New Approach for Black Women’s Battle Against Obesity
The obesity epidemic has impacted black women on a higher level than other racial groups or genders. Four out of five African-American women are overweight or obese, according to federal statistics. This new research from Duke University provides an alternative method to avoid health risks by saying instead of trying to lose weight, black women should aim to simply try to maintain the weight they have. They’re calling the approach “maintain, don’t gain.”
“We could reduce these health risks if women simply maintained their current weight,” said Gary Bennett, lead author of the study and associate professor of psychology and neuroscience and global health at Duke.
“Fortunately, it’s much easier to maintain weight than it is to lose it. We think this ‘maintain, don’t gain’ approach can help some women reduce their risk of obesity-related chronic disease,” adds Bennett who also studies obesity prevention.
The study looked at 194 black women aged 24-44, and placed them into two different groups. Half of the participants were placed in a “primary care-based intervention program” called “Shape” while the other half simply got the typical care from their doctors and weight-loss counseling. After a year, the “Shape” group stabilized their weight. However, the women from the other group receiving simply normal care from their doctors and weight loss counseling, gained weight.
“It’s true that there are some health risks for these overweight and slightly obese women,” Bennett said. “However, these health risks increase dramatically as women continue to gain weight, usually 2 to 4 pounds, year after year.”
The study cites further research that claims premenopausal black women are at a lower risk for chronic diseases than whites or other racial groups, but after age 40, the risks increase. The authors use this research to say that preventing weight gain could “reduce the odds of developing health problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol diabetes, cardio vascular disease, stroke and some cancers.”
Cultural views on weight within the black community has often come up in the conversation about black women and obesity. Some research has found obesity to be less of a stigma for black women. The researchers use this as a reason their “maintain, don’t gain” message may get through to black women at a higher rate than typical weight loss messaging.