As anyone with a sibling knows, no one will tell it to you as straight as your sister or brother. So when it comes to confronting a serious topic such as obesity, there's nothing like learning the facts from a conversation between two sisters.
Dr. Stacy Ann Mitchell and her sister, Teri Mitchell, a journalist, lawyer and television producer; have been having such a conversation for years. While Stacy grew up naturally tall and thin, Teri has always been a little heavier.
"I wouldn't say I was always struggling with my weight, but I was never skinny," Teri said. "Stacy was always saying to me, 'You need to exercise; you're gaining too much weight.'"
"We knew we couldn't be the only sisters having these conversations and concerns. So we decided to put it all down on paper," said Stacy.
They documented their conversations in the book Livin' Large -- African American Sisters Confront Obesity. The book is written as a dialogue between the two sisters, with Stacy reporting the medical facts and Teri giving these facts a real-life perspective. The sisters take readers on a journey of self-discovery and give them the information they need to make educated health decisions.
"I've learned a lot from my sister," Teri said. "I learned that being overweight isn't about aesthetics. Many African American men like women with some meat on them, so many women who are technically overweight are thinking, 'I'm fine! My shape is cute, guys are hollering at me -- I look better than a skinny girl!'"
What many women don't realize, said Teri, is that you can look good and still be overweight. "Overweight and obese are medical terms," she said. "People at a certain body mass index are more prone to certain diseases -- high blood pressure, stress on their joints, diabetes. It also can cause depression and affect self-esteem. Women need to learn that they can have curves, but they also need to be healthy."
"Women can get so much power from taking control of their lives and being healthy," said Stacy. "Once you lose weight, you have more energy, your mood improves, and you're more productive. When you're healthy, you're better able to keep up with children, husbands, work, school -- all the demands of a busy life. And there's no greater gift to your family and your community than being there and being at your absolute best."
Teri agrees. "With black women, the focus isn't on ourselves. We love out, as opposed to loving in," she said. "If we don't value ourselves, then we're not going to take the time to take care of ourselves. If we continue to put ourselves last, at some point everyone else will, too."