Thursday, March 25, 2010

GUEST POST: I Was Just Thinking….

I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the enormous amount of press and attention that has been given to the “predicament” that African American women face. The predicament, as you might have already guessed, is the high percentage of unmarried African American women due to the apparent dearth of suitable African American males women have to choose from as mates. This topic has really taken on a life of its own! It has made its way to talk shows (such as Oprah:, national news (such as ABC:, hair salons, books, magazines, tweets, facebook status updates, and movies alike. I won’t engage in the “great debate” here.

I do offer a perspective on the topic, however. At second glance, the scale that balances the number of suitable mates for African American men and women may not be so lopsided against the women as many would like to think. I surmise, that for many, the scale is actually lopsided against the men. The “problem” facing African American women may go beyond a simple comparison of the number of educated men to the number of educated women. Indeed, it comes back to supply and demand. However, a more granular level of analysis is required.

What seems to be overlooked in the “ great debate” is that attraction is a two-way street. It’s natural for a person to be attracted to a particular type of person. However, that other person must also be attracted in return. Furthermore, it is likely that the quality that person A likes in person B, is the same quality that person B admires in other people. The laws of attraction are real. Like attracts like. Depending on what qualities one values in a suitable mate (and the priority one places on those qualities), a person can have an easy or difficult time finding a partner. Similarly, depending on the personal qualities one has, he or she can find the same ease or difficulty in finding a partner. On this premise, I believe that some African American men (particularly those driven, educated, attractive men) have a more difficult time finding a suitable mate than their female counterparts.

Consider this: when most people think of essential qualities in a life-long companion, thoughtfulness, physical and inner beauty, financial security, confidence, religious, ambitious, loyalty and other thoughts may quickly come to mind. What if, for the African American man, fitness and healthy eating habits were top priorities? What if, before evaluating anything else, these men look to see if the other person is not only fit but also truly embodies a healthy lifestyle by her adherence to proper nutrition and physical activity? What would be left for these men to choose from? What if the man had a simple request of: I want my partner to not only be fit, but of a normal weight (as defined by the Dept of Health or the Center of Disease and Control)? Is that too much to ask?

I recognize this is a sensitive subject within the African American community, but I also believe this is where the problem lies. Standards have fallen far too low. How has it somehow become inappropriate to talk about proper health-much less demand it? There are legitimate reasons why a healthy lifestyle is paramount. The vast majority of illnesses and diseases can be traced back to poor nutrition and lack of sufficient exercise. The implications of poor health can certainly be quantified as well. A study by McKinsey and Company showed that health care costs associated with those who have a BMI of 30-34, 35-39, and 40+, are 18%, 55%, and 91% greater, respectively, than those individuals who have a BMI less than 25 (considered normal). It’s not necessary to document all of the psychological negative implications being overweight and obese can have on a person as well.

According to the Office of Minority Health, a division of the US Department of Health & Human Services, “African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S. About four out of five African American women are overweight or obese”. That is about 80%. Therefore, if you are an African American male, who is unfortunate enough to want an African American woman that is neither overweight nor obese, you have a starting point of 20% of the population to choose from. From that pool, you then must sift through the other qualifiers (age, location, availability, desirable qualities, etc) to find a suitable mate. Unfortunately, this is a grim scenario that faces many African American men in this country (and is not being talked about). Furthermore, I would guess, the more successful the man, the more inclined he is to want a woman who is not overweight or obese.

Somewhere along the way, four major issues have developed: 1) Health/fitness have been discounted 2) People stopped holding themselves accountable 3) It became “superficial” and “disingenuous” to want someone who was of normal weight and had a proper level of fitness 4) People have become naïve to think that it’s fine for them to be attracted to individuals who exhibit a certain quality (like being in “great shape”) and assuming that the other person wouldn’t be looking for the same thing.

So what happens to these men who can’t find any available women who exhibit the one quality that they deem most important? My guess? Just like any other scenario in nature or business-one adapts and finds a market/environment that has the product/supply that is sought after.

Adapt or die.

“Le Penseur”

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The Triathlete's Dilemma

It’s clearly been a while since we last spoke, and that is entirely my fault. For the last 2 months I have been focusing all my energy on a new goal - becoming an endurance athlete, specifically a triathlete. The combination of distance swimming, biking and running have proven to be one of the most awe inspiring and respect demanding events of my life. I've never been more challenged or fulfilled physically.

And while I have enjoyed countless benefits from training for such a task - better physique, higher levels of energy, more mental discipline - I have suffered a serious degradation in one of my most coveted relationships. Food and I have become very distant over the last 8 weeks, and I honestly haven't decided how I feel about that. My mentality has changed from someone who looks at a piece of tiramisu and swoons, who tastes wine and indulges, to someone who sees cheese and stands down because he knows it will weigh him down in the pool and is too much saturated fat for his body to process for fuel efficiency.

What happened to me???

I have been in a maelstrom of self-conflict, fighting between two sides of the same coin. I love food, but food is a big part of training for triathlons. One would think that burning up to 1,000 calories in a workout would earn you the right to eat whatever you want, but alas. You have to consider the balance of carbs, protein and fat. Incorporate the timing of meals. Layer in the types of carbs and proteins you are ingesting - are they slow release, quick absorption, and should I be eating these now, before or after my race? What's the all in caloric intake I need? What are the components of nutrition best suited for performance? All these things swirl in my head as I combat the urges to bath myself in ice cream, cookie cakes and lots and lots of brandy. The biggest problem in this lifestyle is its scientifically proven that it is impossible for a salmon burger to taste as good as a medium rare kobe beef burger with melted American cheese and whole seed mustard. Healthy and tasty eating are almost naturally diametrically opposed.

So what have I done? I have tried to approach eating as a part of training, with a clear plan, consistency and determination. I have slipped and gorged on pizza and bbq. And I have paid the price for such with cramps, stomach aches and sluggish physical performance. I can't drink like I used to. One glass of wine gets me woozy. Yes, I am now the cheapest of dates. It is a day to day learning process, but I am determined to find a way to enjoy flavorful, filling foods without sacrificing the science of nutrition training a triathlete needs.

Buy stock in Whole Foods...they will be getting ALL of my paycheck.

- The UE

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