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Black Women Are Losing Weight – And This Is How!

by ShaRhanda R. Bynum
How Black Women Are Losing Weight

Ever wonder why you find it so hard to lose those extra pounds? Could be your genes are to blame! Although researchers still have a ways to go in fully understanding just how genetics and weight loss are connected, they are confident there is some relation between the two.

Genetics and ethnicity have been cited as having an effect on how our bodies use up energy, how we gain weight, and the ease or difficulty with which we are able to shed pounds and keep them off.

In recent years black women’s weight loss has become a much-discussed topic. For many black women, the discouragement from the findings of published studies is real. The fact is, however, that understanding the link between your genetic makeup and your weight loss goals puts you that much closer to dropping those pounds for good. That’s true whether you are black, white or neon green!

So, this article is a bit more than a black girls’ guide to weight loss. It’s more aimed at helping you understand weight loss and giving you some inspiration to start on your own journey to healthy weight loss success.

What the Research Shows

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1. A study of postmenopausal women found that while their levels of weight loss on a prescribed exercise regimen could not be explained by how well they followed the program, it could be directly linked to two specific genes. These genes, it turned out, contributed to the degree of total fat loss, reduction in body mass index (BMI) and the decreased percentage of a person’s body fat.

Stop and think about it for a while. Some people’s tendency to be overweight can often be linked to the fact that it “seems” to run in their families. The same is true where you find that members of the same family tend to be thinner rather than heavier.

For others, you watch in envy as they eat everything (literally) and never appear to gain an ounce from it. Yet, there is also those people who seem to start packing on the pounds by just looking at food sideways. Genetics!

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2. In a separate University of Pittsburgh study, researchers focused on the difference in weight loss success among a group of severely obese African-American and white women. The women were randomly asked to follow either a low-calorie diet or a low-calorie diet plus exercise.

The study found that after six months, the African American women had lost roughly 8 pounds less than the white women. The researchers also discovered that for black women, losing weight was affected by the fact that they have lower energy requirements.

What does that mean? Even though the black women may have consumed the same amount of calories as the white women, their bodies needed less of those calories to carry out metabolic functions. Hence, the black women had more extra calories left over to store as fat and so they lost weight slower.

Going back to the study, the researchers calculated that black women would need to do one of the following to see comparable weight loss:

  • lower their daily calorie intake by 150 calories more than their white counterparts
  • exercise so as to lose 150 calories more their white counterparts
  • follow a combination of diet and exercise that would lead to a deficit of 150 calories over that of their white counterparts’ routines

To put it in simpler terms, black women have a slower metabolic rate than white women, and hence, they need fewer calories to get things done. To lose weight at the same rate as white women they need to eat less, exercise more, or both.

It’s Been Done

Just because the data shows that you are genetically predisposed to having a harder time getting rid of excess weight, doesn’t mean you should give up hope. Black weight loss success stories abound. Here’s a look at a few of them.

1. Tamesha - Pounds Lost: 108

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Tamesha credits her drive to lose weight to watching a friend of hers suffer from weight-related health issues. Tamesha also wanted to get into better shape so that she could be more actively involved with her children.

What Did She Do?

  • She changed her eating habits regarding what and when she ate.
  • Tamesha switched to fruit snacks and eliminated junk foods altogether - she says “I stopped drinking soda and lost 20 pounds”.
  • She also changed her eating pattern so that she ate at the same time each day and stopped eating late at night.

Her Advice to Others

“…Don’t view it as a diet, view it as a lifestyle change."

Read more here!

2. April - Pounds Lost: 95

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By the time she reached 16 years old, April weighed over 200 pounds. April found herself on the “binge eating – calorie deprivation” roller coaster, until a series of life changing events forced her to consider her weight and health seriously.

What Did She Do?

  • April switched to eating organic foods and eliminated processed carbs from her diet.
  • She tracked her meals and enlisted the help of a nutritionist.
  • She worked out daily with a mix of cardio exercises and weightlifting.

April is now passionate about proper diet and exercise and has become a certified personal trainer.

Her Advice to Others

“I like using resistance bands with clients who are just beginning to lift. It helps with the form and strengthens muscles.”

Read more here!

3. Samantha - Pounds Lost: 129

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Samantha was shocked into wanting to lose weight when she realized she weighed the same as a famous welterweight boxer! After a friend introduced her to a workout routine that “kicked my butt” but one that she actually enjoyed doing, she decided to go all out with her efforts to lose weight.

What Did She Do?

  • Samantha switched to eating six small meals a day.
  • She never skipped breakfast.
  • Samantha logged workouts and snacks on the MyFitnessPal app.

Remember that exercise routine that floored her in the beginning? Well, now she is a certified instructor! She enjoys watching the change it made it her life being reflected in the lives of her students.

Her Advice to Others

“Be an inspiration.”

Read more here!

4. Erika - Pounds Lost: 160

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Erika’s mother had a lot to do with her losing weight. The encouragement she gave enabled Erika to start out on her weight loss journey. Erika focuses on sustainable weight loss through “healthier approaches to being fit.”

What Did She Do?

Erika fueled her drive to weight loss with a philosophy of:

  • compassion (both for self and others)
  • positive body image
  • pleasure
  • consistency
  • mindfulness
  • varying one’s methods of goal measurement

She has dedicated her life to understanding weight loss and helping others as they too strive to achieve their own weight loss goals.

Her Advice to Others

“…It’s all about living a healthier life, not simply losing weight.”

Read more here!

5. Christine - Pounds Lost: 50

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Christine developed bad eating habits while pregnant and kept them up after giving birth. She experienced only moderate weight loss success by simply eating less and found that “I couldn’t maintain my weight loss.”

What Did She Do?

  • Christine used the MyFitnessPal app to track how much she ate and exercised for 100 days straight.
  • She eliminated fast food, ate lighter meals and ate more vegetables.
  • Christine started working out three times a week.

Nowadays, Christine hits the gym “five times a week and includes a mile-and-a-half run with five-pound weights.”

Her Advice to Others

“Keep checkpoints.”

Read more here!

Other Sources of Inspiration

1. Hungry for More: A Keeping-it-Real Guide for Black Women on Weight and Body Image

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This book by Robyn McGee helps identify some of the struggles that black women losing weight face. She references the tragedy of her sister’s gastric bypass surgery-related death after her battle with obesity.

Robyn offers her readers a chance to approach weight loss responsibly, armed with knowledge about the history of weight gain among black women and the factors that affect black weight loss success. She couples this with advice on how to ensure that the successes achieved now are sustained for a lifetime.

2. Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets to Livin' Healthy

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Dr. Rovenia M. Brock’s book is meant specifically to help black women lead healthier lifestyles, and she offers advice on how to handle health issues arising from being overweight. Dr. Ro dispels, examines, and dispels some of the common myths put forward on “several miracle diets” and leads her readers on a journey to discovering the secrets of healthy eating.

The diet and nutrition outlines she includes in the book take the distinctive experiences of black women into consideration. To this end, she advocates properly prepared “soul food” as a healthy option for the prevention of certain diseases.

3. Half My Size: How I Ate To Lose 150lbs

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Now that she has lost 150 pounds (approximately half of her body weight), Caroline Jhingory has written this book as a way to provide support for people like her who have struggled with obesity. She has received quite a bit of publicity about her achievement and includes in the book some of the strategies she used to drive her success.

From tips on diet and exercise to overall healthy lifestyle choices, she aims to help her readers understand what it is like to go from being controlled by what she ate to taking charge of making positive changes in her life.

4. The Black Girl's Diet: Lose Up to 21 lbs. In 30 Days!

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While rapid weight loss is not typically advised, Djuana Harvey’s book does provide black women (as well as white women and those neon green women, too) with useful information on making healthy food choices.

She looks at the self-image that many black women have when it comes to their weight. Djuana gives her readers help with building self-discipline, self-acceptance and a diet plan that helps them shed pounds.

The Takeaway

Take a closer look at these stories of black women who have lost weight and managed to keep it off for an extended period of time. Do you see some common traits? These same traits would probably be found if you cross-referenced them with those of any ethnicity that have achieved sustained weight loss.

They Switched to Healthier Diets

Incorporating more fruits and vegetables your meals is important since they provide a wealth of nutrients and fill you up, so you eat fewer calories. Helpful too is eating regular smaller meals. These help your body to regulate its metabolism better.

They Became More Active

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You will need to use up the calories that you consume if you wish to see the pounds fall off.

Once you begin to exercise, you realize that you are starting to feel better about yourself because exercise releases “feel good” hormones and limits the production of hormones related to stress!

They Wanted to Change

The motivation can come from within, from watching other people’s experiences or from a loved one’s encouragement. The decision, however, is all on you. No one can change you; you must decide to do what it takes to change yourself.

They Were Mindful of Factors Affecting Their Weight

Things like eating late at night, or using pregnancy as an excuse to overeat, will negatively affect your weight. On the contrary, enlisting the help of technology as with an app for your phone can go a long way in boosting your chances of success.

Conclusion

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Weight loss and maintenance require more than eating less and more than increased physical activity. It necessitates a complete change in your mindset.

Many of the women in this article emphasize that it is necessary to make lifestyle changes if you want to achieve real weight loss success. Loving and accepting yourself is as important as ditching the fast foods and embracing the sweat-induced high of a good cardiovascular workout.

So, yeah, genetics has something to do with it. It’s true that you gain the weight faster and lose it slower. What we as black women must come to realize, however, is that genetics cannot be made into an excuse to remain unhealthy.

We can begin to make healthier choices for our own sake and the sake of those we love. It will take determination and the willingness to accept gradual changes as celebration-worthy milestones, but it can be done!

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