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Promoting Healthy Weight Among African American Women

Keeping a healthy weight is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle. In fact, losing and keeping off that extra weight happens to be one of the most effective ways of reducing your risk of developing many chronic and deadly diseases. 


What Is a Healthy Weight?

A healthy weight consists of being “physically fit”- not necessarily being thin. Thin does not mean healthy. A healthy weight is determined by body mass index- or BMI for short. Your BMI, measures the amount of extra fat tissue in your body.

Having a BMI:

  • between 19 and 25 is in the normal range.
  • more than 25 but under 30 is in the overweight range.
  • greater than 30 is in the obese range.

You can also measure your waist to get an idea of how much extra fat is stored around your organs. Men should have a waist – or pant size – less than 40 inches and women should have a waist less than 35 inches.

It is unhealthy to have a:

  • BMI over 30 or
  • a waist larger than 40 inches if you are a man or 
  • a waist larger than 35 inches if you are a woman.

Having these levels of extra fat tissue can increase your chances for such health problems as:

  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • hypertension
  • high cholestrol
  • cancer.


Who is at Risk for Overweight and Obesity?

Keeping a healthy weight is one of the most difficult health challenges faced by Americans today. In fact, among Americans the rates of obesity and overweight, particularly in children, have never been higher.

Obesity is a problem that affects every community. As a group, however, African American women have especially high rates of overweight and obesity with 3 out of 4 African American women either overweight or obese.


What You Can Do

Take Small Steps.

The most successful way to lose weight is by making small steps. Remember that overweight and obesity developed over a long time. Taking off those extra pounds will take time. Some helpful things you can do are:

  • Plan each day’s meals ahead of time so you know what you are going to eat in advance.
  • Eat smaller portions of food.
  • Cut out the sodas, alcohol, frozen prepared meals, and fast food, all of which have a lot of calories.
  • Eat healthier food such as:

    • fruits
    • vegetables
    • low fat dairy
    • whole grains
    • lean meat, fish, and chicken.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week.
  • Consult a counselor about how to change eating habits.
  • Do a weight-loss program with support from a:

    • family member
    • friend
    • coach
    • co-worker.


Make Exercise Easier.

Exercise is a very important way to lose weight and keep it off. Unfortunately, most women – but especially African American women- do not exercise regularly. Some reasons for not exercising are:

  • It is expensive.
  • It is hard to find the time.
  • I have hair care issues.
  • I feel tired when I come home.

Try these ways of beating exercise “blues”:

  • Expense: You can exercise without an expensive gym membership or equipment. 
  • Time: You can exercise in intervals of 10 to 15 minutes  throughout the day. If you have children, then going for a walk with them for 15 – 30 minutes in the evening helps everyone get physical activity.
  • Hair care: Wear your hair in either a short or natural hairstyle.  Or if you have longer hair, wearing it in a ponytail with a sweatband across the hairline.
  • Tiredness:  Exercise is the best cure for feeling tired and fatigued. It also relieves stress and boosts your energy.  So if you are feeling too tired to exercise, that is the best reason to get moving!


Make Favorite Foods Healthy.

There are numerous sources for healthy recipes, even “soul food”.  Listed below are just a few to get you started:

The American Heart Association – Healthy Soul Food Recipes – Sample recipes

American Diabetes Association


Points to Remember

  • Having a healthy weight means:

o   your BMI is lower than 30 or

o   your waist is less than 35 inches if you are a woman or

o   your waist is less than 40 inches if you are a man.

  • Keeping a healthy weight lowers your chance of  developing many chronic and deadly diseases, such as:

o   heart disease

o   type 2 diabetes

o   high blood pressure

o   high cholesterol

o   cancer.

  • Start with small steps to successfully lose weight and keep it off.















Hope Through Research – You Can Be Part of the Answer!

Many research studies are underway to help us learn about and improve the health of African Americans.  Would you like to learn more about being part of this exciting research?  Please visit the following links:


Visit our Healthy Weight Center for additional resources to help you have a healthy weight.



CDC, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Health, United States (Table 70) 2002.


For more information:

Go to the African American Health health topic.