Part 3: What’s Eating African-American Women?

A child with two obese parents has an 80 percent risk of becoming overweight.


(Last of three parts.)

The children of Generation X are being called “Generation Triple XL,” as in an XXXL shirt size.

Where to place the blame? Some say it’s all the hormones, chemicals and additives in our food, from baby formula to Thanksgiving turkeys. Others, all the high-fructose corn syrup in the American diet. Then there’s all the fat-saturated, salt-covered, sugar-filled junk foods marketed squarely at our kids – some of it so chemically adulterated it’s a wonder they can legally be called food.

Whatever the cause, the solution lies somewhere with the parents.

The entire country is foundering under the weight of a national obesity crisis, but African-American and Hispanic kids are far more likely to be overweight than any other ethnic group. The reason begins at home: A child with two obese parents has an 80 percent risk of becoming overweight, a child with only one obese parent has a 40 percent risk, and a child with normal-weight parents has a 7 percent risk of becoming overweight. Now this is where it gets interesting: Twins who were adopted by different families were found to be more similar in weight to the biological parents than to their adoptive parents. Why? Prenatal factors such as maternal obesity, excess pregnancy weight gain, and diabetes.

Money has a role, as well. Still, the American Public Health Association found that while a lower level of parental income and education increases the risk of being overweight among white children, higher socioeconomic status does not necessarily protect from overweight and obesity among African-American and Hispanic children.

All of these stats can be a bit depressing, so instead of talking about how bad things are, I’d rather focus on what we all can do to turn things around for our children – especially if you’re an overweight parent.

In the first part of this series, you met Alhaja Affinnih, who’s lost 150 pounds since October 2008, when she weighed 389 pounds. Our chat revealed we have a great deal in common, including the fear that our children would end up obese. We’ve both been overweight most of our lives, were heavy while pregnant and struggled with weight for years after. Alhaja comes from a family large in size, especially on her Nigerian father’s side. That’s where we’re different.

It is not in my genetic makeup to be the size I am. Both my parents were fit, as were my brother and sister. I was a skinny little thing until I was 9 or 10, when my life kinda went sideways, which you already know if you’ve been with me from the start.