be like alcoholism. People who know the problem intimately find their way out, then lead a few others.
The few become millions. Down here, that movement has begun. I hold Zumba classes in my dining room, have a treadmill in my kitchen and have organized yoga classes for women up to pounds. Our go-to family dinner is sliced cucumbers, salsa, spinach and scrambled egg whites with onions.
Our go-to snack is peanut butter — no added sugar or salt — on a spoon. My quick breakfast is a roasted sweet potato, no butter, or Greek yogurt with six almonds.
I may never get small doing all of this. But I have made it much harder for the next generation, including my year-old daughter, to get large. Sunday Review Black Women and Fat.