Nearly 60 Percent of Black Women Are Obese, Here’s What You Can Do About It

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Maria Lloyd reveals why nearly 60 percent of black women are obese.


by Maria Lloyd

The staggering statistics about black women and obesity and Type 2 diabetes is bringing forth a serious conversation about health and fitness in Black America. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 60 percent of black women are obese. Even more staggering is 50 percent of black women develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. It is evident that a change in our health no longer just wanted — it is a necessity.

The American Psychological Association (APA) teamed up with the Association of Black Psychologists to launch a call to action summit to explore the intersection of race, stress, and social context — as well as the culturally sensitive interventions that can make a difference in the obesity rate of black women.

On the Causes:

The summit truly explored the root of the issue and provided viable solutions to alleviate the problem. APA Past-President Dr. Suzanne Bennett Johnson attributed the surge of obesity in the United States to: 1) A host of factors that have made junk food and fast food inexpensive while making fresh fruits and vegetables comparatively more expensive and 2) Women working out of the home, causing families to eat out much more. Dr. James Jackson, Director of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, said African-American women have been hit hardest by the obesity epidemic — regardless of their socioeconomic status — due to the “stress of being a black woman in a white man’s world.” His research, published in the American Journal of Public Health, shows that black women often buffer themselves from the chronic stress of racism and supporting entire family systems through high calorie “comfort food.”

Dustin Duncan, ScD, research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, attributes geographical factors (e.g. high crime and few supermarkets) to the obesity disparity in black women. Duncan has found that women who are afraid to go out at night take an average of 1,107 fewer steps each day than women who feel safe in their neighborhoods. In another study, Duncan found that more parks didn’t correlate with reduced BMI, perhaps because they had become meeting places for drug dealers and criminals.

On the solutions:

Educating the black community about the causes of obesity is an important first step in helping the communities fight back, said Emerson College health communication and behavioral science professor Dr. Angela Cooke-Jackson, MPH. “So often, as black people, we are talked about but not talked to,” she said. “We need to give black women a voice and give them agency. Tell them how stress is affecting them, and tell their communities what they are up against.”

Dr. Johnson believes that fighting for policy changes that encourage healthy eating and exercise is a viable solution for the problem.  Psychologist and professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Maryland School of Medicine, Dr. Maureen Black, said promoting a healthy eating and physical activity in culturally sensitive. She said that has been the key to an obesity-prevention program she created named “Challenge.”

We recruited the popular eighth-grade girls to promote a healthier school environment, through healthy snack posters, physical activities such as jump rope sessions on the lawn, and culminating in a Health Fair,” Dr. Black said.

The group also discussed the benefits of utilizing health and fitness support groups as a tool to empower black women to lead healthier lives. Gayle Porter, co-founder of “Prime Time Sister Circles,” a 12-week program that has successfully aided 2,000 women lead healthier lives, says one of the toughest lessons is convincing the participants, most of whom are Christian, that it’s OK to take care of themselves. “As Christian women, we’re taught that taking care of our own health is selfish,” Dr. Porter said.

Now that you know the problem and you have recommendations for a solution, pledge to take care of your health today. Don’t waste another moment deteriorating your health.


What's Your Thoughts

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  1. deech

    February 5, 2013 at 10:00 am

    I refuse to believe that the numbers are this high, given that most Americans are overweight. With all the black women who have started eating better and losing weight, the new numbers are not as supportive to this faulty findings.

    Try again…

    • candy

      February 5, 2013 at 11:22 am

      I agree with you!SMH!

    • Gia

      February 5, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      I believe it! For every health-conscious Black woman I know, there are at least 4 I know who aren’t. The problem is that we don’t believe we are overweight because in our culture its good to be “thick”, however, many of our women flirt with the thin line btwn thick and overweight. We have to do better as a whole.

    • Barbara

      February 5, 2013 at 10:41 pm

      This is just another of Dr. Boyce’s continuous negative stories about Black women. He’ll get a “female” to do the story this time, in order to protect himself against the backlash of his: “Black women are fat,” “Black women have more sex diseases.” Usually, the Black women sex disease stories are followed up by White women saying they have statistics to back up these “diseased Black women studies.”

      Dr. Boyce just will not give it up. He’s h*ell bent on smearing Black women.

      Have you EVER seen a story about anyone other that Black women being fat? Are you the least bit curious about the statistics of ANY OTHER PERSON besides Black women?


      • Maria Lloyd

        February 5, 2013 at 10:51 pm

        Your ignorance is truly bliss… And it will be costly in the end. It’s incredibly silly of you to get upset with anyone for providing informative information about black health.

        Keep living in ignorance. I choose to be informed.

      • acidcookie

        February 8, 2013 at 10:15 am

        “Have you EVER seen a story about anyone other that Black women being fat? Are you the least bit curious about the statistics of ANY OTHER PERSON besides Black women”

        Go have a look around the health section on CNN. There’s PLENTY of articles about the NATIONAL OBESITY CRISIS. No it ain’t “just us”

      • KenyaSpeaks

        May 13, 2013 at 4:32 pm

        I have to agree. Boyce Watkins has some mental issues that he needs to work out. He was already insecure and then he read the Autobiography of Malcolm X and probably read the Isis Papers and now he thinks that by attacking his own people he is somehow helping.
        The truth of the matter is that he hates black men and black women and he is just someone wearing black face while all the time beating his own people so that he can make money from his online antics. And yes, he probably lives in the suburbs next to Becky, Billy, And Sue.

        • Maria Lloyd

          May 13, 2013 at 5:04 pm

          The only person with “mental issues” on this post is obviously you. I wrote the article as a sista who is concerned for her fellow sistas. After reading your demented comment, I may need to write a thousand more articles like this one to drill the information through your skull.

          Don’t get offended, get educated!

      • Rod Smith

        May 31, 2013 at 5:03 pm

        Barbara are you saying that this information is not true and cannot be validated?


      February 8, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      You must be living in fantasy land then….I say it may be as high as 70%….

    • blkgalusa

      May 12, 2013 at 12:43 am

      I totally agree with you and not only that but it is not always eating that causes weight gain. I have hypothyroidism and I have to fight not to gain right and exercise and then I still may gain weight because my thyroid is not working and also menopause can cause a woman to gain weight so I have two stricks against me.

  2. shield

    February 5, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    I agree but it is not fair because other factors that influence what we eat is not mention. Mostly all foods purchased by us are GMO containing high fructose, corn syrup, aspartame, and so much more which destroy our system and makes us gain weight and disease. The solution will be to eat only organic but with the prices of organic food, it is nearly impossible to stay away from these GMO foods.

  3. onmyway2012

    February 5, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    While there is a problem with obesity on America, Black women are not the highest. If that’s the case, they’d be on the biggest loser more so and in diet commercials. Where are the stats on Black men? Oh wait, this is another hit piece on Black women.

    Carry on.

    • deech

      February 6, 2013 at 10:13 am

      Exactly! It’s just another bitchfest from a bitter black male!

      Oh and when is Boyce gonna lose weight his own damn self?!!!!

      Isn’t he considered obese?


      February 8, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Any statistics or data to back up your claim? If not, have an extra large seat,boo.

    • KenyaSpeaks

      May 13, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      He hates black women. Probably hates his Moma. He’s probably married to some white woman or if he is married to a SISTA (to keep the front up), he’s probably screwing Tiger Wood’s ex.

  4. sawitcoming

    February 5, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I hear a lot of you ladies taking this as just another unfounded criticism, but it’s not. Overweight is an acknowledged national problem and it makes sense that black women are among the hardest hit. Most of the women in my family are overweight and so am I at 5’3″ and 158 lbs. I’m doing something about it, though. I exercise DAILY, I eat right. I’m down from 177 lbs. with a goal of 120 lbs.

    Don’t think of this as another “hit piece” and “what about the men” and “we’re not the only ones” reflect on the fact that more than likely many of the women you know are too fat and calling it thick, that they have type II Diabetes, high blood pressure, breast cancer. Think about yourself do you jiggle in the wrong places? Do you get exercise? Do you know your numbers? Cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, blood pressure?

    If not, you’re fooling yourself.

    • deech

      February 6, 2013 at 10:15 am

      Again, where are the studies for fat azz black males? ‘Cuz there’s plenty of ’em rollin’ around thinking that Rick Ross is their posterboy for being a ‘big sexy’.


      I won’t hold my breath for that article. This is a typical ‘bash black women’ rant.

      • Maria Lloyd

        February 6, 2013 at 11:48 am

        Allow me to introduce you: You’re overweight, unhappy, and single. Am I correct? You can keep living in your pitiful box of denial and misery. I wrote the article for women who actually love themselves enough to want to change their lifestyle, hence the “Solutions” section. If condemning black men will satisfy you, do that on your own website. Coming to this page and discrediting RESEARCH conducted by professionals is downright ignorant. Kick rocks.

        • deech

          February 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm

          So I’ll ask again:

          When is your mammy azz gonna write an article on fat azz black males? I’m far from fat, however I’m sick of these articles.

          I see too many black women who are trying to lose the weight, but here you come spewing the same shtt like a bitter azz black male.

          You contribute nothing, Maria, and that makes you a mammy azz mule.

          Now if your chunky azz need to lose weight, don’t take us all with you….do something about it.

          • acidcookie

            February 8, 2013 at 10:13 am

            Deech, 10 years ago I didn’t have a weight problem. Then i hit my mid 20s and my metabolism tanked (which it does for most grown folks). I’ve been struggling with it since. My blood pressure also ticked up along with those pounds (which is common) This article isn’t for the people who want to do something about their weight or don’t need to. It’s for the people who are in total denial about the fact their weight is going to cause nothing but health problems. Less than half of Black men are obese (google it). While nearly 2/3 of Black women are. Also, obesity in women can cause problems in pregnancy for the mother and the baby. So yes, let’s focus on women because it can also affect future populations.

  5. J. Johnson

    February 6, 2013 at 11:38 am


  6. Ann

    February 6, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    I’m from Memphis and and we have been labeled the fattest city in the United States. Ladies, this is NO JOKE it’s your Health on the line.

    You may not care now, but wait until you hit your 40s,50s. You may not make it to 60. No you will NEVER be as skinny as white women/men/ media wants but the target goal is to be healthy.

    Yes many black women down here are overweight or OBESE.

  7. Ashabi

    February 6, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Thank you Maria for this article if encouragement and facts. Perhaps, there should also be an article on the men; but this article addresses female issues for which we should be glad as we’re often enough disregared. This is not the time to keep your head in the mayonnaise jar. As adults we are all too aware that the truth can hurt but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be told. The only mammys here are the ones attempting to keep the uninformed on the fat farm. We are not trying to have skinny thighs and flattish behinds; we are not trying to look like some other’s cultural idea if attractiveness. We know beautiful when we see it and beautiful faces and skin aside, that beauty doesn’t get optimized at size 16 and above. Stop kidding yourselves and killing yourselves by staying in the lane of uninformed, unknowledgable, unrealistic, unmotivated, unhappy and actually uncaring about yourselves and those you profess to love. Show the Supreme being how grateful you are for the temple given to you to house your soul and live your highest destiny. Face your fears, tell the truth about how you really feel physically and whT the real prospects are for your longevity and well-being. Sarcasm and ignorance will be the ink in the pen that writes your epitaph.
    Many articles and opinions that come on this site I find oddly negative and non-supportive of Africans here in the maafa, diaspora if you will, but this is not one of them. We just have to live smarter if we want to live well. The informed choice can be yours. Let’s see how smart we really are.

  8. David (Soon to Be A U.S. Senator)

    February 7, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Very Well Said Everyone. Let’s not be so hard on eachother. If We Choose to Live, and We Have. We Must Be Aware of The Effects of What We Consume. The Original Plan of God was that His People Would Follow, “His Dietary Laws”. See Your Bible, Book of Liviticus 11 Chapter. Our Health affects Our Wealth! Peace!

  9. deech

    February 7, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Write an article on obese black males for once. I’m sick of seeing articles only aimed at black women and their weight issues when black males are fat too.

  10. jewellthief

    February 7, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    while I am greatful for the information, for me its really not anything new or different, and calling someone pitiful, miserable and single (really, that’s a shot?) doesn’t help….neither does calling someone a mammy azz mule, as well as uninformed, unknowledgable, unrealistic, unmotivated, unhappy and actually uncaring doesn’t help either….

    as I posted on another thread regarding this article, I look forward to the article on obesity and BLACK MEN….because we all know ALL brothas ain’t runnin around lookin like Mr. Universe…. 😉

    • Maria Lloyd

      February 7, 2013 at 11:37 pm

      So in other words, reading staggering statistics about black men and obesity will stroke your ego and make you feel better about reading that 60 percent of black women are obese? Lol… Surely you’re jesting! You can’t possibly be serious.

  11. acidcookie

    February 8, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Wow…alright, a simple goolge search pulls up the statistic for Black men, only 39% are obese, since that’s less than 60% there’s good reason that this article would focus on Black women. And if you don’t believe it…look around. It’s also common knowledge that men have lower body fat percentages than women AND lose weight faster, so of course the obesity rate in men is going to be lower.

    And guess what I’m one of those 60% of Black women. However, I’ve chosen to do something about it, my blood pressure is high, I’m prediabetic, both issues that are directly correlated with my weight, plus I have a family history of both. Black people are very salt sensitive and have issues with hypertension, and one of the easiest ways to curb that is to NOT BE OVERWEIGHT. Now, if you want to deny Black people are prone to hypertension, then just keep loading up on salt and get out of everyone’s way.

    I’m 5’2″ I was 198 lbs last year. Through diet I got to 178 but gained 10 back. I’m crept up to 188 again, and joined Weight Watchers and I exercise way more than I used to. I’m down to 170. I’m about 30-35 lbs away from where I’d like to be.

    I’ll be honest another BLACK WOMAN was my motivation to lose weight. I was on YouTube one night and found a channel by someone named divaslimsdown who lost nearly 200 lbs. by simple diet and exercise. I thought “I’ve got less to do than she did, I’m doing something about this.” It also helps that my mom, 2 of her friends are on WW too. Yep, we’re on our way to working this fat off.

    BTW, nationally 1/3 of the nation’s population is obese. 60% of Black women are obese. So there’s good reason it’s the focus here. The statistic is not in line with the national average and that alone is troubling.

  12. Sharona

    February 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks for the article. I’ve always strived to do better in all areas of my life, especially my health and well-being. Instead of asking where is the article on the men, why not check yourselves and start working on YOU!?

  13. Here we go again

    February 9, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Wow!! It is truly incredible but not all that surprising to see the comments regarding how black women, black folks in general, are continuing to live in denial about their health. I guess like they say stupid is as stupid does!!

  14. Patricia

    February 10, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    @Deech…I appreciate your comments, it seems as though society is always disparaging Black women. They kick us when we are down and when we try to pull ourselves up, they try to kick us back down. As one who has been in that position more times than I can count, I feel your pain. However, knowledge is power. Although I have read many things that I disagree with and may have even angered me, I tend to try to find the intent behind the information. Not that I expect any kudos for any credentials that I may have, I am a Psychiatric RN who has studied nutrition most of my life and have also struggled with weight. I try to read up on any information that will improve my quality of life. I think that the information in this article is meant to inform us as Black women and motivate us to seek out ways to improve on some of our problems. For this, I welcome this information and therefore will not seek to shoot the messenger.

  15. Salindra

    May 13, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    People kills me with that,just put the fork down, because we are over weight should we not eat at all,with some of us it’s not how much we eat,it’s just eating the wrong things,when we do eat,and the damn advertisements lol,just because u big don’t mean you can eat a whole extra large pizza drink a 2 liter soda 20 chicken wings,and more,y do people have to be so harsh,and put people down,if u not trying to b a solution to the problem and help shut the hell up.

  16. optimist

    May 14, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    We as black people are collectively unhealthy. We gotta get away from traditional soul food or what I call “Slavery Foods”. those are the scrapes that were given to us as slaves that was all we had to eat. The only difference between then and now is that most of us were doing manual labor 20 hours a day.

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