Combatting Health Disparities: Obesity

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), obesity affects about one-third of adults in the United States and is a significant risk factor for many of the leading causes of death, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Additionally, obesity-related care constitutes a sizable portion of healthcare expenditures. About 17% percent of our country’s youth are obese.





However, within America’s black population, the prevalence of obesity is increased, especially in black women. Specifically, while about 37% of black men are obese, the prevalence of obesity in black women is about twenty percent greater than the national average, with a prevalence of about 56.6%.





There are many proposed reasons for the disparity in obesity prevalence among different groups. It is known that lifestyle and diet are key components of maintaining a healthy energy balance, but it is also true that disparities increase health risks for many minority groups in the United States. However, some hypotheses, including that of writer Alice Randall posit that the increased obesity rate is a product of black women’s celebration of their body types.

Despite varying perceptions of obesity, as black women we should strive to maintain a healthy body weight to minimize disease risk and to live healthier lives overall. Personally, I am focusing on developing consistent exercise practices to build upon throughout the year. I have a regular workout regimen and I try to keep it interesting: for example, this month I’ve been working on a exercise-inspired playlist, and I plan workouts according to the tempos of different songs in the playlist. Once I complete this workout, I hope to share it with my friends so that we can exercise together and encourage each other. In the spirit of group exercise, I think it’s also important to commit to a gym class or an at-home workout series. In these classes or at home, you find friends to maintain accountability, and working out with others is a great way to bond!

Besides exercise, I watch my caloric intake through a food diary app. While I don’t think it’s crucial to record every single thing I eat, knowing that I have a food diary often prevents me from stress eating or eating out of boredom.

Finally, I consciously try to satisfy cravings by drinking green tea (which has antioxidant and disease-reducing properties) and by making sure I’m drinking enough water (the recommended daily goal is 64 oz).

As we all endeavor to stay healthy for our families and communities, it is important for each of us to find what works best for us. For me, this includes creating weight lifting and toning exercise routines to the beats of songs in an eight-song playlist. For example, I have an abs track that includes a lot of crunches and sit-ups, and a legs track in which I alternate mainly between squats and lunges. I also think it’s important to find a friend to keep me accountable for actually going to the gym and keeping up with my goals.

Image sources: State of Obesity Report

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Community Conversations: Sister to Sister, a women's health initiative, is an an ongoing, open forum to explore health issues of particular relevance to Black women and their families. 

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