From Clutch — Obesity is a growing health concern for Americans. With nearly 35% of Americans considered overweight and another 34% considered obese, the crisis is nearing the tipping point, moving from a major concern to an all out epidemic. But for African-Americans, especially women, it’s already an pandemic.

The statistics are jarring. 77% of Black women—SEVENTY SEVEN PERCENT—are overweight, while 50% are obese. Full stop. The health of Black women is at risk, and the underlying issues are deeper than just putting the fork down.

Recently, the National Medical Association met for its annual convention, and among the other topics of discussion were the shocking rates at which many of our sisters are struggling with their weight. In a presentation on Black women and obesity, Marilyn Hughes Gaston, M.D. and Gayle K. Porter, PsyD, founders of the Gaston & Porter Health Improvement Center in Potomac, Maryland told the standing room only crowd of doctors that the root causes of the alarming numbers of Black women who are overweight and obese are “as clear as mud.”

Recently, a survey conducted by the doctors revealed that the causes of obesity in Black women have been filled with misconceptions. They argue it “is not a diagnosis of poor people with poor eating habits,” but rather a myriad of issues that have caused many of our sisters to turn to food.

According to Black Voice News, the survey found:

“A tsunami of contributing factors including depression, yoyo dieting, cravings, poor self esteem, sexual abuse, emotional eating and a perception, reinforced by celebrities such as Queen Latifah and Mo’Nique that African American women are satisfied with their weights.

The survey also found that only 10% of obese women expressed satisfaction with their weight which might play a role in the high rates of depression, stress and morbidity seen in Black women.”

Another major cause of obesity in Black women, sexual abuse.

Black Voice News continues:

Denia Tapscott, M.D. program director of the Center for Wellness and Weight Loss Surgery at Howard University in Washington D.C. told the audience sexual abuse in young Black women is an important factor contributing to the obesity epidemic. 

Research shows about 1 in 4 young women have experienced physical or verbal abuse in dating situations with Black and other minority women showing the highest risk. 

“If you look at recurring patterns in teenagers, many girls have been sexually or physically abused and have never talked about it . Instead they eat,” explained Janet Taylor, M.D. , a psychiatrist at Harlem Hospital in New York City.

“Internalized racism, “weathering” is postulated to be responsible for increased psychosocial stress and blood pressure in Blacks said,” said Richard Kotomori M.D. , a Riverside, California, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist.

While we may be reluctant to face the facts, many of us are in danger of a myriad of health issues due to our weight. The thickness we love so much (I’m guilty as well), may actually be making us sick.

Although the media has seemed to be on a mission to tear down the psyche of Black women lately, we must face the facts. Many of us are leading unhealthy lifestyles—for whatever reason—and need to take better care of ourselves. Whether that means seeing a therapist to deal with the underlying issues that drive us to eat, or just hitting the gym or local park with a group of our girls, we need to get it together. We can’t waste anymore time…our future is at risk.

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  1. These theories (e.g. Weathering) and research studies have been around for a while… the real problem is that no one has developed a way to successfully combat these risk factors on a large scale.

  2. I’m sorry but it sounds like they are doing all these studies to find a scapegoat for the weight problems among us Black Women. Sure you can blame it on Daddy issues, and this 1 in 4 statistic of sexual abuse (which seems overblown) and depression and blah blah but really? We need to put the fork down. Why is it so hard to claim that and deal with it? Why do we have to go see a shrink to figure out why we can’t put the fork down? Weight loss is not rocket science. Burn more than you eat and you will lose. It doesn’t take a scientific study to figure that out.

    • @Michelle: With all due respect, I really think that if it was that simple, people would lose weight. There are many studies that are now showing that weight loss is more mental than anything. I don’ think anyone wants to be unhealthy, which is not to say we all need to be a size 2 to be healthy. I want more studies to come out that might change the conversation about weight loss and diet.

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