Who's More-Fatter in America? Blacks, Whites or Hispanics?

Do not be alarmed. My “more-fatter” question is not an attempt to invoke racial factions or pointed fingers based on your level of skin pigmentation. [insert disclaimer here that my own Grandma is white, so I’m not trying to cause a racialized uproar.]

I’m asking because I noticed something among my own race of peoples. There’s a lot of overweight blacks walking around. Waaaay too many. I’m tired of seeing it, actually. They’re comfortable and confident in their skin (which is great), but typically have no plans to change their obese ways (not so great).

So I wondered… what is the percentage of overweight blacks in America compared to other races?

I went to the Centers for Disease Control website (www.cdc.gov) to retrieve the data on Obesity Trends. It proved to be a breached-levy of information, because of the overwhelming amount of data on the subject. But here we have it in a nutshell:

(source: cdc.gov)

First of all, I’m bummed they only broke down the nation into three categories: Blacks, Whites and Hispanics. What about the Asian peoples of America and the Middle Eastern peeps who dwell here? But I gotta admit, they do tend to stay on the slim side.

So what’s the deal with obese blacks and Hispanics? I’m making my own guess. This is why they’re fatter?

  • Food culture: Many Blacks and Hispanics are deeply rooted in their food cultures, which are many times high in fat.
  • Economics: Slice and dice it anyway you want, but Blacks and Hispanics generally fall into the lower tax brackets. Healthy, quality foods cost more, and most times aren’t in the budget.
  • Education: The economic factor plays a big part in education. The less education a person has received, the less opportunities there will be for earning a bigtime paycheck. Many who have less financial resources aren’t spending a lot of time researching organic foods and counting calories, ya know? They’re living paycheck to paycheck just trying to make it everyday.

If you’re up for a head-spinning good time, complete with crossed eyes and a migraine from reading big blocks of paragraphs with stats galore and a chart to bring it on home, you can read this long azz report from the CDC: Differences in Prevalence of Obesity Among Black, White and Hispanic Adults – US 2006-2008.

Regardless of your race, the obesity industry is on the rise (yes, it’s an industry – because people make money off of other people being fat). First, take care of you. Then, address obesity among your immediate family members to stop the cycle of fatness, no matter what race you are.

This thing is outta control.


  1. Wow.  I was totally gonna say whites.  But I guess it’s just because I see more whites across the country than I do minorities.

    However! Obesity is starting to look mildly overweight.  And Morbid obesity is starting to be the ‘new’ heavy.  Super morbid obesity…get the drift?  That’s just it.  We’re normalizing the drift.

    • Josie says:

      Aha! The changing “weight” of obesity. You’re right, though. And it’s hellishly scary. I wonder when the obese will rally and march on Washington. Or have they already done that?

  2. Runeatrepeat says:

    As a Hispanic, I am saddened to see how many of my peeps are unhealthy. I do believe that culture and upbringing contribute in a huge way. We need to educate ourselves and our families to get healthy in a realistic way.

  3. Based on where I grocery shop, I’d say it’s definitely about economics.

    When I shop at Trader Joe’s, I rarely see anyone overweight. Not many hispanic or black customers there, but when I see them, they’re not overweight.

    On the other hand, when I shop at Food Maxx on the Hispanic side of town, practically everyone there is overweight. Hispanic, white, black, Asian…even the wee toddlers are chubby. (I’m the exception, of course, since as a savvy shopper I know that Food Maxx has the best prices on broccoli, sweet potatoes and fruit.)

  4. This has been discussed in research papers and I believe African Americans are actually more susceptible (biologically) to becoming obese. Just like they are more susceptible to becoming diabetic! It’s just in their genes. But hey, I see plenty of whites walking around who are overweight, it’s just a HUGE problem (hehe, no pun intended). But you are right, most blacks feel confident with their extra weight, which is a great thing, but at the same time it’s not such a good thing…..I mean, it’s not good for their health! Obviously.
    Great post.

    • @The Candid RD,

      Odd. I’ve been inclined to believe that it’s our overall lifestyles, culture, limited accessibility to healthier foods, recreational activities and medical care – that exacerbated our status within obesity rankings and other diabetic statistics. Not, biology.

      • lunabgoode says:

        @Madame: The Journey,

        You’re right!  Access, access…lots of neighborhoods have only convenience stores, sometimes the grocery stores that are in lower income areas have few fresh foods and sell processed foods full of corn syrup for the lowest prices…kids are conditioned by crappy sugary salty foods at school to want processed foods at home and everybody keeps working more and more, prepping dinner less and less.  Often, getting full and feeling good and satisfied means driving through for the dollar menu.  

        I think we should get health savings accounts that buy decent food and for all the dollars of fresh veggies eaten, give a tax credit equal to that.  The FDA and CDC and NIH need to protect us from the devil corn syrup.  

  5. merri says:

    You always think of such interesting things to write about. I think culture and how much money people have are the biggest factors…it would be interesting to see your race stats broken down by how much money everyone has. Is there really a very large gap between poor blacks, poor latinos and poor whites? What about the above but rich? I wouldn’t think that there would be so much of a gap between people of the same economic status, no matter what race they are. I grew up in a town in NH where mostly everyone was white and no one was rich at all. Lots of people there are poor. We weren’t that well off either. A lot of people are fat. There is also stress to factor in, which comes with money troubles and can contribute to health problems and gaining weight. And also where people live…do they live near places that have healthy food and do they drive everywhere or walk, or if they drive do they have gyms available and affordable. Someone slightly more well off without access to these things could be healthier than someone slightly less well off who happens to be near them. Back in time when I got poorer and lost my car (before I ever set foot in a gym) I lost weight because I now had to walk and bus everywhere. And then there are cultures and subcultures that thrive on looking good on the inside, and eschew outside appearances (this happens in at least one non race related subculture here in SF) and tend to be larger, because it doesn’t matter to them. There are so many issues. Sorry for the long comment. It’s the anthropologist in me.

  6. Vee says:

    I do know that looking around at kids in schools you see overweight kids of all colors/races. No matter the ethnicity, once people start living in America, they usually get fat. Not good at all. Vee at http://veegettinghealthy.blogspot.com

  7. Hmm… tricky subject. I’ve been reffering friends with the “food culture” struggles to blackgirlsguidetoweightloss.com <– awesome website for "culturally sound tips, tools and advice."

    But yeah I guess I would have guessed white people too. And while I understand that "higher quality" food costs more I really don't think thats a real reason. The people I hear say that as the reason they cant lose weight spend lots and lots of money on processed food and eating out. Having a few vegetarian meals a week, for example can really cut back on food cost and is not expensive. Plus I think what is expensive is the "designer health foods" but you can get barley, for example in bulk at the regular grocery store for next to nothing- or a little pretty package at whole foods for waaaay more expensive. Produce is not expensive. Whole foods type stores are expensive but I hardly shop at places like that and usually only for 1 or 2 items. Cause our bread winner is a social worker. Come on. It's not expensive to eat healthy.

    That being said, I actually like when I see obese people flaunting thier bodies. There is so much shame people place on themselves for being overweight and that has got to change. No one gets healthy by hating themselves. Weight is just obvious. There are plenty of fit looking folks with way more serious negative (self induced) health issues than obesity but dont catch flack for it bc its not apparent. Rant, sorry, Over. Love, Erin

    • Josie says:

      You sure, Erin? Processed food and McDonald’s meals are pretty cheap to come by. When I buy grapes for my family, it costs close to $8 – no way a low income can afford that all the time. But on the flip side. There are “lazy” cook is with plenty of cash that will buy this processed crap, too.

      • 444 says:

        I’m agreeing with Josie here. It is expensive to eat healthfully! Fresh vegetables and fruit costs a lot more than the same weight in simple carbs and cheap sugary food. And how about lean meat and fish? Try buying that stuff for a family on a tight budget.

        Fast food can be bought cheaply, but also, food can be cooked at home cheaply, but it’s the kind of food that piles on the pounds – things made with flour, cheap grease, and sugar. Filling and satisfying – and weight-gain inducing.

        • @444 Sorry I didn’t respond quicker, I’m just seeing your question about my food budget. I tried to respond above directly but it appears that “thread” may be closed or something (or mabe its my computer). I assume you aren’t really asking for an actual break down of what I buy as that would be a really long answer. What did you eat last month is a pretty large question. So I’ll try to answer more shortly with “how.” First I’m an amazing shopper. I buy in bulk. I saw someone talked about lean proteins being expensive. Our proteins for the month cost about 45 dollars. At our costco I buy a huge pack of 16 chicken breasts for 17-20 dollars depending on weight. Each breast is cut in half to proper portion size meaning for 20 or less I get 32 servings of chicken breast. For about 25 dollars we buy a bag of frozen fish fillets, usually trout. Those fillets are also cut in half to portion size which yeilds about 12 portions of fish. I also have a fully stocked pantry which usually requires “restocking” only one item or so per month with old fashioned oatmeal (way under a dollar per serving for breakfast), brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa, whole wheat flour, huge bags of beans, canned tomatoes (for sauces etc). I have a freezer full of frozen vegetables which I buy only on sale. Meals are usually cooked to last more than one day and served again for dinner the next day or for lunches. I don’t shop at whole foods. And costco isn’t the best value for everything. If I went to the store for with 3.33 in my pocket everyday and tried to come up with nutritious meals that would be extremely difficult. Great point! I buy ingredients. I cook almost everything from scratch. In the last 2 years I’ve gone from a hamburger helper type diet and horrible cooking skills to being a savvy shopper, 90lbs lighter and a creative cook. It’s hard to put a dollar value on each individual meal with everything being in bulk, but dirty rice and beans is a regular meal at my house and spices, portions from a huge cheap bag of beans and rice is pretty darn cheap. I sense that I have ruffled some feathers with my suggestion that eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive and that was not my intent. It is hard. I have been a social worker for 9 years for the majority of that time working in the poorest neighborhoods in one of the poorest counties in the nation. It is from some of those families I learned to shop this way. When you don’t have a lot you learn how to maximize your resources, coupons, discounts, multiple stores for one months groceries. If you are in extreme poverty, relying on food pantries and soup kitchens for your meals, then obviously your choices are extremely limited. But most of the people I hear talk about eating healthy being expensive are those that rely on stores like whole foods for thier healthy options and people who make much more than me and my social worker husband do. I don’t think that makes me better than anyone either. Peoples choices are their own and what you choose to put in your body is deeply personal and is not a matter of character. But my two cents about why we dont eat healthy is that it isn’t a priority in this country. We value thinness but not health. As a nation we spend millions if not billions on diet products but aren’t interested as much in the health impact of food. We value iphones over vegetables. Rich and poor alike. Thats my opinion. It is not a judgement. I hope that answered your question. If you have more you can email me directly at [email protected] and I’d be happy to answer. Sorry Josie for the book of a comment, but I didn’t want to not address the question. I love a debate! But I hadn’t meant to offend. :)


      • @Josie, I think so. I feed a family of 3 on $300 month or less. McDonals is cheap if you stick to the dollar menu, but lets say you feed 3 people on the dollar menu for 3 meals a day and each person skips the soda and gets a sandwich of sorts and fries. Thats $126 a week.

        • 444 says:

          @Erin of Fit Mama Training,
          $300 per month equals $100 per person per month. Assuming a month has 30 days, that’s $3.33 per person per day.

          I’d like to see what you can really feed a person consistently, every day, by spending only $3.33 for their food, day in, day out. And you said, “or less.” Really? $3.00 or less each day to feed a person, day after day, just $3.00 worth of food? I’d like to see a breakdown of what a person can eat on a daily basis for that money.

  8. P.S. I so totally have that outfit.

  9. Wifey says:

    Great post! We’ll get our nails and hair done but we won’t take care of our bodies. Not only Black women, but we obviously are leading that pack. We definitely have to break the cycle … its affecting our children. Thanks for sharing!

    Winks & Smiles,

  10. charlotte says:

    Fascinating post!  I think your second point about economics is a really important one.  They’ve done research that shows that the single best indicator of a person’s weight is how much money they make.  Wages go up, weight goes down.  It’s sad that it’s one more disadvantage the poor have.  I’d wondered about the race side of the equation but didn’t want to seem like a jerk for asking someone – so thanks for this!!

  11. Reinaldo says:

    In the words of the amazing Sarah SIlverman, “I don’t care if you think I’m a racist. As long as you think I’m a THIN racist”.

    Yeah, we mexican are the fattest. Because we’re the laziest 😉

  12. FatFighterTV says:

    Whoa, look at you getting all researchee and stuff. Great info.

    BTW, I think I’m on to you. That e-book release button saying it will be out “this” month. Very very very clever. I wonder how many months it will be up there? 😉

  13. Hey, cheers to Charlotte for spreading the word about this. It’s definitely, without a question, all about economics.
    I looked at this last month – why are black women shrinking? http://goo.gl/2AkfJ
    Lack of nutrients, same reason as why obesity is spreading, and it’s spreading according to income levels. The poorest get hit the worst. 

    What’s incredible, is that also – when income goes up, so does nutrition, and so does average height.

    Given the cheapest foods contain the least nutrition – and I’m talking about your vitamins, minerals, essential fats here – and food is still cheap – people eat until they get the enough nutrients to live off. If that takes 3 whole loaves of cheap white bread to get the same level of vitamins/minerals as eating a small cut of beef, then the former will get fat and latter will stay slim.
    In ye olden days, being fat was a sign of prosperity. Nowadays its the complete reverse.


  14. Erica says:

    Interesting stuff. Now where does one buy a dress like that? sexy sexy…

  15. Hi Josie.. I did know the stats on the race issue of this.. & I agree with many, economics has a lot to do with it… not only in what one buys BUT what stores are available to shop at in your surrounding area.Sad fact of life…. Also, as you said, blacks are happy with the way they look more often & I think I have read/heard than many black men like the women a bit larger as well.

    I agree though – the obesity crisis is out of control across the board & our kids are gonna suffer the most!

  16. Erin says:

    I have to say it’s the economy. As a person from a “poor” family we can’t afford the awesome healthy expensive foods “heathy” and fit bloggers eat. We have to buy Ham Helper and and wonderful cheap foods like that. Unlike hubby though I don’t eat much.

  17. I have read and seen this comment so many times before:

    “Healthy, quality foods cost more…”

    But is it true? I plan on looking at this as a new year challenge. I am not convinced that it is the cost of eating that prevents us from eating healthy and well balanced meals – what I am thinking though is that: it is access (inner city convenience stores, or rural locations, often don’t carry good fresh foods), it is education (how many people really know how to do a balanced menu plan, and if they don’t, does being poor mean no internet access so no ability to self research how), and it is time (time stretched and stress people of any economic group grab food on the go). Anyway, I loved this post and recently blogged about a similar topic, about Fatness and Fitness and the shockingly scary obesity stats. Thank you for bringing a new dimension to my own thinking.

  18. kristin says:

    I definitely think it has a lot to do with the three things you mentioned. We actually talked a lot about this in my nutrition class last term. There are many aspects that affect a race or cultures weight. There are many cultures that are not willing to make changes to their diet because of how deep rooted the foods of their culture are. Actually in my one nutrition book it shows that Latin Americans and Asians have their own food pyramid. Also I think there is probably a difference between a culture of people who live in the united states and a culture of people that still live in their country of origin. A good example of that would be people of spain, italy, france, greece, turkey and israel. Most of people in these countries eat from the mediterranean diet. People of those same nationalities in the US might not be following such a healthy diet.

  19. Oh see that’s just. That’s just. I’m wordless. Am I the only one who gets so caught up in your photos I can’t even participate in the discussion?! I guess so.

    Here’s an attempt:
    I think it has to do with economics not race. As far as the black community is concerned, thicker women do tend to be admired more, especially if thick in the right places. Your girl in the brothel bride costume just decided to cover all her bases in that department.

    • keyalus says:

      I didn’t see this addressed anywhere else but I totally think the acceptence of thicker women in the black community can contribute to the issue a little bit. A Size 10 or 12 woman with a small waist and a good gut to butt ratio is a hot commodity (at least where I live). Based on what I see around the fitness blogosphere where the skinniest of women complain about their weight, I would venture to say most white women would consider themselves fat at that size.

      The problem for black women is that the line between “phat” and “fat” is so thin.

      • Josie says:

        Yoo are so right. Black men want their women to have a phat azz, but lots of times that means that other areas are just… fat.

        My Husband actually like my booty better when I was 185 pounds. I rolled my eyes and told him he couldhave me that way and have to accept the stomach along with it, or just accept me with reduced booty cheeks. Good this is, as I’ve focused on booty toning. the C curve to ma booty is better than when I was 185 pounds. LOL!

        • keyalus says:

          This is my current struggle. Sigh. I’m (happily) watching my stomach shrink while hoping to retain a little booty. :) I know I can’t have both though.

          We can’t all be Beyonce!

  20. zenlizzie says:

    I’m in my first year of grad school for health promotion, education and behavioral stuff, and we talk about health disparities A LOT. Although there are some biological factors in obesity (I would say genetic/family history rather than genetic/race), I really believe that food culture and socioeconomic status as a greater impact. Neighborhoods without safe places to play and walk, without grocery stores, without fun affordable school/after school programs, etc. Obviously, not all black people fall into those categories, but I would be interested to the see the differences in obesity rates stratified by socioeconomic status too. 

    Also, I think that for Latinos in America, the numbers are slightly off because of under reporting (people not feeling comfortable participating in surveys, going to the doctor), and also because the population of Latinos and Hispanic people in America aren’t an average sampling across age/gender/health status. There is a disproportionate amount of healthy, young men and women, which is great that they are more healthy but probably doesn’t represent most Latinos in North America regarding obesity.

     Also, and this is my own personal belief, is that there are a lack of healthy-eating/exercise role models, dietitians, public health researchers, etc from black and Latino populations. Even though there is a lot of funding for research and programs regarding obesity in these communities, I think there should be more black and Latino people planning programs because they would have a better idea of how what might work or not work in their community, and what the needs are.

    Ok, stepping down off my public health soap box… My white family is overall chubby and my bf’s black family is overall lean. I hope if we ever have kids, they inherit his lean-mean genes and not my frumpy-couch sitting ones.  

  21. Really interesting. I haven’t seen research on the obesity end of it, but speaking of type 2 diabetes, research shows blacks and Hispanics (and native Alaskans) much more at risk for the disease. (In case you’re wondering, Asians aren’t as likely to get type 2, unless we’re talking South Asian–which is really Indian. Whites are way more likely than others to get type 1, though.) Part of the upped type 2 risk might be due to lifestyle factors, but there’s a huge genetic component when it comes to blacks and Hispanics and type 2 risk. Maybe the same is going on with obesity.

    I think lifestyle always plays a role (I mean, stats show that the South is more obese than the rest of the country and that’s also where type 2 diabetes is most rampant) but I wouldn’t discount genetics. Of course, that’s no reason to give up. It just means they’re more likely to have to fight genetics to get healthy.

    Very interesting!

  22. Joe says:

    I’m a white Republican male who voted for Bush. I think I’ll stay out of this one.

  23. I have a neighbor, single parent of two. Drives a big nice truck, they all wear very nice clothes, all have iphones, and manage to eat at McD’s a few times a week AND the kids are on the free lunch program at school. This is a common picture where I live. The economics issue seems much more of a priority issue.

    Mean while, we eat out MAYBE 2-3 times a year, feed a family of four on $130 per week, including fresh & frozen veggies, and lean protein. Priorities.

    I believe that the culture that we surround ourselves in plays the largest role in lifestyle. It’s a proven fact.

  24. *sigh* So many factors go into it with economics being high up on that list, but also a fear of trying new foods and ingredients, including fresh vegetables. Canned products high in sodium rule supreme, and that’s unfortunate. Many single parent family homes just don’t have the money, time or resources to prepare fresh dinners (or lunches for that matter), and it snowballs. Kids learn from their parents and the kids around them. It takes a lot to change this!

  25. TexNYQueen says:

    The sad thing is that until the ADAs (American Dietetic Association and the American Diabetes Association) get together and really compound the fact that weight and diabetes factors go hand in hand (not to mention heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure) and really beat it into the heads of our ppl AND make a profit off it (think Calias and Prilosec) mot of us won’t get it.

  26. I was so up in arms by your post that I had to put down my plate of baby back ribs, collard greens with fatback, corn bread, baked beans, pecan pie, and 64oz glass of sweet tea just to reply! 😀

    I see your points Josie and while I’m not going to chime in with facts or experience (i’m part of the problem, not the solution!) I want to thank you for bringing this discussion to light today.

  27. Miz says:

    OOH LATE TO THIS POST but had to chime in anyway.

    I need to read all the other comments afterward but from what I have seen I think it is more an economic thing than a race issue–no?
    great post and obviously good discussion as well.
    off to read….

  28. Tamara says:

    I add to the chorus of “economics” because, living in southern Indiana, there are very few people who are not white and EVERYONE is fat. Seriously. I’m on the higher end of the normal BMI range, and people call me “skinny.” I’m also a rich snob because my parents live in California and both have jobs. Looking at that page of yours by state, I think we’re south enough to qualify as Kentucky, which is in the red red red.

    Just the percentages don’t accurately reflect how fat we are, because everyone who’s obese gets lumped in the same category. Those thirty percent aren’t just 20 pounds over their ideal…more like 100+. I don’t see much of a difference in race, though the chart says non-Hispanic black Hoosiers are slightly heavier than non-Hispanic whites. Again, that could be becomes of socioeconomics; there’s still a fair amount of backwoods racism around here.

  29. 444 says:

    All of this may have been said before, but it’s an interesting article, nonetheless:

  30. wow, you really made people think with your post (seeing the amount of replies you got).

    The factors you mentioned create predisposition, people who have certain characteristics are more vulnerable to some things than others. What they do with these predispositions is what make people look this way.

    So ok, let’s say in your family, people have always been fat. You can try exercising your body ever since you are a teenager. You will never be skinny, but you will never be obese neither. we have some limits, we just need to find them out. Still, our limits don’t put us outside normality. It us who do that.


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