43% of Latinas are obese: Why are our numbers higher than everyone else's?!

Have you ever heard the joke about Latinas gaining weight the minute after they get married? I know I have. It used to be repeated, albeit somewhat lovingly, in my parents' house. Yes, it's a pretty funny joke--but it actually points to a very, very serious problem in our community: obesity rates in Hispanic women are up to 43 percent--that's almost HALF!--and those numbers are MUCH higher than in Latino men or non-Hispanic women. Why is that, though? Why are we so much fatter than everyone else?

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According to the latest research, cancer has just surpassed heart disease as the number one killer of U.S. Hispanics and a LOT of that has to do with our rates of obesity and smoking. Obesity is a lot more prevalent in Latinas than Latinos, though, with only 34 percent of Hispanic men being obese (compared to 33 percent of women and 32 percent of men in the U.S.). For Latinas, that's 9 to 11 percent more than other races and genders and, scariest of all, that's almost half of us who are suffering from the obesity epidemic.

I know exactly what it's like: I spent most of my childhood and young adult life being overweight until, finally, I gained 30 pounds in my first semester of college and officially tipped the scales into full-on obesity (defined by a body mass index of 30 or higher). Being away from home for the first time caused me to depend on junk food for comfort and, even worse, whenever I did go home I would overindulge in all of my mami's favorites that I had missed.

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Unfortunately for those of us who want to lose weight, our culture doesn't make it easy. There's a reason why Latin food has the stereotype of being fat and greasy--because it is! Not to mention the fact that very few of us are taught the importance of physical activity early on.

That's kind of depressing, isn't it? I know that I struggled for many years with weight loss and yo-yo diets until eventually getting a gastric bypass. Even now, keeping the weight off is something that I have to think about, and enforce, daily. Do I want that second helping of lechón asado? Absolutely! Am I going to let myself have it? Definitely not. I may not be part of that scary 43 percent statistic anymore, but too many of us are--and that's something that we definitely need to work hard to fix, both in ourselves and in our kids.

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Topics: latino health  overweight  weight loss  womens health