I want to start off by saying I am a fat Black lesbian. Yes, it is okay to call me fat, because that is what I am. I am five feet, three inches tall, and I weigh roughly 220 pounds. I have struggled with my weight my entire life, like most overweight Americans.
As a child, my mother constantly tried to get me to lose weight, but the way she fed us would seem to contradict that goal. On Friday and Saturday nights, our meals usually consisted of either pizza from Pizza Hut or Papa John’s, or plates of large fried chicken wings and shrimp fried rice from a local Chinese restaurant called Wing Wah. Sometimes we would have huge plates of spaghetti, always smothered in a high calorie sauce made of fatty ground beef, Ragu cheese and mushroom sauce, and so much cheese you could barely see the pasta. Saturday and Sunday morning breakfasts would see us have huge plates of grits, fried eggs, bacon, and sausage.
Throughout the week, our dinners would consist of things like Steak Umms, which are homemade cheese steaks on thick rolls with lots of provolone cheese and strips of fried steak from the grocery store. These would be served with French fries. Sometimes on weekends things would get switched up, and we would have fried fish and shrimp served with curly fries. You get the picture. This was not exactly a diet conducive to controlling the weight of obese children.
In middle school, I decided that I had had enough of being fat and the bullying that came along with it. I started throwing up my food. I still remember the first time I discovered this magic secret. It was on a Wednesday night, and I had finished a plate of fries with two Steak Umms. I went to the bathroom to legitimately use it. Then, on a whim, instead of flushing, I turned the water on, washed my hands, and instead of flushing the toilet immediately, I leaned over it, stuck my fingers down my throat, and all the food came right back up. I was surprised at how easy it was. I did it a couple more times to make sure I got it all, flushed, and left the bathroom like nothing had happened. From that moment forward, I had discovered the secret to losing the weight that I loathed for so long.
Throughout the rest of middle school and the first half of high school, I would hoard my lunch money and allowance instead of using it for food at school. I would eat nothing all day, eat the dinner my mother prepared, and throw it up. I got down to 145 pounds, and everyone praised me. I had no idea that my “secret” was a dangerous eating disorder. To this day, I still sometimes use it as a stress reliever.
Fast forward to adulthood, and I had gained the weight back. I had become a lazy bulimic, so of course it could never stay off without consistency if I was actually absorbing the calories. While living in New York, I dated a woman who was a fat activist. She was my height and weighed 325 pounds and had no problem with that. She said that the diet industry and the culture surrounding it was just a way to continue to discriminate against fat people, and that it was dangerous because it was killing our mental and physical health. She believed that no one lost the weight and kept it off, and that we should not have to. Just a couple of years ago, I dated another woman with those same views, but she took it a step further. She truly believed that obesity is not a health issue, and that no one should try to lose weight. That there is literally nothing medically wrong with being fat. I never truly bought into it. I am an embracer of science and what she was saying is medically a myth. In my view, a dangerous one.
The fat activist movement started out with noble causes. Despite the fact that nearly 160 million Americans – the vast majority – are either overweight or obese, there is still discrimination against fat people. Some of it is life or death, like the woman who died from the cancer that many doctors missed because they dismissed her complaints of pain as being related to her weight. So, there are legitimate and noble, life-saving causes that the fat activist movement fights for. Further, humiliating people for being fat should never be on the table. However, the current state of the movement seems to be killing people. This is especially true of Black queer women.
The promotion of obesity as something that should not be addressed is dangerous. It is a disease that is conclusively linked to things like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, joint destruction, and any number of other debilitating conditions. Further, Black Americans are much more likely to fall victim to some of the aforementioned ailments, especially Type 2 diabetes. Add to that the fact that lesbians and bisexual women are more likely to be overweight or obese than our straight counterparts, and it boggles the mind that we would be embracing the dangerous sign of this movement.
I can say, as a fat woman, no, being obese is not harmless. I do not want to remain fat, and I for damn sure do not want to get any fatter. I don’t want to get sick because I could not put the fork down and hit the pavement. To that end, I have made a few very real lifestyle choices that are helping me to take the weight off in a healthy way, and to keep it off for good this time. This is not a “diet.” We all know that diets do not work. This is a necessary lifestyle change, because I want to save my own life. Perhaps I will share some of the recipes and changes with all of you in a future post.
The following photo, posted to social media by a physician of a healthy heart next to one plagued by excess body fat tells it all: Obesity is not healthy.
There is no such thing as being both fat and healthy. If only the fat activist movement could get back to its noble goals and stop pushing that dangerous lie. They are literally killing the people who buy into it, and it really needs to stop. Obesity is a disease and a public health crisis. In the meantime, I am doing all I can to save my own life. I hope you all will, too.