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In 2009, a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health found Black Americans were 1.5 times as likely to be obese as White Americans. Whether as a result of a poor diet or lack of exercise, these high obesity rates put African-Americans at a greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
“I think in general for African-Americans our diet isn’t very good. Culturally the food we eat has a lot of fat in it; we eat a lot of fried food. This is compounded by the fact we don’t exercise,” said fitness expert Reggie Dulaney. “We’ve been seeing a lot of people dying too early and it’s because of stress. Our diet isn’t getting better; it’s getting easier to eat poorly, because of our busy schedules.”
As the founder of Panthro Fitness, a co-ed personal training fitness program in Monroeville, Dulaney specializes in the area of weight loss. With six years of experience in the fitness industry, he believes the key to combating obesity is a balanced nutrition and exercise plan.
“Everyone’s busy, so they need to plan ‘how am I going to fit these things in to the time I have.’ Time management is the most difficult thing I see. Set reasonable goals. Visualize it. Take pictures of yourself; weigh yourself, so you’re constantly tracking it,” Dulaney said. “You want to be realistic. You want to start out slow because if you’ve never done it before you’re going to be very sore and you’re not going to want to do it again.”
In the area of nutrition, Dulaney suggests avoiding too much saturated fat often found in deep fried foods, sugar and salt, as well as processed meats and refined grains. Instead, he advises his clients to get in the habit of eating whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products every day, as well as practicing portion control.
“Nutrition is probably 75 percent of the battle with weight loss. You need all of it to come together to be effective in weight loss,” Dulaney said. “You have to make some realistic goals. Not those big, I’m going to lose 100 pounds a year.”
The conventional rule of thumb for exercising, which was reported by the American Medical Association, suggests Americans should engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week. However, the AMA has also released guidelines advising women to exercise 60 minutes everyday to prevent weigh gain.
“I specialize in weight loss so that includes cardio and resistance training. You want to have a strong heart and that’s what cardio is, for your heart and lung capacity, so it improves your circulation and your overall breathing,” Dulaney said. “Resistance training is what builds muscle and that’s what regulates your metabolism, it keeps you burning those calories that you take in. Your body will adjust to how many calories you’re taking in so without resistance training you’ll plateau. It’s a little bit different for Black women.”
In fact, African-American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other Americans. Approximately four out of five African-American women are overweight or obese. In 2009, African-American women were 60 percent more likely to be obese than White women.
“I do think it is harder for African-Americans. I don’t think many African-Americans are exercising to begin with. A lot of their parents never exercised so it’s not something they were ever used to seeing,” Dulaney said. “With Black women, they spend a lot of money on their perm. They don’t want to sweat out their perm, and I don’t blame them, but they should try to find ways to exercise in their home.”
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