Local News

Counseling, Support Groups Help To Change Attitude About Food

Posted December 15, 2005 6:46 a.m. EST

— Among all racial groups, African-Americans tip the scales for weight problems. Recent statistics suggest 59 precent of black men and 77 percent of black women are overweight. It puts them at a higher risk for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Nutritional counseling and support groups help many women change their focus on food.


members pledge not to use food to soothe frustrated desires. TOPS stands for Taking Off Pounds Sensibly, not with a diet, but with sound nutrition and portion control.

Angela McCants is fighting more than just excess weight. She is fighting a culture common to many African-Americans.

"I grew up in a family with 10 kids. My mother always cooked. A lot of the foods were cheaper, but were certainly much higher in calories," she said.

"Most African-Americans tend to talk about having some meat on your bones," said TOPS member Julia Davidson.

White women face more pressure to meet the slender standard set by magazine models.

"In African-American culture, it's quite different because you have women that our culture allows to be a little larger," said weight loss physician Dr. Deirdre Batch.

Batch specializes in helping women lose weight and cut their risks for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The TOPS support group is a vital part of her mission.

"Women need girlfriends. They need people that they can talk to. They need people that they can walk with and have fun with," she said.

"We talk and encourage one another, [along with] the friendships that we build," McCants said.

Christmas parties and family dinners put their commitment to the test.

"Everybody brings their favorite dish and you know you have to taste them all," McCants said.

However, McCants said she plans to maintain, not gain weight and turn her culture of overeating around.

"Just try to enjoy the company with your family more than the food," she said.

TOPS, a nonprofit organization, is the oldest weight loss support group in the country.