Black Women’s Greatest Nemesis: Obesity

May 24, 2011  |  

Maybe she’s your hilarious aunt, your lovable mother, your loyal friend or maybe she’s you.

Judging by the sheer number of African American women who suffer from being overweight or obese there’s no doubt that you know at least one of them.

While you may have visually noticed this problem, the actual numbers may alarm you.

According to the Office of Minority Health, African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the United States.

The numbers go on to say that for every five African American women, about four of them are overweight or obese.

That’s alarming.

We all know the catalysts that contribute to this condition, generations of poor eating habits, the cultural acceptance of the rounder frame, even the fear that we’ll mess up our freshly relaxed hair contribute to this cultural epidemic.

Now please know this is not about an aesthetic preference. If you could be overweight and perfectly healthy, there would be no need for this conversation. But being overweight or obese leads to countless health concerns including:

•    Heart disease
•    Type 2 diabetes
•    High blood pressure
•    Stroke
•    Breathing problems
•    Arthritis
•    Gallbladder disease
•    Sleep apnea
•    Some cancers (Minority Women’s Health)

You may have already been aware of this list, but seeing it once more can either encourage you to keep up the good fight in maintaining your health or serve as a warning of  what could happen if you continue to live the way you do.

This week we’ll be examining our battle with obesity and the ways we can combat it.

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  • RTM

    AMEN. Speak the TRUTH!!!!! it is what it is. I'm just honestly sick of seeing nearly every sister ( The 4/5 statistic must get incredibly worst >+35 years of age) I look at being FAT!!!!

  • Tina

    I agree, black women need to lose weight because they look so unhealthy and just unattractive these days. I wish we would change a lot of the habits that push others away and cause us to get discriminated against. Let's start changing the stereotypes, get ourselves in shape because it says a lot about the quality of women we are. Also, let's focus on having successful children and looking and acting more conservatively. Right now I think we've hit our lowest point as a group, and we need to start earning respect again. It's in our actions not our words.

  • Obesity is a huge problem in America and fast food establishments play a big role in driving consumers to this level. Also we do not incorporate enough exercise and healthy eating habits and are facing the consequences of that by creating a burden on the health care system in the U.S. It is up to the individual to make the change and needs to make a conscientious effort to take action and change their habits starting immediately. There are numerous websites giving recipes on healthy desserts, and unlimited amounts of health conscious meals and we need to embrace that and do research and find a way to change our ways.

  • hotbbw07

    I am appalled at some of the mean insensitive comments some people have typed on this issue. Yes obesity is a problem and yes I am overweight , but I am in the gym doing something about it. Please don't wait on your friends or family members to support u or go with u , because most times they won't. Someone in my own family noticed my weight loss and in the next moment offered me cake. THAT IS NOT SUPPORTIVE !!!! A friend of mine who talked me into joining the gym never showed up when it was time to join , EXCUSE after excuse was all I heard. Now that I am almost 30lbs slimmer she can't believe it !!!! With all this said , just PLEASE try and make a difference in your life and your health. Find that motivation deep within your core , take baby steps and build up from that. I LOVE hitting the gym with my daughter now , the feeling is AMAZING !!!

  • I really liked this post….We need to stop saying.."dag baby u so thick" and start saying lets go take walk and hit up a juice bar.

  • kewaz

    Actually 78% of black women are overweight while only 56% of them are obese. There's a difference. I did a study on this a year ago from statistics that I found on national databases but am not claiming the credit myself for some reason….

  • Piper

    I'm a fat woman and I had a friend like you. Only whenever we got in mixed company, she would be offended if the guy flirted with me and not her. The assumption was,, what could a guy possibly see in you that he doesn't see me in. I kicked her to the curb. I'm glad that your no longer friends with the fat girl. She didn't need people like you in her life anyway.

  • Rhonda

    AMEN and AMEN!

  • Darkesthourglass

    Eating real food and a few vegetarian/vegan meals here and there is great way to start (in losing weight) . Sodas and processed crap are not our friends.

  • chris

    How can some of y’all believe obesity can be healthy? We black women need to take an honest look at our health. Being curvy is not obese. if your stomach sticks out more than your chest and butt and you’re not pregnant then you have a weight problem. the cdc may be overwhelming white but we can look around our communities and see the truth in the statistics. I find it sad that many of us will defend being unhealthy. While being a skinny person does not necessarily constitute good health we know for sure that obesity is not good for anyone. White people may be obese too but that is not a reason to be obese.

    • Piper

      Read Paul Campos' The Obesity Myth. He's a lawyer that did research on the "assumption" that being obese is unhealthy and the results are shocking. Send me your address and I'll pay to have a copy of the book sent to you!

  • fitness writer

    I agree that many black women could exercise more and start eating more nutritious foods. Losing weight is not impossible, and it's something that's likely attainable if you aren't lazy and are willing to work hard to achieve it. I used to weigh 250 lbs and after losing 96 lbs, I'm in the best shape of my life. I workout 6 days a week, and I run 5-6 miles 4x a week. I have tons of energy, I feel great, and I'm able to interact with my kids in ways I wasn't able to do before. I admit many of us are ignorant when it comes to health, but some women are just plain lazy. I have friends who've inquired about how I lost my weight, but they refuse to work out with me when I encourage them to. They make excuses, and excuses will not get you into shape. Many black women think the excess weight is appealing since back in the day, our men loved a "thick" woman. The excess weight isn't attractive at all and it's seriously unhealthy.

    • Piper

      Weight is primarily genetic as I mentioned above according to Sandy Swarzc of Junkfood Science and Sueth's Sayings. Both are medical researchers that prove that most people who lose weight will gain it back within 5 years. Only 3% of the population is able to keep excess weight off, so it's not a matter of not trying hard enough. And yes, men are entitled to their preferences but you are missing out on me and a whole batch of other desirable women because of our weight and that's sad. I'm sure if you looked in the mirror, you probably have some flaws too.

  • Isis

    I know that is right!
    After having my second child last April, I was already tipping the scale. I had gained weight at my office job, sitting on my butt, and eating all of the good food they usually have here after meetings and stuff. Then I get preg with my second child at 32, I knew it was going to be hard to lose this weight.
    I started to work out a little bit here and there and I even started walking in the mornings. BUT the one thing that I am seeing results with is ZUMBA.
    Me and some co-workers go into the gym at my job and work out for at least 40-45 mins a day doing Zumba and I love it. This is the only thing that has me hooked! I do it every day at lunchtime, and I feel GREAT afterwards. Im usually at my desk after lunch still dancing at my desk.
    I have found that this is working for me. Instead of dreading the treadmill, waking up an hour earlier just to walk for 30 mins (although that helps me wake up and I feel really good throughout the day when I do it) I do Zumba. Its the best workout Ive every had, and Ive paid 60 $ and hour with a trainer. BONK THAT TRAINER!! I will never use another trainer.
    Im currently 5'7" 190 lbs YIKES!

  • Kim

    According to BMI, I am overweight. I wear a size 6 on top and a size 8 on the bottom. One of my good friends (white) wears a size 10 will not be classified as overweight using the BMI scale. Oh, and I workout 5 days a week.

    I am sorry, but CDC and its stats can kick rocks. You cannot measure me based on a scale developed for another body type. I mean even strong proponents of BMI acknowledge it is not always effective in measuring black bodies because of the way weight is distributed and the density of our bones.

    If they were more concerned with producing accurate stats that better reflected the health issues of being overweight (of which studies say there is none) and obese rather than alarming people and making news, the numbers will be different.

    • Danielle

      Cosign 100%

  • Dimples

    Weight loss does not know race or gender. I work in an organization that deals with young people who have been abused and know that obesity in childhood and adult obesity stem from — verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Before someone jumps on me, I am not saying that everyone who is overweight has issues, I am not a psychologist or a Dr., some people are overweight because they do not eat the right foods or just eat too much. But those who are struggling with weight and have past issue may need to help to work through these issues- some say that until those issues are resolved, weight loss may not be successful or if you loose you will gain it back because the issues have not been worked through. Those who are calling these women fatso etc., are not helping them but contributing to their issues. Everyone has an issue/issues theirs is just visible.

  • wise one

    cosign 110%!!!

  • menissance

    In order to get these in denial bloated beach whale cows that somehow learned to walk on land to capitalize on the McDonalds dollar menu to ever pay attention to your comment is to post a picture of a Luther Burger with a bucket of fried chiken, chitlins and a 4 supersized milk shakes to grab their attention.

  • menissance


  • my my my, how crazy is it that at one point in history being overweight displayed wealth? how the times have changed…

  • Jay

    I never thought the subject of being healthy could be so divisive. I want to see everyone being healthy, especially my beautiful sistas. We all have to do our due diligence and try to a make healthy decisions regarding our bodies. That goes for men and women. I understand that making lifestyle changes can be difficult, so lets all offer some encouragement, empathy, and support. Love goes further than divisiveness.

  • Luvme09

    Obesity is a problem in every race of people, so do not just pick on Black Women.
    These numbers are so distorted, because we only makeup 10-12%of the population.
    Everyone's goal should be to become healthy and eat right, but for some that is a challenge.
    I know skinny people that have health problems, and perfectly healthy people dying of heart attacks.
    Also some people smoked most of their lives, and live to be 100.

    • kewaz

      I actually did a study on obesity and overweight across the board because I was developing a health food show. 20% of people in the US are obese but around 56% of black women are obese period. Obesity is defined by having a body consisting of 30% fat. About 78% of black women are overweight. Hispanics/Latinos come in next but if you broke that down by ethnicity (Mexican, Puerto Rican) you would see that it's confined somewhat to certain nationalities and still not nearly as bad as black women.

  • jazzy

    The majority of us Black women are not Obese, Ignorant, Belligerent, Loud and the Mother of 5 kids by 4 different men. That is an Inflammatory, demeaning stereotype perpetuated by the Main Stream Media. I realize that these "caricatures" may appear to be the norm or the majority, but I choose not to believe that is the case.

    • menissance

      the reports didn't say she died FROM knee surgery, she died AFTER knee surgery. Plus, im sure her fatness played a major part to her death and made the surgery more complicated or something. Maybe one of the left over fat rolls clog an artery or something. Anyway, i dont care how she died, just as long as the fat whale is gone is fine with me. I just hope the rest of these fat whale cows in America kill over and die. These bloated beach whales are costing us a lot of money health care wise. These fat b!tches are a plague to our society.

      • Piper

        She had just recently lost 90 pounds so she was taking care of her health and besides, this is a magazine for black women. Why must you come on here and spuel your venom. I am a size 24 black woman (whose considered what you call obese) and I'm in good health. You don't have to look at us since we bother you so much. Also, its fitness, not fatness that determines a person's health. Don't believe me. Go to Google and type in Sueth's Sayings or Junkfood Science. These two women are MEDICAL RESEARCHERS that show you can be obese and healthy, as long as you are not living a sedentary lifestyle. Some fat people do lose weight and their health problems decrease but there's also a good number of us that don't have health problems. So read and educate yourself.

    • Felicia

      What is your intention? The purpose of this site is to educate and uplift Black Women. So why do you post such negative comments. Also, stereotypes are not facts. So what if YOU see it on reality shows, the media is only doing that to perpetuate the stereotype (i.e. it makes them money!). If you enjoy criticizing everyone start your own website and post there. I hate when people try to "go off" on others on the internet. Just because of the anonymity people think they can say what they want. My guess is that you're a man, just by looking at your name. So my next question is ….WTF are you doing on this site? Don't you have something better to do?

      Oh, by the way, Felicia is my real name, bruh….can't stand fakeness

      I'll be waiting for your response

      • menissance

        I dont need to post my own website. I can say what I choose regardless of who doesn't like it. If you have a problem with the comments I leave then YOU should go somewhere else. Also, most stereotypes of the black community are facts. Its just dumb women like yourself who dont get that these type of studies are speaking in general. Its a fact that MORE black men are in jail (35% of 2.1 million inmates in custody) then college, its a fact that MOST black women are obese (80%), its a fact that MOST black women have children by multiple fathers (59%), its a fact that HALF (500,000 out of the 1million recorded) the amount of abortions being done are black women, its a fact black children are born out of wedlock (72%), its a fact that black MOST the women in America recorded living with AIDS is black women (60%). It's just that idiots like you Felicia feel unless these numbers that were collected from years of research and scientific study isn't 100% then its not true SMDH. It's idiots like you who only want to fix a problem when its too late to do anything anymore.

        • Chells

          Menissance if you feel that way that's great. I represent me. I don't care what statistics say. I don't wake up in the morning and say "Statistics say I'm lazy might as well not go to work". I can't say why other women do what they do and I don't want to. Every human on this earth has a flaw and I could care less how they choose to fix it. Always playing the race card is dull and unoriginal. NEXT POST PLEASE.

          If someone cares that much about what other people put in their mouths maybe they should start a free program and teach women how to eat more healthy and still enjoy their meal. Not these corny post that have been done over and over again.

        • UnBaffledByBullshyt

          amazing how you can skew statistics but present them so articulately that people believe you. There's a reason generalizations often become "stereotypes". For example, exactly WHAT hiv/aid stats are you trying to quote? More than 1/2 the women in Amerikka living with AIDS are black women, but that is only 0.03% of black women in Amerikka. Your stat of 59% of black women's children by different fathers conveniently doesn't include that 43% were married then divrced.

          It's convenient to spout HALF a stat to denigrate an ethnic group and throw in some name calling ('dumb women like youself", "idiots like you") instead of having a realistic debate, using 100% factual evidence, but again, if you can present nonsense and stereotypes in a compelling, articulate manner it's easy for people to overlook the fact that it's still nonsense. Here's a clue: When 1/2 your post is based on calling someone an idiot, a dumb woman, and an idiot… you're just using name calling to fill in for a lack of something intelligent to say.

    •  No, I beg to differ…most black women are overweight or obese. A lot are kind of loud and many have illegitimate children. I understand most of the socialization was lost with the prevalence of single mother filled homes. Girls stopped being groomed to be women, ladies, and wives because they were no longer in that role, which is why a lot of bw are in the state they are in today – not a good place. This may be the reason but it does not have to be a permanent reality. It’s up to us a whole to decide how much to invest in ourselves and our children (especially the girls) to lead better lives in society.

      It IS possible to better assimilate when you possess qualities that people admire or want to be around, regardless of their race. But no one going somewhere in life (regardless of race) wants to be around people who don’t look like they play the game well or even want to be a part of society. People of all races want to associate with winners not losers. Winners don’t talk much they just do. They don’t make excuses…they see odds as teaching lessons and interesting challenges. They are dignified, decent, and classy people who people gravitate to because they are the total package deal. Any race of person can be a winner…I think a lot of black women need to be reminded of this because they forget a lot.

      In terms of life perspective and self image…to be honest…most black women appear to feel and look hopeless to me. I guess it’s because they don’t realize their own worth or want more of it. I used to deal with self esteem issues until I started reading how to change it. I realized that all the little things that I didn’t feel good about were changeable. I actively took steps to add value to myself in the areas that made me less happy or proud of myself, including my weight. Whatever it is that is keeping you from improving yourself, work on it just do little things to begin the process…even if it’s just reading about how to create change through internet articles. Anything you do will count toward making progress.

      We are not meant to live as the status quo. We are meant for evolution and that comes from physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional investment into oneself. Accepting less than that for the sake of a false sense of happiness means you’re wasting valuable time on this planet.

  • wise one

    ALL OF THIS!!!!!

  • wise one

    fyi , the 'fat model chick' you are referring to died from complications due to knee surgery…

  • InnocentTruth

    I know the editors of this website read the comments on this site. You guys stole my links from yesterday and didn't give me the credit! You people know damn well that what I say is the absolute truth! All I want is a little respect from the editors of this site to acknowledge my contribution to this article. However, if you really wanted to acknowledge my valuable contributions. You will invite me to write a weekly commentary on a topic of my choosing. It can revolve around black issues but it will include my own perspectives on the particular topic. Nonetheless, I find it appropriate that this site highlight my contribution.

    • oh please get over yourself. if your words are so0o0o0o important and just, why don't you put as much effort as you do on this site, into your own crap blog.

  • Piper

    Yes, black women are overweight or obese. But that doesn't mean that life is over with. You can be big and beautiful and healthy. Don't believe me. Go to Google and type in Junkfood Science (Sandy Swarzc) or go to Sueth's Sayings. Both women are white medical researchers that say you can be obese and healthy. It's not necessarily the weight of someone that is indicative of whether or not they are healthy but how fit or how active a person is. As a fat woman (size 24), it is prejudices such as yours and articles on Madame Noire that encourage discrimination against the obese. Just because the media tell it, doesn't mean it's true. Educate yourself and then "laugh and enjoy life." Cheers!

    • InnocentTruth

      I don't have any personal grievances towards fat women. I just don't want to date you.

      • EDM

        Last time I checked…there were fat white, latin, etc… women. I hope it makes you feel good to put so many people down. The problems in the African American community have nothing to do with you. As long as no one is walking up to your front door "begging" for YOUR love, approval, and affection, you should have nothing to say.

        Your comments don't make me or break me. I'm really just tired of seeing so much negativity. If you want to discuss the issue of being overweight, do just that; however, you don't have to bring anyone down by doing so.

        Just an FYI… I am an African American women that is very well poised, educated, and very beautiful…and I have been told that by members of all races, not just my own.

        It's a shame that we are still having this problem in America; however, I am grateful that the issues are being exposed for all to see. We have a lot of work to do people. Let's focus on that as opposed to tearing each other down.

      • Piper

        We don't want to date you either. I thought this was a magazine for black women. What are Internet trolls doing on here anyway. That aside, if you have such a problem with fat women, why are you on here?

        • InnocentTruth

          Because I desire to laugh at your fat pathetic complaints.

      • Blah

        I've realized that "InnocentTruth" is just a trouble maker. Dude has something stupid to say on every post. He's trying to start something I guess lol. I don't pay him much mind anymore honestly.

    • wise one

      thank you Jazzy!

      and these are the women who smirk when they see me and start with the 'skinny b!tches…' vitriol…smh

    • Savannah

      Girl, you are not FAT!!! You are PHAT!! As a size 10-12, but only 14, i know exactly what you are talking about. I am 180-190 pounds and 5'4, but I dance, run and swim. So I might be obese for "doctor's standards", but I feel good and incredibly active. Plus, my boyfriend seem to want to date "fat women" since hes dating me so if you are judging someone by their size and not their character, you are missing out on a lot of great women!

    •  Black women are indeed big, but not “beautiful and healthy”. Health is when your body is the weight it should be, you have good muscle tone from regular exercise, you eat right, groom yourself well, and take excellent care of yourself all around. There are many improvements that black women need to make to offer a complete, revamped package. It’s time they get some style (I highly recommend What Not To Wear TV show for guidance) and begin to make health and attractiveness (internal and external) a priority.When you look and act the part, you get the part. Also, stop doing things that ruin your opportunities in life, it wreaks of very low self esteem, despite what you ladies claim to have. Nothing speaks louder than your actions.