By Reginald Williams,
Special to the AFRO

On March 2, Keith Person visited his doctor for his annual physical. He weighed in at 253. His blood pressure read 110/75, and his A1C was 5.9. 

Two months earlier, on January 1, the Pathway to Housing D.C. Peer Support Specialist tipped the scales at 275 pounds. His A1C at that time was 7.3. He attributes his weightloss to a change in diet.

“I eat less meat now, and the meat I do eat is chicken, fish, and turkey,” said Person. “I love salads now. I eat healthy salads– without meat– three times per week.” 

Person began his health journey in May 2022 after a disappointing doctor’s visit. 

The native Washingtonian learned that his lab work revealed he was metabolically unhealthy. Determined to reverse his poor health, Person dedicated himself to living healthier. He became motivated to reduce his weight to 240 and his waistline to 38 by March 2023. He began walking to exercise and eating healthier. 

During his October 2022 doctor’s visit, Person received the news from his doctor that his metabolic numbers were trending in the right direction. That news ignited his relapse. 

“She told me what I needed to hear. That [my] A1C was down, and I had lost a little weight,” Person said. “I was eating healthier. I was eating to live as opposed to living to eat, but then I fell back into my old ways. I looked up, and I ballooned back up to 275 by the end of last year. I relapsed [and] just determined that I couldn’t live like that.”

Person believes his ideal weight is 225 pounds and seeks to drop the additional 28 pounds of unnecessary weight.   

Health experts maintain that carrying excessive weight negatively affects almost every aspect of health. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the number one killer among Black men, followed by strokes and hypertension. (Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash)

Belly fat places undue stress on the body’s organs and heightens the chances of heart failure. Heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the number one killer among Black men, followed by strokes and hypertension. Person’s maternal grandfather, a diabetic, died of a massive heart attack at 62, Person’s present age. Losing weight and belly fat is critical to Black men living healthier and longer.

The CDC says obesity does not discriminate in health determinants but affects all African-Americans more aggressively.

  • African American women have the highest rates of obesity or being overweight compared to other groups in the United States. About 4 out of 5 African American women are overweight or obese.
  • In 2018, non-Hispanic Blacks were 1.3 times more likely to be obese as compared to non-Hispanic whites.
  • People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, high levels of blood fats, diabetes, and LDL cholesterol—all risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
  • In 2018, African Americans were 20 percent less likely to engage in active physical activity as compared to non-Hispanic whites.

The Journal of National Medical Association collected data from 661 African-Americans, 418 women, and 243 men residents of Washington D.C.’s living in Wards 7 and 8. The results revealed that 38.3 percent of the women and 20.1 percent of the men were determined to be obese. That study also revealed that African American men 55 or older were the most likely population to be overweight.  

Weighing in a few sweet snacks shy of 300 and being the heir of a diabetic legacy of sufferers—his mother had the debilitating disease before her death, and his sister is currently affected by it—Person tackles his health issues in the same fashion that he gripped his 26-year active addiction. Living in sobriety for the last 10 years, Person said he didn’t stop smoking crack and cigarettes to let food kill him. 

“Being a man of color at 62, I knew I couldn’t continue to take my health for granted,” Person said. “I recognized that my health was deteriorating. I would easily get out of breath. When I walked, I wheezed. I knew if I didn’t do something, that 275 could very well be 285 or 290. I made a conscious decision to eat healthier by cutting out certain foods [mainly sugary snacks] and exercising, which is walking for me.”

With the prevalence of premature deaths of Black men nationwide, particularly men as in their early 40s,  Person implores Black men to be more mindful of their health. “Take care of your body before it’s too late before you do damage that can’t be reversed.”

Reginald Williams, the author of “A Marginalized Voice: Devalued, Dismissed, Disenfranchised & Demonized” writes on Black men and Holistic Health concerns. Please email or visit for more information.

Reginald Williams

Special to the AFRO