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My white girlfriend and I used to be workout partners. We did the same workout day in and day out. Pretty much stuck to the same eating habits, but weight was dropping off her quicker, and I couldn’t understand why.  At one workout session we both went up to our trainer to get weighed in.  Once again, disappointment. But then the trainer made a comment that stuck with me forever. He said there’s a stark difference in the way black and white bodies work. Although she lost more weight, I gained more muscle.  To hell with your Barbie body, I’m She-Ra.  I’m not sure what research he was into back then, but he mentioned metabolic differences.  Maybe 10 years ago he was on to something.

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A recent study done by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine examined the metabolic differences between black and white women when it comes to weight loss.  The study, lead by James P. DeLany, Ph.d, concluded that black women may need to eat fewer calories or burn more than white women to lose the same amount of weight.  Previous studies just assumed that black women weren’t working hard enough, i.e, we were lazy.

“At first, it was thought that perhaps the African-American women didn’t adhere as closely to their calorie prescriptions or that the interventions were not culturally sensitive,” DeLany said. “But even in research projects that were designed to address those possibilities, the difference in weight loss remained.”

The six-month study involved  examining the weight changes, energy usage, activity and energy intake among 39 obese black women and 66 white women.  The researchers found that the black women lost about seven pounds fewer than the Caucasian women, even they shared a comparable BMI and followed the same calorie restrictions and exercise guidelines. But the black women had lower resting metabolic rates and expended less energy daily than the other group.

“We prescribe how many calories are allowed and how much activity is needed during weight loss interventions based on the premise that people of the same weight have similar metabolic rates,” Dr. DeLany explained. “But to account for their lower metabolic rate, African-American women must further reduce the number of calories they eat or use up more of them with exercise in order to lose the same number of pounds in the same time span as a Caucasian woman of the same weight.”

So the good news is that we’re not lazy. The bad news, we’ll probably have to add 2 more miles or another set of crunches to the workout. The better news, when you slip on that new dress you’ve been trying to get into and you look at yourself in the mirror, the only word you’ll need to say is “flawless”.

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