Lunchtime office conversations often revolve around office gossip, new recipes, meal preps, eating protocols and diets. Lately, the spotlight has turned to the carnivore diet, a controversial eating regimen that has garnered much attention in offices across the country. Colleagues are frequently surprised to see those participating in the diet losing weight while eating nothing but meat and fats.
Yes, meat, specifically, the fattiest cuts of beef, pork, poultry and lamb. Fish, eggs and fats, such as lard, butter and ghee, are also included. Only salt, pepper and bone broth are allowed for seasoning, while water is the sole liquid dieters can drink.
Many Black women are skeptical of the diet because the list of foods allowed triggers issues surrounding high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, about 42 percent of Black women in the U.S. have high or borderline-high total cholesterol levels, 58 percent have high blood pressure, and each year, almost 50,000 die from heart disease.
Content creator Crystal Wallar, age 42, started the Carnivore Diet six months ago after being a strict vegan for 15 years. High-stress community work and subsequent burnout caused her to gain 25 pounds last year. She is one of many Black women who became interested in the diet after seeing the hype on social media. Still, she had reservations because, for years, health professionals told her about the harmful effects of a diet high in meats and fat.
“I’ve had high blood pressure since I was in my 20s, so I was like, ‘I don’t know if I need to be doing this carnivore thing.”
Within six months, Wallar lost 22 pounds, and she says her moods are regulated, she hasn’t suffered any health consequences, and her appetite is much smaller.
“Now, how I’ve been lately is I have to force myself sometimes to eat a meal. If I eat breakfast, I will probably not eat a full lunch or dinner that day.”
Dr. Emi Hosoda, a board-certified doctor in internal medicine with post-graduate education in holistic health and functional medicine, says she would not recommend the diet due to its elimination of vegetables, a good source of vitamins and fiber. Still, she does believe it has some advantages.
“It actually really is low carb, and it removes grains, which I think is the problem most people have when it comes to inflation in their gut and not losing weight.”
She’s had her fair share of patients on the diet with mixed results across the board.
“What I’ve seen in my patients that have gone on it is actually the cholesterol. Some of them it goes up, some it goes down.”
Dr. Hosoda says that high cholesterol is mainly caused by a diet high in sugar, and many with cholesterol issues are genetically predisposed. Other complications gave her pause.
“I’ve also seen, in general, inflammation go up in my patients, who have gone on the carnivore diet, not down. I’ve also had some weird things like pretty healthy people getting weird infections and ending up in the ICU.”
While she says she can’t blame these infections solely on the diet, it was the significant change noted in her patient’s lives.
However, she says that, in general, she is open to diets that work because she wants more people to get off medications.
“If carnivore works for you, amazing! But I think you have to be careful to get your cholesterol checked, get your markers of inflammation checked, and ensure that those things are going down.”
Masking is a mental health term that describes ways to hide, suppress or camouflage symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the workplace, it refers to fitting into the cultural environment to maintain your job and relationships without anyone knowing what is going on inside. For Black women, masking happens often, and long term, it can spike the stress hormone cortisol leading to mental and physical health issues.
“We’re so into mask-wearing that we don’t pay attention to what our internal sensor, our intuition, our common sense is telling us,” says Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett, director of the Program for Research on Anxiety Disorders in African Americans (PRADAA) at Kent State University in Ohio.
Neal-Barnett says dreading going into the workplace could indicate one is struggling with anxiety or depression. “If you’re out in the parking lot willing yourself to go into the building, okay, that’s a sign that something is wrong not only in the workplace, but you want to take stock of your anxiety, depression and PTSD.”
“Anxiety can show up as agitation, irritability, hostility and anger, which can feed into the ‘angry Black woman’ stereotypes we often try to avoid.”
Symptoms of anxiety disorders can present differently in Black women. “Anxiety can show up as agitation, irritability, hostility and anger, which can feed into the ‘angry Black woman’ stereotypes we often try to avoid,” says Dr. Shaakira Haywood Stewart, a psychologist in New York.
Seeing anger in Black women can illicit negative labels from others. “We’re quick to say, ‘she’s crazy,’ but not necessarily recognizing the number of boundaries that person has had crossed, and the resentment that can build up from years of neglect or emotional trauma,” says Dr. Afiya Mbilishaka, head of psychology at the University of the District of Columbia, hairstylist and founder of PsychoHairapy.
While many avoid being angry because of the stereotypes and labels, embracing that emotion can be a healthy choice. “Getting angry is better than internalizing it,” says Neal-Barnett. “Because what happens when you internalize it? It’s all your fault. But racism, which is what you’re experiencing, is not your fault.”
Another symptom is being in a perpetual state of fatigue. “Exhaustion can be a silent killer,” warns Haywood Stewart. “You’ll hear from patients, ‘I’m so tired,’ and they think it’s because of working a lot, but it can lead to hypertension, pre-diabetes and fibroids.” Haywood Stewart cautions against preoccupation with trauma, which can manifest through repetitive discussions about the traumatic events, persistent flashbacks and recurring dreams of the incidents. It is important to find an outlet and someone to talk to about the issues that are causing mental anguish.
“Getting angry is better than internalizing it.”
For many Black women, the initial person who notices something is wrong may be an unlikely source. “Probably the first person who’s going to tell you something is wrong is your hairdresser,” says Neal-Barnett. They often hear about the issues in-depth, and see you regularly enough to be aware of mental and physical changes. For this very reason, she has a licensed hair professional on her research team because she says they are vital in diagnosing mental health issues. “You may sit in the chair and hear, ‘Girl, what is going on?’ because our hair tells a story about what we are going through.”
At that point, Neal-Barnett emphasizes the importance of seeking mental health assistance, making an appointment with your physical doctor and seeking legal advice—which may be difficult for some as they worry about the stigma associated with complaining and their job security. “For many women, they feel if they are not working, then what happens to the family in terms of keeping a roof over people’s heads.” She recommends using accrued Personal Time Off (PTO) for self-care and talking to your doctor about whether using resources, such as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), are options.
When asked if the workplace is safe for Black women, Haywood Stewart answered emphatically, “No, it’s not.”
The workplace can be a harmful environment, and it is easy for Black women to become complacent and accept marginalization when it has become commonplace. “Some of the things happening to us in the workplace are traumatic and harmful,” says Haywood Stewart. “We’ve become used to being harmed because it happens over and over again.”
When your symptoms begin affecting personal relationships outside of work, that’s a sign that you need to seek help. “When the people you love start avoiding your calls, you find friendships and romantic relationships deteriorating; it’s time to get help,” says Haywood Stewart.
Neal-Barnett highlights that although workplace-induced stress can feel isolating, talking to others about these experiences is important. “You are not alone, and you are not the only one.” She says that it happens every day in corporate America and academia, which has adopted a corporate model. She explains that Black women may need to venture outside of their comfort zones if they want to see changes in their lives. “I know it feels embarrassing, and you feel shame, but if you can set aside that feeling for one minute and tell someone else who is Black, you are going to find hope and a plan to move forward.”
Chronic phycological stress can lead to trauma in the body, hair and skin. Black women report higher levels of psychological stress than white women due to their intersectionality between race and gender. In addition, they face unique social issues, such as discrimination, finances, safety and family, which are all considered top stressors for Black women according to the Qualitative Assessment of Gender- and Race-Related Stress Among Black Women.
Over an extended period, stress can limit the body’s ability to adapt, causing damage to the central nervous system, cognition and learning, immune system functions, cardiovascular and endocrine systems and the gastrointestinal tract. There are signs Black women should look for in their bodies if they are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety.
“Weight gain, skin breakouts, palpitations and breaking out in a sweat are pretty consistent signs among patients, especially women,” says Dr. Robin Moore, DO, a primary care physician in Houston specializing in women’s health.
Moore says that Black women have to do better about finding ways to minimize stress in their lives, including being more vocal about their needs and learning to set boundaries.
“We have to learn to say ‘no’ to things that don’t serve us.”
Workplace stress is a common complaint among Black women in her practice. “Black women especially have to wear many hats, they are overwhelmed and can never show weakness,” she says. “It can produce an unrealistic and unsustainable reality leading to burnout and anxiety.”
She adds that racism and discrimination in the workplace can affect physical health because it causes Black women to apply added pressure to be the best just to receive the same as others.
Moore says stress can lead to severe health issues like diabetes, heart disease, ulcers, stroke and inflammation. Thus, it is important Black women insist their doctors check their heart, thyroid, cortisol and blood sugar levels, iron and electrolytes.
Stephanie Serlin recommends her clients wash their face 30-60 times per month. Serlin, an esthetician and owner of So Hum Skin in Houston, says that a good skincare routine is a relaxation tool that can relieve stress while also combatting breakouts.
“I believe in the phrase, ‘Black don’t crack,’ but when we are facing trauma, we need to do more than rely on our genes.”
Serlin says that congestion (pimples) can appear both underneath and above the skin’s surface, along with skin inflammation and puffy eyes resulting from anxiety disorders. The inflammation is caused by high cortisol levels—a sign of stress.
“A good skincare routine can be a way to decompress from the day, take a moment for yourself and relax.”
Getting a professional facial regularly with extractions and an enzyme peel can help get the skin back on track. If unable to visit an esthetician, home facials can be purchased and used with caution. “I am not big on suggesting home remedies because a lot of times when people want to pop their pimples, the pressure of their hands causes more damage to the skin.”
Steaming the face by placing it over a bucket of hot water and wrapping your face in a hot towel are ways to open the pores at home. Serlin also suggests Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay to detoxify the skin and Jan Marini products for a regular skin regime. She says it’s crucial to spot-test new products on the hand before applying all over the face to ensure no allergic or adverse reaction.
Hair loss, breakage, shedding, oily or flaky scalp, and brittle texture may be signs your hair is telling you that you are depressed, or your stress levels are too high. Tecovia LaShe’ sees it every day with clients who come into her shop for braids and other protective hairstyles. LaShe’, stylist and owner of Crowned by She’ Hair Salon in Houston, says that her clients are often unaware of their stress levels until they sit in her chair.
“I spend a lot of time consulting with my clients about the symptoms of depression and anxiety showing up in their hair.”
“They are often surprised how their hair is communicating that something is wrong,” she says.
She says many of her clients can leave hair issues untreated for long periods because they focus on coping and surviving. “Clients confide in me about their life issues, including workplace trauma and how much pressure they face in difficult work environments.” She adds that protective styles that cover the damaged areas are popular because so many Black women are dealing with the same issues.
LaShe’ helps her clients customize healthy hair regiments that may include special shampoos, conditioners, masks and oils. She may also suggest clients look to meditation, exercise, a change in diet or seek help from a mental health professional when she learns their struggles with mental health are not being treated.
“I listen and empathize because I am a Black woman, and I know how difficult life can be for us,” she says. “My role is to help them leave the shop looking better and feeling better than when they arrived.”
Black women rocking bold colors should be the name of a coffee book, and we know the photos would be stunning. Throughout history, Black women have embraced vibrant hues, cultivating patterns and complicated textures – telling stories through color.
“If a person is drawn to colors that are bolder, it shows more confidence and someone you can trust,” says Amy Wax, color expert and creator of the Color911 App.
Our staff at Notable wanted to dig a little deeper and examine what our color choices say about us and how we can use color to our advantage in the workplace.
“Color communicates, color shifts, color participates,” says Michelle Lewis, color psychology expert. “I believe it was created to support us. Our hormones run off it; our sleep cycle runs off of it. Our mood, in a lot of ways, runs off it.”
From years of studying color, Lewis believes it should be embraced and used as a tool and an ally. “I think it is boundariless in terms of what we can do to bring it into our situation.”
Whatever you are experiencing, Wax believes that color is a part of everything we do, starting with when we get dressed for work. “It is such a subliminal part of who we are,” she says. For example, she says wearing or seeing all white looks well-organized, pure and fresh. It’s giving Lisa Raye or Mother of the Church.
On the other hand, Lewis says there are other colors, like grey, which can mute personality over time. “That’s what can lead to depression, disconnectivity and feeling ‘blah’ at work,” says Lewis. She says the problem is that most people are in a grey work environment, and then they go to work every day wearing Black and wonder why they’re miserable.
We have been conditioned to wear Black at work for interviews or big meetings, and while it can be seen as unassuming, Lewis says it can have the opposite effect. “It’s what’s become a cultural norm in a work environment,” she says. “But you’re not going to stand out at all.”
Lewis says there are eight primary communication colors that are behaviorally, culturally and scientifically part of our language and how we communicate.
Both experts agree that Blue conveys trustworthiness, reliability, honesty and loyalty. If you are having a tough time at work, feeling harassed or overwhelmed, shades of blue are solid choices. “Deeper blues bring down blood pressure and heart rate,” says Lewis. “All they’re going to know is that they feel more trusting and calmer when they are around you.”
It is also a smart color to wear if you are looking to get hired or promoted.
It can be associated with balance and family. Not a typical work choice color for most people, it could have one of two effects on others, according to Lewis. “They are just going to avoid you because they are uncomfortable, and the color is saying cautionary traffic cone, or they’ll want to sit down on your couch, spend time with you and be your best friend.”
Want to convey confidence, then consider red, with caution. Outside of holiday cheer, in the office, red can be seen as aggressive and cause overstimulation for those sharing office space. You may want to avoid this color if you are struggling with being bullied or harassed in the workplace.
Purple is driven and connection-based and can be a good color for building workplace relationships, camaraderie and collaboration.
Yellow is the most peak sensitivity in terms of what the eye can experience. It can keep you awake, energized and focused on your future. It can help you and others around you feel a little more joyful. On the flip side, it can also be overstimulating, especially with someone who is neurodivergent.
When you think of softness and femininity, pink is the first color to come to mind. It can make you feel comfortable when worn as clothing. However, as décor, it may cause you to retreat and not be as social or communicative. Studies have shown it to increase the desire to eat desserts.
Magenta is very bold, revolutionary and stimulating. Think T-Mobile outpacing AT&T in sales. It is not a color to avoid, but you should wear it with caution in the workplace as it is connected with a few politically charged campaigns, such as the “Rock Against Reagan.”
Green is balancing and is the most neutral to our eyes when perceiving color. It can affect heart rate and is helpful if you need stability in your office. An interesting fact about green is that it will bring you up when you feel down and vice versa, so use it carefully.
Discrimination in the workplace against Black women appears in the form of stereotypes, excessive demands, an absence of mentoring, exclusion from office cliques, being ignored and/or harassed, and assumptions that they are incompetent.– Black Women Talk About Workplace Stress and How They Cope
By J. Camille Hall, Joyce E. Everett and Johnnie Hamilton-Mason
Discrimination against Black women in the workplace manifests in various ways, including stereotypes, excessive demands, an absence of mentoring, exclusion from office cliques, being ignored and/or harassed and assumptions of incompetence.
When Black women face discrimination, harassment and bullying at work, they often suffer in silence. If it is discussed, it is likely under the protection of Black spaces, whispered in hallways and taken offline. From a mental health perspective, shame and feelings of failure cause some to keep quiet. Professionally, fear of retribution, being blacklisted or being gaslit are reasons many hold their experiences close to the chest. For a chance at a successful career, they are told to “lean in” only to get punched in the face with less pay than their colleagues, fewer opportunities for advancement and stereotypical feedback that they are too aggressive or not a cultural fit. Although dealing with the agony on their own may be the cultural norm, experts recommend that Black women begin sharing what is happening and act against the maltreatment occurring way too often in workplaces across the country.
“Yes, bring it out of the shadows,” says Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett, director, Program for Research on Anxiety Disorders among African Americans (PRADAA) at Kent State University in Ohio. An expert in anxiety and depression in Black women, Neal-Barnett, says it’s important to talk about the experiences whether it’s with a trusted colleague, out in public, with a mental health professional or even an attorney. She believes the silence masks the embarrassment Black women feel from being the ‘successful one’ in their families, and now, for the first time, they are told they are a failure sometimes without proof or truth. “These things are happening to us, and how can we go back to our moms, communities and families and say, this is happening to me?”
According to the LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company’s 2022 Women in the Workplace survey, many Black women work in fear. They have felt excluded, experienced having their judgment questioned and received comments about their appearance and demeanor at a higher rate than women in other demographics. They also worry more than others that they will be penalized for their mistakes.
“Everyone has biases, but the issue becomes whether that person’s biases are causing them to treat you differently than other people and negatively affecting your career.”
Blatant racism in the workplace can be easier to define. However, when the behavior is covert and filled with microaggressions and nuances, it may be difficult to prove the incidents or feedback are not based on truth but, in fact, fueled by bias.
“Everyone has biases, but the issue becomes whether that person’s biases are causing them to treat you differently than other people and negatively affecting your career,” says Reginald McKamine, attorney in Houston.
Even though filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or taking further legal action may be options, it can be a long road that takes months and sometimes years. During the process, many suffer from anxiety, depression and stress-induced medical issues, such as cardiovascular disease, that can cause severe damage over time.
“Regardless of getting a settlement or suing or whatever, our peace is more important than any of that,” says Wilson. “Setting ourselves up to have peace in whatever it is that we do is the first priority.”
Some experts conclude that when Black women suffer in silence, there is no respite in exchange for protecting the company or any promise that finding another job will be easier. Whether Black women tell or keep silent, individuals, companies and organizations that perpetuate hostile work environments may still get away with their behavior that can continue to cause harm for many years. Breaking the foundation of systematic oppression in the workplace will not happen overnight. It is crucial for Black women to focus on themselves and do what is in their best interest mentally, physically and financially. Using their voice can be the first step. “Shame and embarrassment can’t thrive in the light, so you have to tell,” says Neal-Barnett.
If legally filing a complaint and suing is not feasible and would cause unbearable or irreparable mental, physical or financial stress, then sharing the experience with human resources and focusing on negotiating a settlement package may be the best option. “You might just have to feel a little bit of hardship for a few months, if you can, to get that package because they’re likely going to negotiate unless there’s clearly no discrimination,” says Wilson.