Friday, May 11, 2012
Why Black Women are Fat
The linked article from last Sunday's New York Times suggests that Black women are fat because they want to be. I disagree.
I understand that European standards of beauty have affected the mind of almost every Black woman I know. For some (but not most), this has resulted in a total about face, wanting to be as unlike a European as possible. However, I reject the notion that we are fat because we want to be. Consider another thought provoking possibility. It relates to the content of the article referenced in my last post.
There are lots of people on the other end of the black fat equation getting rich while we die. Black people are suffering disproportionately from illnesses that are associated with carrying excess weight. We could break down the costs of obesity many ways- food costs, more expensive specialty clothes, lost days at work, lost cognitive function, lost income when a breadwinner is disabled or dies, costs of medication, surgeries & hospitalization., higher insurance premiums, and on, and on.
So many people are making money off of our health problems, maybe we should look into whether the idea that it is good to be heavy came from within our community. Obesity is a big fat bandit, robbing us of our economic power, family structure and vitality. Are we victims of various forms of marketing (brainwashing) that has us thinking we like being this way? Don't be too quick to answer- if it could happen to doctors with pain medicine, it could happen to people who have much less knowledge about health.
My experience has taught me that there's another obvious reason that black women are fat- we don't know what fat is (from a health perspective). I screen all of my patients for obesity and probably annoy many by alerting them if they pick up extra weight. I also try to remember to congratulate those who show improvement by adopting a healthier lifestyle to reduce their weight.
Most of the Black women I follow have heard my point of view about weight. I am not your mate, I am not concerned about your appearance. My concern is your health. If we shifted our focus away from variable opinions about what constitutes an acceptable appearance, and kept our focus on how to achieve and maintain optimal health, we may finally begin to make progress on this issue. When I diagnose a woman with overweight or obesity, it is a mathematical diagnosis based on the BMI (body mass index). This calculation (check yours here) compares your weight to your height. Population studies have shown that risk of death is at a low point with a BMI of around 22, starts rising after a BMI of 25, rises more steeply over a BMI of 30, and become dangerously (morbidly) high over a BMI of 40. If doctors kept things objective by taking the appearance assessment out of the decision making process, more people would have an early warning that their current lifestyle habits are not "pro-life" choices.
So here's an easy action item for those interested in improving their health. BUY A SCALE. Get on it no less frequently than once every 2 weeks. If you know you've been overindulging, get on it once a week so you can correct a 5 pound gain before it turns into a 15 pound gain. This isn't about obsessing over your weight, it's about awareness. Many of us lack awareness with respect to our weight. They say knowing is half the battle. Don't stop getting on the scale because you didn't like the trend you are seeing. Instead, use the information and commit to at least maintaining whatever weight you are now. You have to patch the hole in the boat to keep it from sinking, then fine tune your plan to get back to shore.
I am looking forward to your comments, and expect that not all of them will be positive :)
Peace & health,