A 1992 study by the Centers for Disease Control found that 49 percent of African American women were overweight, and by 1997 the number had risen to 53 percent.
While most traditional weight and diet studies are done on people of European descent, there is increasing information on the different habits, needs and metabolisms of African Americans that need to be taken into consideration when creating a diet. These issues include African Americans' propensity toward lactose intolerance, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
Eurocentric diets also don't take into account the role slavery has played in the eating habits developed by African Americans.
"We have a huge advantage over many of our ancestors, say the editors of HealthQuest magazine. "We have the power to make choices about the foods we eat. Most of us are fortunate enough that we no longer eat merely to survive. We eat for pleasure, for health, for satisfaction, for spiritual renewal.
"And because we have choices, we also have the power — and the responsibility — to build a diet that contributes to our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being."
In "Lighten Up: The HealthQuest 30-Day Weight Loss Program" (Amistad Press, $25), the editors of HealthQuest magazine, along with Therman Evans, Ph.D., address these specific needs. Using a three-part approach — nutrition, fitness and body-mind-spirit awareness — they provide a sensible plan for permanent weight loss.
Five food pyramids and how to adapt them to fit cultural foods and tastes comprise the nutrition component of the plan. Two full-body fitness routines, complete with illustrated instructions on how to stretch, exercise and aerobicise, make up the fitness aspect of the plan.
The program is also bolstered by "Think it Through" and "For Your Spirit" exercises, using affirmations, meditations and self-reflection to empower the user.
Also included are more than 30 delicious, low-fat, low-sodium adaptations of favorite African American dishes.
Nutritionist Goulda Downer shares her recipes for "Finger LickingCurriedChicken," "Scrumptious Red Beans and Rice," "Savory Potato Salad" and "Great Big Biscuits" that help transform traditional favorites into healthful foods that fit a healthy lifestyle without sacrificing taste. The only thing missing will be the excess fat, calories and cholesterol soul foods tend to have.