Archive for September, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

We’re Just Too Big. There, I said it.

queens straps We’re Just Too Big.  There, I said it.

I have tried to bite my tongue a little on this issue because I knew everyone would yell at me, but the situation has gotten to a point of crisis.  We are so damn fat.  And we are killing ourselves and our children.

I don’t know what it was about this summer.  Perhaps it was the unfortunate intersection of an increasingly obese population with the fashion fads of skinny jeans and hoe wear.  Whatever the reason, it wasn’t pretty.  I saw more guts hanging over jeans, more rolls in backs and more stretch marks in the past few months than I had seen in the last five years.  And these are girls under 18.

Its actually quite scary.  If these young women are this big and out of shape at 16, what will they look like at 30 or after they have children?  These girls are a walking health care crisis.  We are in danger of losing an entire generation to diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.  Entirely preventable diseases that we allow to claim our young people while we sit idly by.

We all know that America as a whole has an obesity problem.  Most of us could shed a few pounds, exercise more and eat better.  But the fact that we have passed on our bad habits to our children and then allowed them to run wild in the candy aisle at Costco is inexcusable. 

And African-American women have a particularly complicated problem.  We are told from the time that we are young that men like thick women.  I didn’t know anyone growing up who wanted to be skinny.  You wanted to have a nice ass, thick thighs and nice boobs.  A little extra meat on your bones was considered a good thing and still is.  It is absolutely true that we can carry a little more weight and still look good.  HOWEVER,  we seem to have gotten carried away.   The term “thick” is increasingly used by our women to justify being too damn fat.  Yes, you may have an ass the size of a kitchen table, but so is your belly.  Serena Williams is “thick,” you’re probably just fat.

I applaud women for being confident and secure in their own skin but please don’t tell me that there is nothing wrong with being five feet five and 190 pounds.  You can proudly exclaim that you are a “big girl” and “big girls” are beautiful, but don’t leave out the most important part:  big girls are more likely to be sick and die early.  When will we be honest with ourselves?    This seems to be a recurring theme in many urban communities.  Instead of addressing a problem, we just turn it on its head and celebrate it as unique African-American culture. 

Now, I am well aware of the challenges many urban communities face when it comes to diet.  There are few grocery stores and many carry-outs.  There is fast food but no sit-down restaurants.  Yes, these things are absolutely true and should be addressed and reformed in a systematic way city by city.  However, that doesn’t give us a license to drown ourselves in fat and grease in protest.

Frankly, when I was growing up, the city was no different.  Fast food places and carry-outs were still prevalent but somehow we all managed to make it through adolescence without size 16 pants and inhalers.  But, back then we did a little thing called playing outside.  We only had four channels to watch and unless it was Saturday morning or a weekday between 3-5p, there was generally nothing on any of them you wanted to watch.  There was no internet and no video games (except my blazing hot Atari 2600 – do not hate.)  So you had to actually play with each other.   McDonald’s was a rare treat that we got excited about.  Its just a different world now.  But knowing that, we must act.

So there are cultural issues to contend with regarding this onset of childhood obesity.  But that’s the good news.  Cultural means we can actually change it.  But to change it in our children, we must change it in ourselves.

We eat too much of the wrong thing, we don’t get off the couch often enough, we drink, we smoke.  Now I’m no saint, I will get a McDonald’s #1 in a New York minute, but I do live a life where I am aware of what I’m eating and try to drag my ass to the gym on a regular basis.  The drinking we can discuss in another post.

All I’m saying is that, much like other problems our community faces, we cannot sit by, do nothing and watch our kids get fatter and fatter.  Big kids become big adults and eventually have big health problems.  No one is responsible for our young people but us.  Whether its getting them involved in more physical activity, more organized team sports or just limiting the amount of crap we have in our homes for them to eat.  But we must set good examples.  James Baldwin says while children may not listen to you, they never fail to imitate you. Maybe you could do something with them, even if its as simple as walking around the block or a track.

I know in this new child-centric world that we don’t want to hurt a child’s feelings, we don’t want to embarrass them or ever upset them in any way.  They are little kings and queens and we want to pretend like everything about them is great and perfect and there are no losers and everyone is a winner and all that crap.  But you know what, there are losers and there are fat people.  They shouldnt be either.  And if it takes wrestling that chicken wing out of their mouth to save their life, then so be it.

These are lives.  We are seeing an exponential increase in diabetes among our young people.  Dont they have enough challenges?  On the bus I see parents feeding their kids soda and cheese curls at 8am.  We have got to take some responsibility for the lives of our children.      

This isn’t about fashion or some European standard of beauty bullshit ( i already hear the black nationalists putting on their Africa medallions about to get in my ass).  I certainly don’t think everyone needs to be a size 6, and frankly im thankful our young girls dont grow up obsessed with being thin like our white counterparts, HOWEVER,  I do wish we would focus as much on the health and well-being of our young people as much as we focus on the expensive clothes we get them to put over their fat asses.

The solutions are complex and multi-layered and in the end it comes down to each individual figuring out what is best for them and their families.  I just want you to do something so I don’t have to look at your 15 year old’s gut hanging out of her too-tight Ed Hardy shirt on the bus in the morning.  I dont think thats too much to ask.

Peace people.