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Nicole Breedlove Headshot

Childhood Fat?! No Way! Adult Fat? Sure!

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When I was in grade school we had to pass a fitness test for Physical Ed. Sit-ups, jumping jacks, pushups, chin-ups, suicides and track. We were timed for one minute during each task and the teacher recorded the number. By the end of the school year you needed to have at least 10 to 15 more of every exercise in order to pass Physical Education. In a school of probably 900 kids maybe -- MAYBE -- 30 were overweight. Nowadays it seems kids that are overweight are norm. And these are not kids with a few pounds of baby fat. These kids are struggling to breathe after walking only a few feet. These kids are wearing adult sizes because the largest child size is way too small. And that size doesn't even have a number. It's just called Husky.

Today's generation is what I affectionately like to refer to as "The Butt Generation." Whatever they need, they can get without getting up off their butt. Do you remember when we had to actually get dressed, leave the house, go to the library, look through those dreadful index cards and pray the book was where it was supposed to be on the shelf? Now kids can just log onto the computer and search Google. Then, voilà, the world at your fingertips. All this technology makes them lazy and gives them no motivation to get off their butts -- computers, cell phones, video games, etc.

So here comes the first lady, Michelle Obama, with her "Let's Move" program aimed at childhood obesity. The program is a great idea. It keeps kids healthy and active. It lets them know that it's not okay to have joint pain, difficulty walking, high blood pressure and other dangerous health issues at such a young age. What I don't understand is why this message ends during adulthood.

There is a new movement among adults that it's perfectly okay to be overweight, be at risk or currently have serious medical issues. This is especially true in the African-American community. Comedian Monique was "big, beautiful and loving it." Then she smartened up. You may be big, beautiful and loving it -- but your joints, heart and other organs are not. Her doctor told her of all the health risks that increase as you get older. Women proudly proclaim how big they are, how long they've been big, how their health is perfectly fine and how they have no intention of doing anything about it. You would think if anyone would want to be fit and healthy it would be Black women. Don't you want to be alive to see your child graduate college? Get married? Meet your grandchild?

I can already hear the "I'm-overweight-and-in-perfect-health" choir singing. You may be in perfect health -- now -- but you won't be for long. Our body -- the knees, ankles, spine -- was not built to carry that much weight. That puts a lot of stress on the most important muscle in your body... your heart. Think of your overweight life like that of a smoker. A smoker will say things like, "Well I've been smoking for 20 years and I don't have cancer." You may never develop cancer, and if you don't, good for you! But, by smoking you certainly increase your chances so why risk it? Same thing with being overweight. Yeah, your health may be okay now, but by being overweight you increase your chances of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, joint pain, shortened life expectancy, and blood clots later in life. So if someone is telling you that you can prevent these problems then why wouldn't you lose weight? Did you know that just by losing 10 percent of your bodyweight you may be able to decrease the dosage or eliminate some heart, diabetes and high blood pressure medications? I actually know a sista who faithfully purchases a new weave, gets her nails done and buys a new outfit every two weeks but explained that the gym is too expensive. It's like a rotten apple painted red -- it looks good on the outside but the inside is rotting away. She will make a beautiful corpse.

The sad thing is I have heard every ridiculous excuse in the African-American community as to why we are meant -- and yes you read that correctly -- African Americans were meant to be overweight. They are actually proud of being unhealthy. And as African Americans our weight doesn't exist in a vacuum. There are so many horrible factors that contribute to our unhealthy lifestyles. There are more fast food restaurants in our neighborhoods than white and affluent neighborhoods. For example, if you walk a block in Bedstuy, Brooklyn, within two blocks there is a Popeye's, McDonald's, Burger King, Ceasar's Pizza, three Chinese fast food places, KFC, four family-owned Caribbean and soul food places and a Dunkin Donuts. Go to any poor, of color or disenfranchised neighborhood and the fast food places may be different but the sheer number remains the same. Now count the number of gyms and fitness centers in those same areas. Go ahead. I'll wait...

This is not a situation we can blame on anyone else but ourselves. We can't blame "the man." We cannot blame some covert government conspiracy. WE are responsible for our health. WE are responsible for going to the gym. WE are responsible for foregoing the dollar menu to cook a more nutritious meal at home.

Being big is dangerous. It's self destructive. Healthy is sexy. Working out is sexy. Teaching your children good eating habits is sexy. It's time we stop encouraging this. Yes, women come in all sizes but there is nothing attractive about being unhealthy. How confident do you feel when you have problems tying your shoe? How sexy are you when you realize you can't walk up a flight of stairs without wheezing? No one is saying you need to be the size of a supermodel, but clearly being the size you are now is killing you.