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I was driving along Memorial Blvd in Atlanta, and I couldn’t help noticing the number of fast food places I passed; Churches Chicken, Wendy’s, Burger King and of course the granddaddy of ‘crack burgers’ McDonalds.  This same pattern was repeated from coast to coast.  In Oregon, Washington, California, New York, New Jersey, etc.  It is an American phenomenon, and while the level of restaurant will differ as the neighborhood becomes wealthier by replacing the usual burger and chicken joints with food places that at least sound like they might be better for you like the occasional Olive Garden and Red Lobster, none of it is really good food.

I am particularly concerned with how much of this stuff African-Americans are consuming and more specifically, black children and youth.  Poverty no doubt plays a significant role however, as a child growing up surrounded by poverty; people back then seemed to get on without a proliferation of fast food.  Families actually cooked meals and ate together.  I am told by some young black adults that “a lot of people just don’t know how to cook or, simply don’t have the time to cook.” And why bother when fast food restaurants are offering a complete dinner for 99¢.

So what is the toll on African-American men, women and children? The result is increased levels of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks, cancer, and depression.  In fact, experts say many Americans do not even know what true hunger is.  Consider this, the brain and body signal to you when you are full or satiated.  When we consume nutrient rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts we become fuller faster because a healthy amount of nutrients have been ingested.  However; when we eat foods lacking in nutrients like fried meats and heavy starches like potatoes, white rice and corn, the body does not register that adequate nutrients have been consumed and while lots of food is being taken in, the hunger continues.  Overeating is the unfortunate and dangerous result.

A few months ago I was visiting friends in Brooklyn, New York.  We were stopped at a light and on our left waiting for the light to change was a family.  There was a woman who looked to be in her fifties that was morbidly obese riding a scooter, a younger woman (perhaps her daughter) who stood at her side who was equally as obese, with an adolescent girl standing next to her, also morbidly obese who was pushing a toddler in a stroller and the child in the stroller was already clearly obese.  I cannot imagine what it would take for this family or, anyone struggling with severe obesity to overcome such a physically challenging problem.  But, I do know how to prevent it!

Sugar: The Original Sin

Many of us are unaware that the African slave trade and the ensuing colonization of Africans and other people of color was precipitated among other things, by the European’s addiction to sugar!  The demand for sugar in medieval Western Europe eventually led to the Portuguese planting sugar along the coast of Africa and in the Caribbean thus began the unholy union of sugar and later tobacco with slavery.  And today, slavery’s children are finding themselves increasingly addicted to the very substance that was an impetus for forced servitude and slavery.  Sugar is in nearly everything we eat, just read the list of ingredients on canned vegetables, sauces, soups, condiments, bread, cereal, even baby foods. And after looking at the added sugar look how much salt or fat is added.  These seemingly harmless substances are over time as addictive as crack cocaine and we swallow them daily without thought or hesitation.

Change is difficult and requires courage and commitment. I am concerned about myself and my family which includes those who may read this.  Even if some of us may not desire to change our eating habits to include more of the nutritious foods that I mentioned earlier, even if many of us lack the personal will power to make changes for ourselves, please consider the children.  They look to us to guide and protect them, most often from themselves. And the best way to teach is by example!

Again, let’s go Together!

Your Sister in the Struggle. . .

Joy

Dr. Joy DeGruy

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