The recent Ladies’ Day Event, where I gave a presentation Happy, Healthy and Free, was attended by a majority of African-American women and other women of color. The information presented really seemed to resonate with many of the attendees for several reasons. After the presentation I had the opportunity to have lunch with some of these interesting ladies and find out a bit more about them. In the course of our conversations, a few things stood out as very significant and relevant to my topic of health.
One of the women at my table was Wendy. Wendy, who is 68 years old, explained how she is not currently on any medications. That’s pretty impressive given our medicated society. So I asked Wendy a few more questions to find out if there are any clues to her seeming good health. It turns out she is from Barbados. Could this make a difference? Hmmm…..
Before I tell you more about Wendy and her background, let’s first take a look at the broader problem as it relates specifically to women of color. Alice Randall, writer in residence at Vanderbilt University, and an African-American woman herself, wrote an interesting opinion piece for The New York Times this past weekend. In her article, Black Women and Fat, Ms. Randall points out four out of five black women are seriously overweight and one in four middle-aged black women has diabetes. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blacks have 51 percent higher obesity rates than whites. In addition to pointing out some facts and figures on disease states and obesity rates, Alice Randall delves into some of the cultural reasons that may be contributing to this situation. She points out that it is part of the cultural heritage to be bigger and that husbands sometimes revolt when faced with the prospect of their wives losing weight. But Ms. Randall advises that in spite of any cultural push against it, things need to change:
The billions that we are spending to treat diabetes is money that we don’t have for education reform or retirement benefits, and what’s worse, it’s estimated that the total cost of America’s obesity epidemic could reach almost $1 trillion by 2030 if we keep on doing what we have been doing.
During a public lecture at Harvard University recently, biologist Daniel Lieberman suggested that exercise for everyone should be mandated by law. Alice Randall was appalled and noted the applause came from a bunch of “thin affluent people” applauding the idea of “forcing fatties, many of whom are dark, poor and exhausted, to exercise.” She goes on to express her view that government mandated exercise is a “vicious concept” but acknowledges the “cost of too many people getting too fat is too high.” Continue reading