My great-grandmother had diabetes. So does my grandmother and one of her sisters. My mother pops pills on a daily basis to regulate her high blood pressure and my aunt is plagued by the same routine. A few other family members battle with these diseases as well, and I know plenty folks outside my bloodline who frequent hospitals and doctor’s offices due to raised glucose levels and weight problems. But from what I see, not many of them are doing too much about it besides complaining and shoving meds down their throats.
Every time I turn around, my mom is murdering a piece of fried chicken, fish, or shrimp, drinking soda or ordering and cooking any and everything she knows good and darn well she shouldn’t be eating. She’s always claiming she’s going on a diet or hitting the treadmill, yet I haven’t seen her do a crunch, squat or kick in years (expect if she’s on the dance floor and her song comes on, which is damn near every song, then that’s a different story).
And my stepfather is no different. He’s always complaining about his sore foot because of his “sugar,” but is the first one drinking Kool-Aid, putting bread on his chicken, or pouring sugar on his grits. He stocks up on the sugar-free snacks when he goes food shopping, but that doesn’t stop him from snooping in the kitchen to steal a non-sugar-free treat and excusing it by claiming he can have “some” sweets. But it seems to me that his “some” is a little past a lot.
As unfortunate as it is, this problem stretches far beyond my household. Living in the predominantly black city that is Newark, New Jersey, all I see is this: a pattern of unhealthy eating in my community. Everywhere you turn, there’s a McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King, mom and pop chicken shack, Chinese spot or liquor store. Rarely will you find a juice bar or restaurant dedicated to healthy eating. Those things are few and far between, but mostly located in areas where Caucasians and other non-black “visitors” are known to populate; places like Downtown near our handful of colleges (Rutgers Newark, UMDNJ, NJIT and Essex County), by the hospitals, the airport, or our money-making arena, The Prudential Center.
It’s sad to say, but healthy spots in the “hood” tend to be non-existent or end up getting shut down due to poor business. One of my cousins opened up a Subway near one of the city’s most notorious housing projects and is in the process of relocating because no one is eating there. To be honest, I don’t know too many black people who aren’t obsessed with sweets, salt, bread and grease. I myself have always struggled with weight problems and unhealthy eating, although I’ve done better since becoming more educated on the numerous possible health issues for me and aware of the fact that this is a serious problem and a huge epidemic. I work out, try to incorporate healthy food choices into my diet, but I still find myself over-indulging in foods that I know aren’t beneficial to my health.
I’ve come to realize that this thing is more than just taking a liking to foods that taste good. While we love all those fatty, heart attack-inducing treats, it’s way bigger than that. Although America as a whole struggles with obesity and other food-related health issues, African Americans suffer in particular, and statistics show it. We have been made into junk-eating enthusiasts. As a tradition for some, we’ve been raised generation by generation on hog mogs, pig fat and chitlins until we embraced it as the norm.
This is no secret. And while many of us know how we eat is detrimental on many levels, we choose to do nothing about it. I often hear people say, “Well, we have to die from something. Why not die living life the way we want to?” Really? Is that why so many people complain about their sore feet, bad eyes, swollen ankles, hypertension-induced headaches, hospital visits, too-tight jeans, daily pill intakes and needle injections? Because they’re living life the way they want to? Not hardly. A lot of our people don’t realize that their food choices and these problems go hand-in-hand. Although I’m not perfect, I understand that I still have work to do and I am willing and working toward change. For those who are still stuffing their faces with all the wrong things yet complaining and making excuses all along, the question is, are you?