A comparison of weight-control behaviors in African-American and Caucasian women

In the battle of the bulge, dieters often seek reinforcements — such as a doctor's prescription, counseling by a mental health professional, suggestions from a trainer or membership in a weight-loss support group.

However, some people might be more reluctant to look for outside assistance than others.

A recent survey found that overweight or obese white women are more inclined to ask for dieting help than their African-American counterparts, and that for white women, body image was an important motivation.

The study, comprising 120 participants from Philadelphia, appears in the latest edition of the journal Ethnicity & Disease .

“We found that African-American women did not differ from Caucasians in terms of concerns about body shape and weight,” but white women were more likely to be influenced by those concerns to seek help, said lead author Rachel Annunziato, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Amy Eyler, Ph.D., associate professor, at the Saint Louis University School of Public Health, and the lead author of a 2003 study on why women do not exercise, offers two possible explanations.

“Role modeling can be important,” Eyler said. “Some African-American women may be less likely to attend a group led by Caucasian women. They may also tend to ask for help from family members first, rather than outside help.”

Annunziato thinks that cultural factors probably play an important role in deciding whether, when and where to seek help, and in the type of help sought.

“Community-based approaches appear to be promising vehicles for promoting weight loss in ethnic minorities; however, there is much work to be done in terms of developing programs that improve both weight loss and successful maintenance of weight loss,” she said.

The study concluded that modifying weight loss programs might better address the needs of African-American women and other minorities.

Eyler suggested that women of all ethnic groups do not focus on fitness as much as they should because they are too busy with work and taking care of others. “Offering exercise programs at work could encourage women to work on weight loss,” she said.

Neither study group considered obesity-related health concerns as their primary motivation for losing weight.

Ethnicity & Disease is a quarterly medical journal studying the ethnic patterns of disease. For more information, contact [email protected] or visit http://www.ishib.org/ED_index.asp

Annunziato RA, Lee JN, Lowe MR. “A comparison of weight-control behaviors in African-American and Caucasian women.” Ethn Dis 17(2), 2007.



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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