Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's Really Eating Us? Black women & weight

When I came across the statistic that by the year 2034, 100% of black women will be overweight and obese, a bundle of emotions came across me as I felt embarrassed for black women, I felt sorry for us but mostly I felt compelled to write about it, talk about it, and take it on as a part of my platform in healing women.

Obesity is a symptom of something much deeper than just food and a sedentary lifestyle. As with any imbalance in the body, there is an imbalance in the mind/spirit as well which lends to the question, What’s Really Eating Us?

Anytime a large group of people who have identity factors in common with each other such as race suffer from a similar symptom such as obesity and thus a similar disease, then the question becomes what is going on with this group of individuals in which they share a common experience that is affecting them and producing a symptom as large as obesity. According to statistics over 70% of black women in America now are considered to be overweight and/or obese. I’m not going to put much weight on the statistics because I do my own personal accounting. Besides that I’m a skeptic when it comes to statistics especially since we have to be wary and conscious of from whom and from where this information is being disseminated? However, when I run my daily errands, when I look at my family, when I look at other black people’s families, when I hear brothers talk about black women’s weight problems, I don’t need a statistic to tell me what is really going on. In my family alone, I have a host of aunts, great-aunts and first and second female cousins who are overweight and/or obese. When I first took on this weight issue, I would run my daily errands and count the amount of black women who were overweight and/or obese and the numbers would run anywhere from 50-75 in a few hours of my day.

Too often western modern medicine dismisses the metaphysical, historical, political, and economic factors out of the picture when it comes to diagnosing and healing disease. While this form of medicine works to care for the symptom, it doesn’t aim to heal the entire person and look at what’s really going on?

We all want to blame obesity on food, but if that were the case, with the billion dollar weight loss industry, everyone who goes on a diet and loses the weight should be able to keep the weight off, but they don’t.
So again comes the question of What’s Really Eating Us?


We all know that the more money that you have, the more healthier you are. Why? Because if you have more money, you obviously live in a neighborhood that has healthier eating establishments, and options for sourcing organic, fresh, and healthier food. Also if you have more money, you value your health as you know that if you are healthy you have more energy and more energy means more money. Poor people who have a poverty consciousness eat cheap food. Its real simple and basic. People who are health conscious and who value their health over other material items will pay the few extra dollars that it takes to eat healthier. People who have more money are also more educated about their health. They seek knowledge and most of these people will read food labels, question where their produce is coming from, and they will read articles and books about health.

When you look at a working to middle class predominately black neighborhood in an urban city, look at the types of supermarkets in that area, the number of farmer’s markets in that area, and look at the conditions of that supermarket. Detroit, a predominately black populated city is considered to be a supermarket desert. A 2003 University of Michigan study of Detroit supermarkets showed there were only five grocery stores in Detroit with over 20,000 square feet. At the beginning of the recession, major large chain supermarkets fled the city leaving Detroit’s citizens to buy groceries from convenience stores.


In the media, we see black women celebrities who have struggled with weight: Oprah Winfrey, Star Jones, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Price, Monique, Queen Latifah and more. Some of these women even have gone so far as to say how healthy, beautiful, and big they are thus giving black women permission to think that you can still be overweight and healthy. On top of that in a celebrity craze culture, we believe what celebrities dish out without any analytical reasoning of their messages on our part. Therefore this leaves a population of overweight black women believing that they are healthy in spite of carrying hundreds of pounds of weight.


As I talk to black women, many of us still believe the old concept that we are naturally bigger women. But if that were true, how would that explain, black women who are sizes 10 and under?

Is it in our DNA? Absolutely not! But many black women believe that because their grandmother, their mother, and their aunties are big, that they will naturally gain weight as well. There’s this unconscious agreement that goes on with black women in families where the mother is overweight and therefore her daughter must be overweight too especially if the mother is passing down her food and lifestyle choices to her children.


Women still believe that with childbirth comes excess weight. But many white and Asian women successfully lose weight after childbirth. So what’s so different about their bodies from our’s?


Now let’s get down to diet. One stipulation about the black community is that we usually eat like our ancestors or elders eat despite the health issues that it creates. When I first became vegetarian, the struggle was not in staying vegetarian and avoiding the temptation of meat, the struggle was in getting my family to understand and respect my new diet and lifestyle. The Standard Black American Diet is one that is rich in fried foods, meat, dairy products, processed foods, sugar, and fast junk. It is junk that clogs colons, creates diabetes, hinders the heart from beating, raises blood pressure, and shortens life spans and in spite of the abundance of knowledge everywhere black people still eat the junk of our elders and then turn around and laugh at the ignorance. So knowledge really isn’t power, is it?


When me and my black girlfriends used to go hiking every Saturday morning in the Canyons when I lived in Los Angeles, we didn’t see other brown-skinned cuties on those trails besides us. We saw 80-year Russian grandmothers and Botox overdosed Beverly Hills housewives turning red from too much overexposure in the sun while hiking those long trails.

What are the lifestyles like for black women across the country? And how does that reflect the growing weight problem among us?

So the question What’s Really Eating Us? has a number of different solutions and possible answers, but we must go beyond the obvious factor of food and take a deeper look at the health of black women from a holistic perspective incorporating the mind/body/spirit connection.


  1. Just like to post my two cents - Live foods straight from the plant in their wild natural state heal everything - body mind and soul -)

  2. I called in for this call and no one was on it. I waited at least 7 minutes before I hung up. I had the right time and date and everything. What happened?

  3. @ Erin. Sorry that I am just now responding and getting this comment. I'm not sure what happened as we had about 20 callers on the call. We are having another call on Wednesday, March 16th. Go to my website at www.nwennakai.com/workshops to get the call in information. Thanks for trying though.