In my family, fat is the primary F word. Unfortunately for us, we hail from the Mana tribe from Liberia, West Africa. We’re strong minded, big boned, large breasted females that come thicker than average. All throughout my life I have battled with my size, it’s my ever present, opposite of unseen enemy that met me for war in every mirror I’ve ever peered in. This is the story of many Black women, where it seems that our bodies don’t fit the mold and in order to get it to conform, we’re willing to do any and everything. When I was younger, it was SlimFast shakes, now a days it’s squeezing every ounce of our midsections into “exercise corsets” that do nothing but constrict our breathing and decrease our range of motion while performing exercises.
I remember the first time I drank a SlimFast Shake with the intent to lose weight. I couldn’t have been more than 10 years old and with that first shake I began the career of a life time dieter.
You don’t realize how much time is spent thinking about one’s weight and how to decrease it until you slowly wake up from the spell cast by the industry and realize a more comprehensive picture of your health. I think now on the title of the company itself. Can everybody be slim? If so, is it possible to be slim very fast? The very name is preposterous, a ploy on the human instinct to take the easy route, a play on the weak spirit that is praying for release from the body designed for it.
We are not all meant to be slim, and for those of us that desire slimness, it will not come over night, nor will it come with cutting out whole entire meals out of our day. The human body is not designed to be sustained over a chemical mixture out of a can, and many life time dieters who have been on the string of the yoyo can tell you that fast doesn’t necessarily last.
The battle of the bulge is larger than just our small community, it’s a country wide siege that demands our time, effort, and most especially our money. This year alone, the diet industry will cash in billions of dollars on the hopes of overweight men and women dying for a way out of their present bodies and into the perfect lives sold on the infomercials. Three years ago I gave up on the starvation diets, the fad doctors, and the as seen on TV equipment. I decided that I would do it the simple way, eat right and exercise, and 100 pounds later I’m here to tell you the three most surprising things I learned about weight loss, including how to be fat and happy.
GET OFF THE TREADMILL AND INTO THE WEIGHT-ROOM. Yeah, I said it, I want to see more women pushing iron and being proud of it. There is a perverse lie that lifting weights will result in unseemly muscles, but the reality is, you want to increase the muscle mass in your body over all. Why? Simple, the more muscle you have on your frame, the higher your metabolism. While cardio spikes your heart-rate and burns calories only for the short time you’re on the treadmill or elliptical, lifting weights will have your metabolism spiked for hours afterward. Not to mention, at rest, your body will be burning more calories which means you can lose more weight even in your sleep. Proper form and instruction is required, and it requires more effort but the pay off is amazing.
YOU MUST LEARN TO COOK. The diet industry wants to convince you that there’s a way to lose a considerable amount of weight without ever learning to cook a meal on your own but there is no amount of pills and shakes that will make up for a bad diet. The grilled chicken salad at McDonald’s is pumped full of preservatives and sodium, two things that are death to a hopeful diet. There is no eating around the bad stuff in fast foods, and even frozen dinners come pumped with added chemicals that can harm your efforts. Buying fresh ingredients at the grocery store and coming up with three to five health recipes you can cycle throughout the week is your best bet.
MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR BODY. Your body is a precious gift, perfectly made to survive your time in the physical world. Make peace with it and watch it respond better to your efforts. Your body is not at war with you, nor you with it, and the more you come to accept it and only desire it be healthier, rather than smaller, the better off you will be. There is no such thing as a diet, you are simply shifting your lifestyle to reflect healthier ideals. You don’t have to be so hard on yourself, allow yourself to enjoy treats in moderation, give your body what it craves but understand that this is a relationship where you work together. The body won’t respond well to being depleted and as a result you will drive yourself crazy and not be able to keep up with the stringent rules you’ve placed on yourself. When will we stop punishing ourselves for existing outside what the media says is normal?
It wasn’t until I looked at pictures of my family members back home in Africa and saw the same shape I have, without any of the sedentary lifestyle of America. These were women who walked up to ten miles in a day and ate nothing but freshly grown and prepared food. Healthy and vibrant, and yes, still a size 14. I realized then that my body is a perfectly fine body, and so long as I exercise for fun and eat well, I was fine. Remember, your goal as you change your habits and put the focus on your health is not to be slim, fast, but to be healthy for a lifetime.