No Carbs and A Whole Lot of First Corinthians

A study by University of Iowa researchers says black women’s magazines give crappier advice about weight loss than ‘mainstream’ magazines. The study says that black women’s publications are more likely to suggest fad diets and ‘faith’. Great, considering that at least 70% of black women in the U.S. are overweight or obese.

The magazines suggested many of the same weight-loss strategies, but mainstream magazines were twice as likely to suggest eating more whole grains and protein, smaller portions, and low-fat foods. Relying on God or faith was suggested by 1 in 10 weight-loss stories in the African-American magazines, but in almost no weight-loss stories in the mainstream magazines.

Fad diets were promoted as legitimate strategies in 15 percent of weight-loss stories in the African-American magazines, compared to only 5 percent in the mainstream magazines. Fad diets, defined as diets that may work in the short term but often do not result in sustained changes, included the Dick Gregory Bahamian Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Hilton Head Diet, and the Atkins Diet.

Mainstream magazines offered more strategies per article than African-American magazines. And, while mainstream magazines increased fitness and nutrition coverage during the second decade as the severity of the obesity epidemic unfolded, African-American magazines did not.

It should be noted that there’s a correlation between lack of wealth and religious belief, a correlation between poverty and obesity, and black women are twice as likely to be poor than white women. Just throwing that all out there.



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • tasha

    *sigh* ‘hard out here for a pimp’? er…’fat people need love too’? it’s difficult to separate the practical reality from the fact that magazines are there to sell an image and selling the practical reality of health doesn’t have that same cache with out the newest fad, frankly getting health advice from magazines is suspect to begin with

  • Aisha

    Would you consider me obese GD? Well according to the BMI I am. While I agree that black women could use some help in the weightloss department. I’m not sure if BMI is showing the correct picture of the problem.

    Also my father lost a whole person on Dick Gregory’s diet. He’s kept it off for 20 years. So I’m not sure what to make of all this. But I don’t read black women’s magazines because the news is always 3 years old. Just this December Essence was heralding Bikram Yoga….the latest fad I suppose.

  • Aisha,

    Maybe you’re right about BMI as a measuring stick. I don’t know. Th implication seems to be that black women are just ‘curvier’, which seems like it would be more cultural than genetic/hereditary. Black women are also more likely to suffer from obesity-related illnesses than white women, so it’s probably not just about ‘body type’ (pecuniary issues and healthcare probably play a big role with the illnesses, though).

    Kudos to your dad. If anything, I bet he’s the exception that proves the rule to be true.

    But, apparently lifestyle magazine crappiness is a universal problem.