As a child, I witnessed my family consume food that not only stretched their mouths but their bodies as well. The savory tastes of fried chicken, macaroni & cheese, yams and cornbread was a weekly– sometimes even nightly meal. Followed up from this nightly meal was tv in the family room and naps on the couch. Once, I reached a size 8 at 12 years old I knew that it would be up to me to take control of my health. I didn’t want to be the chubby kid in class anymore and my family didn’t seem to be concerned about my health, so I made a decision for myself. I signed myself up for softball tryouts at my middle school without any knowledge of softball. This was single handedly one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made because it forever changed my life in countless ways: diet, exercise regimen, work ethic, and overall knowledge of my body and everything it was capable of.
December 14, 2012 was the day that I witnessed my grandmother have a heart attack en route to dropping me off at school. I was a freshmen in highschool, on the softball team, and a health nut. How could I be witnessing my grandmother having a HEART ATTACK? Although, I altered my life, those around me did not. My family still maintained their regular diets and eating habits with little to no exercise and unfortunately so did the rest of my community. When I looked around I saw several people that look like me but they didn’t. They still continued to eat these greasy foods and topping calories with more calories without doing a single squat. My fear was the consequences catching up to them before I could and it did.
Before my grandmother’s heart attack, I knew health and fitness was important but this single incident proved just how imperative it is to take care of yourself. The doctor told us the cause of her heart attack was due to unhealthy eating and lack of exercise. My mother’s response to that was, “It is apart of African-American culture to indulge in food that is mostly high in salt and fat.” However, it is not apart of our culture to continue to die of early age due to what is in our culture to eat. African Americans ages 18-49 are 2 times as likely to die from heart disease and African Americans ages 35-64 years are 50% more likely to have high blood pressure than whites. This is an issue that I have noticed within my community and I have taken initiative of implementing fitness classes and nutrition classes.
I currently attend an Historically Black College/University where we weekly have “Fried Chicken Wednesday” and “Fried Fish Friday’s” which further increases the chance and slightly promotes and advocates for high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol within African-Americans. This is problematic because there are an abundance of children who will grow up eating these foods and think that it is okay and normal. It is okay to digest some of these foods occasionally, however not on a weekly basis as it will later cause detrimental issues for the body.
I think it is imperative that young people take initiative of their bodies and thoroughly understand what they are putting into their bodies. I believe it is essential to educate young people on health and fitness because we are only given one body and should treat it as a temple. I believe there are a few initiatives and ways that health professionals, body builders, and athletes can come together to enforce and inform ways to monitor and track young people’s body performance and health such as: addressing heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases, which highly affects African Americans, supporting actions to create healthy food environments and increase physical activity in underserved communities, and work with other sectors, such as faith and community organizations, education, business, transportation, and housing, to create social and economic conditions that promote health starting in childhood.
My name is Malani A. Cox and I attend Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA. I am a Mass Media Arts major with a concentration in Television Production an I aspire to become a television producer. I am a native of Southern California where I enjoy swimming, playing softball, meditating and doing yoga, reading and watching movies.
- “African American Health | VitalSigns | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.