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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Obesity, Lifestyles and African Americans - What are the Correlations?

Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I can literally taste McDonald’s fries as I am typing this. The taste, smell, the texture, how it makes us feel, can be a great source of satisfaction for us all. However, this very thing that is so pleasurable can be a danger to us if not kept in its proper place.

We can enjoy food but the primary job for food is to nourish our bodies. When we don’t have the right balance of foods and don’t have adequate exercise we end up with “obesity”. Obesity is more common in African Americans than other ethnic groups.

According to the CDC of Vital Health Statistics, 60.1% of African-American males are overweight and 78% of Black women lead the population in obesity and being moderately overweight. In order to get to a solution, we must identify the problems.

Since we’re specifically looking into facts surrounding Blacks and obesity we must address issues indicative to our community as we do have some unique concerns. For African Americans there tends to be certain factors that play a role and influence our food choices such as our history, religion, our culture, friends, family and environment. Lets discuss three in particular.

First, is our culture. Studies show African Americans tend to accept larger body sizes. On one hand it’s a good thing but it ends up hurting us more because our tolerance of these larger sizes has lead us to be more obese and subsequently left us with more obesity/health related illness. We also tend to feel less guilty about overeating thus making it less likely for us to diet.

Second, is our environment including what seems to be available to us, and the cost associated with our choices in food. In our neighborhoods, we have these fast food carry-outs on nearly every corner and mini markets that only offer us fried fatty foods laden with sodium. Then there is processed foods and sugar filled drinks to wash it down with.

Third and lastly, one of the most important culprits is our family and upbringing. What we’re taught as children from our families sets the tone for us in regards to our food choices. Many of our families do not make nutrition a top priority. So this gets passed down generation after generation. For us, our family tradition as a community is “soul food”. Nothing is wrong with this tradition in and of itself, but there is a problem for our less active lifestyles these days in combination with the fact that this soul food diet is laden with high fat content, sugar, and sodium for flavor.

So continuous consumption of these foods without adequate exercise causes our body’s nutritional system to get clogged up, confused and stuck in fat storing mode. But not to fret my brothers and sisters - we don’t have to give up our tradition of enjoying soul food, we just have to make some much needed adjustments.

If we have had these unhealthy eating habits, we must begin to correct this by cleansing our bodies to naturally remove harmful substances and allow it to return to it’s normal metabolic function. Cleansing will enable us to overcome food cravings, and re-establish natural hunger so we can cultivate a true and balanced appreciation for food.

Once we have done this, we just have to modify how we prepare our food by cutting back on the fat, use alternatives for white processed sugar, and switch to sea salt instead of table salt to decrease sodium. Even these small adjustments can make a difference and you can still have great tasting food. In fact, cooking with natural foods organically grown is the best option for nutritious and flavorful food.

As a side point: Significantly decreasing your intake of fast foods while increasing physical activity and exercise will be an added benefit overall. So hopefully thru more education and awareness on this matter of obesity, this trend within our community can be reversed and we all can feel healthier, more energized and better equipped to enjoy life’s possibilities!

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