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Black Bodies: Black Women & Obesity: What Do We Know?

Updated: Aug 4, 2022

Do doctors really know how to treat obesity in Black women?

I just received the feedback from "Obesity & Black Women: What Are We Missing?" which I presented at the Obesity Medicine Association Spring conference. I was surprised by the feedback from the conference attendees:

100% "increased knowledge" about the differences in treating obesity in Black women after the presentation.

While I'm an experienced educator and public speaker, I don't think their increased knowledge was just because of my delivery style. The real reason is that there isn't enough conversation around why Black women's obesity rates are so high.

"Obesity & Black Women: What Are We Missing?" covered topics everyone involved in obesity care needs to know, such as how to:

  • accurately diagnose obesity in Black women,

  • discuss & implement culturally relevant lifestyle changes,

  • offer tools such as medications & bariatric surgery,

  • address the impact of stress and systemic racism, and more.

The importance of this information goes beyond awareness. It directly impacts people's lives. 99% of attendees said the content presented would change their patient care. Given that 4 out of 5 Black women classify as overweight or having obesity, discussing this critical, life-changing information is essential. Everyone needs to know how to personalize obesity care for Black women effectively.

But improving our clinical understanding of obesity in Black women doesn't start in the doctor's office. More research is also needed. Unfortunately, there aren't enough Black women in the research studies. The low numbers are shocking, considering Black women have the highest rates of obesity.

Awareness hasn't brought significant change. For instance, in the latest research on tirzepatide, less than 10% of the patients were Black/ African-American. Tirzepatide is the newest medication to treat diabetes, which also causes weight loss. Therefore, further studies are evaluating using tirzapetide to treat obesity. Yet, in the recent research on tirzapetide's effect on obesity, only 7% of the 2359 participants are Black/ African-American. The Black participants' results were similar to other races. It is still concerning that the majority obesity population is so underrepresented in research studies.

Similarly, research disparities are also seen clinically, where Black women are underprescribed obesity treatments such as medication and bariatric procedures.

So now that we know what we are missing, where do we go from here? The answer is complicated because the causes of obesity are complex-especially for Black women. Specifically, Black women face unique psychological and environmental stressors that contribute to developing obesity. For example, in addition to the stress of enduring weight bias, Black women have the added stressors of racism & gender bias.

Furthermore, we must continue to emphasize that addressing obesity in Black women is more than recommending "calories in vs. calories out." I'm grateful for the opportunities I have to continue to raise awareness. Such as:

  • Obesity Medical Association podcast: "Obesity and Black Women: What Are We Missing?"

  • Weight Bias Makes Healthcare Unequal Hears How to Unlearn It

On August 1, 2022, I join a robust panel of experts to discuss

Overcoming Obesity Club meets Thursdays from 12-1pm EST on Clubhouse.

There's so much more I want to say, but it's time to get to work. So I'll close by saying:

Black women want to be healthy. So let's not act like the statistics are set in stone. Instead, let's move from obesity awareness to implementing effective action at all levels.

What are your thoughts? What are we missing with obesity in Black Women?


For more information on personalizing obesity care, read the bestseller Embrace You: Your Guide to Transforming Weight Loss Misconceptions Into Lifelong Wellness.'s Best Overall Weight Loss Book 2022 and's The 8 Best Weight Loss to Read in 2022.

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