The way "black" magazines and "mainstream" mags discuss diet strategies is very different, according a recent study done at the University of Iowa. According to a U of Iowa press release: "African-American women's magazines are more likely to encourage fad diets and reliance on faith to lose weight, while mainstream women's magazines focus more on evidence-based diet strategies." "Fad diets" include Atkins and South Beach, as well as any diet that "may work in the short term," but doesn't ultimately result in longterm, lasting lifestyle changes. The authors of the study based their findings off 406 articles published between 1984 and 2004 in Ebony, Jet, Essence, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, and Ladies' Home Journal. The problem with almost all the weight loss strategies employed by both African American and mainstream publications, explains researcher Shelly Campo, is that they rely too much on individual accountability, and do not consider the external factors.
According to Campos, "We blame individuals too much for circumstances that are not entirely within their control. We know people living in unsafe neighborhoods are much less likely to exercise. And fast food is cheap compared to fresh fruit and vegetables. To tell a poor person that they made a bad choice because they couldn't afford the salad fixings raises some ethical concerns."
The researchers also found that the ads in Ebony, Jet, and Essence were "primarily for foods high in calories but low in nutritional value." The study's authors put an emphasis on communities creating recreational opportunities and making farmers market goods available to those living in poorer neighborhoods. "The study clearly points to a need for public-health advocates and advocates of the African-American community to push their media to increase coverage of overweight and obesity health issues," according to Campos. Considering three quarters of African American women are considered overweight or obese, is it the job of the government, the community, or the magazine industry to help fix the problem?
Study: Weight-loss Tips Differ In African-American, Mainstream Magazines [University of Iowa]