Making Wellness A Priority - A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

Making Wellness A Priority

in-the-gym

I understand. The boot camp is difficult, it’s frustrating, it’s not worth it, you don’t need it. I get it. Really. It’s much easier to fall back into old regular habits than it is to adopt new ones… especially when we’re set in our ways and comfortable with the current cycle of which we are a part.

That is, except for the health and wellness part. Because our current habits don’t promote proper health for ourselves, they aren’t promoting emotional and physical wellness and they certainly don’t promote weight loss. Regardless of whether or not it’s five pounds or 135lbs that needs to go.. it’s not going to go away without a little difficulty and frustration.

But why? Why does it have to be so hard? Why does it have to be so frustrating? Honestly, I’d rather address why we feel like “it’s not worth it” and “we don’t need it” before anything else. The difficulty and frustration wouldn’t matter if we understood how important our health is, and recognized that it is not guaranteed. For some reason, American society (and, even more so, Black culture) simply does not place a priority on health. I can probably offer up several guesses as to why this is the case, but the bottom line is that this is the case. It’s left us to believe that wellness [as well as weight loss] is supposed to be easy and the moment that we’re reminded that it is not easy, we start making silly excuses as to why we aren’t going to put forth the effort. Oh, no, they’re silly excuses alright.

“I look fine the way I am.” “My man loves my body.” “I don’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol or any of that other crap.” “I don’t want to be uncomfortable and miserable trying to diet.”

Please. Spare me all that.

First and foremost, we all need to be well, and we need to not take it for granted. That means this: thinking it’s okay to act up now because we “appear to be okay” now doesn’t mean we’ll always “appear to be okay,” and it certainly doesn’t mean we’ll “be okay” tomorrow. We all have an obligation to ourselves to do what we know is best for our bodies, and trying to wash that reality away by saying things like “Well, what I’m doing is fine because I don’t have [insert long boring list of ailments]” – specifically when we’re saying things like that to excuse what we know to be bad behavior – isn’t smart. Trying to put our own comfort levels over our health would sound ridiculous.

Wellness isn’t about looks. It’s about having proper energy levels. It’s about waking up in the morning without being groggy or grouchy. It’s about being able to make it through the day without a tray of pills, energy drinks or a thousand cups of coffee. It’s about getting as close to avoiding needing medication to regulate your bodily functions as possible. It’s about being free from using food like a drug… hunting for a high. It’s about losing the weight, and never being in a position or situation that allows for it to be put back on again. Wellness needs to be a priority.

If wellness were a priority for us all as a culture, we wouldn’t be struggling with the realization that after two decades of “low fat/no fat/fat-free” products, we’re still… well, let’s just say there’s still plenty of fat. If wellness were a priority, we wouldn’t be torturing ourselves over buying the “original” version of something instead of the chemical-laden “low/no fat” versions. If wellness were a priority, it would sound foolish to say things like “I don’t like vegetables” as an adult. (Not “I don’t like a vegetable,” but “I don’t like vegetables.” Plural.)

If wellness were a priority for us all, there would be more of us out there who could help our close loved ones learn how to care for ourselves when our health appears to be failing us. Being a healthy height and weight wouldn’t be seen as uncommon. Being overweight wouldn’t be justified and shrugged off as “genetic,” as if it is our fate… written in our genetic code… never to be defeated.

If wellness were more of a priority, those of us who are fit wouldn’t be like “unicorns.” We wouldn’t be “rare.” We wouldn’t be looked at with side eyes and remarks like “she must not eat” or “she must not work” or “ugh, she’s too skinny” or “she looks like a man… women are supposed to be [insert descriptor that makes the person saying it feel more comfortable with themselves].” If we were all familiar with wellness as a challenge and not just an ideal, those of us who understand wouldn’t mock or berate those who don’t and conversely, those of us who don’t have it wouldn’t mock those who do be telling them they’re “too small.” If wellness were more of a priority, healthy and nutritious dishes wouldn’t be promptly written off as “white people food,” as if the idea that because white people do it or eat it means that it is unacceptable for anyone else. (Sorry, but my life isn’t ruled by such stupidity.)

If wellness were more of a priority, type 2 diabetes wouldn’t be the future of approximately half of the children born since 2000. Let me say that again: if our culture placed wellness as more of a priority, approximately half of the children born since 2000 wouldn’t be facing type 2 diabetes. Why is that so? Because their parents would not only place wellness as a priority in their households, but they would be shielding their children from the foods most likely to cause them to be unhealthy. If wellness were a priority, those parents would know which foods are “most likely to cause them to be unhealthy.”

If wellness were a priority to us… if we were a priority to ourselves… we certainly wouldn’t allow external validation like “I look fine” and “My man loves me the way I am” to interfere with our internal health. (And really, a man who “loves you the way you are” can certainly love you if you wound up losing a little weight, right?) If we were a priority to ourselves, we would do what we can to ensure that we are here as long as possible… and not let discomfort or difficulty or “I’m okay today” syndrome get in the way. We can do that, right?

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

18 Comments

  1. Charlotte Bell

    August 27, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    Thank you for this post! This has been on my mind and in my heart lately. It’s more than a notion to change my ways of thinking and behaving about food. It is as an adult that I am now learning about what it really means to live a healthy lifestyle. I went to my weekly weight watchers meeting (it’s been 19lbs I’ve lost since November 2009), and this time as many other times, I was the only African American woman. A couple of weeks ago, there were two other sistas. My heart breaks–as I rarely see us at the gym, going for a heart healthy walk, or gathering together to talk about our health. There are some–but there needs to be many more! And so, the continual question is–what can we do?? And what is at the center of the obesity epidemic in the African American community?

  2. Kimmoy

    August 27, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    It’s so funny you’re intro mentioned bootcamp, I just signed up for a month-long bootcamp to jumpstart my fitness. BTW, what are your thoughts on bootcamps?

    Anyway, thank you for this post – it’s filled with tough love which is what so many of us need. It took a while to get here but I’ve made the decision to make my health a priority. I’ve lost one too many family members including my mom to preventable diseases like diabetes/heart attacks. I want a different life, a longer, happier, and healthier one…

    • Katy B

      February 21, 2012 at 4:29 PM

      Boot Camps are HARD! And SO worth it. They’ll beat you up at first, and then you’ll beat them up back. They have changed my life and the way I envision exercise. You’re so much more capable of hard work that you think when you exercise alone, and boot camps will MAKE you push yourself.

      Throw in regular yoga to balance! You won’t regret it. Best of luck!

  3. Liz

    August 27, 2010 at 8:28 PM

    Yaaay you! You had to have come so far through mental agony to get to this point. I’m still working on that (18 months and 88 lbs later). When things get crazy for me its easy to give myself excuses. The only thing I can do is remember why I did all of this in the first place and how backsliding would make all of this a waste of time. Then I remember how much I hate wasting time LOL. But thanks for sharing your experiences. This really helps me realize that I am not alone.

  4. Adrianne

    August 28, 2010 at 10:00 AM

    This has definitely been on my mind lately as people ask me why I’m making so many changes with my eating and fitness. Now mind you, these are the same people who have no problem pointing out when they think you’re putting on weight. And thanks to your clean eating challenge, I actually made scalloped potatoes last night instead of using one of those box mixes with the funky, glow-in-the-dark cheese powder. It was awesome!

  5. "Mira Luma"

    October 13, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    I’m doing it right now – making wellness a priority FOR ME. Losing 32 pounds from last year is a big step for me, but I still have a long way to go. Your blog is going to help! THANK YOU!

  6. Jennifer

    January 27, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    I just found your blog via the Yahoo news story about weight loss bloggers, and have to say Thank You!! for this post. I am the poster-child for ignoring my own wellness to the detriment of my physical and mental health, even putting my 7-year relationship in peril… I even had a small stroke 1 1/2 years ago (at the age of 40– yikes!! no lasting effects, thank goodness) and even THAT didn’t clue me in for some reason. I was chronically depressed, had high cholesterol, an underactive thyroid, and was on the verge of losing my relationship because my BF was brutally honest that he was NOT attracted to me with 70 extra pounds on my frame. I was no longer the person I was when we met– and I have to agree with him, truthfully– I don’t know where and when I lost that girl, but she was gone– I wouldn’t have been attracted to me, either. I wasn’t taking my medications regularly, and I still continued to eat fried food, chips, sugar, and fat to “medicate” my emotions, which perpetuated the downward spiral.

    I’m working on figuring out my reasons for what happened, but I finally had an epiphany about my situation a few weeks ago: I am the ONLY one who did this to myself, and I am the only one who can fix it. I’ve only been on WW (again!) for three weeks now and haven’t felt this good in ages. I am finally fueling my body with the proper nutrients and healthy food, and working on my wellness and health (with weight loss as an added benefit).

    What is it about our society that we continually choose what’s easy and convenient, and to be honest, lazy (at least I know that’s one of MY reasons) over what we know is healthy?

  7. Ren

    May 22, 2011 at 10:51 PM

    I read a quote somewhere that said “If you don’t make time for health, you will make time for sickness”.

  8. Angie

    July 5, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    Thanks so much for this post. Can you say “tough love?!?” That’s exactly what I needed to hear. I have decided (yet again) that I would eat better and try to lose weight. I have no trouble exercising (do it daily), but my food choices and the amount of food I eat always get me into trouble. Just thinking about “wellness” instead of “dieting” makes me think of my health in a different light. I will make wellness a priority!

  9. Kendall

    April 3, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    Im trying wrap my mind around getting motivated to get back into the gym. My mind says go but body won’t move. I eat pretty clean and that’s how I feed my family as well. Never been a “cook out the box” mom or drive-thru. I have been doing HCG unsuccessfully and just think its unhealthy. But thank you for your inspirations and your ass kicking information Erika!

  10. Kami

    October 23, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    I love this post. This month I been focusing on eating healthy but no workout plans. It has been hard since I am in graduate school. I am going to travel and get my work outs done in the morning. Since most of my appointments and classes are in the late afternoon. My next few months will consists of Bikram Yoga, Hiit Boxing, and Monkey bar gym. I am hoping the extra weight will fall off.

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  12. Karon

    February 19, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    *standing up slow clap*

    If another person tells me I look “sick” or “weak” (laughable considering that, among other things, I leg press 200+ lbs.), I think a throat punch might be in order, smh. My trainer said, “It’s a shame that people don’t know what healthy looks like.” I agree. At 42 I’m preparing for my first figure competition; heck, my first athletic ANYTHING in my LIFE, and I feel fantastic! The decision I made to be a better steward over my life, including my body, was one of the best ones I’ve ever made, and I can’t imagine doing it any other way now. People look at me as they’re holding their extra-whipped-cream, venti caramel macchiatos and preferred pastry and say, “I just can’t see it; you get up at FOUR AM to workout? I couldn’t function! How do you do it?” How? By being more committed to my entire body than to my taste buds; by being more determined to be present at my life than watching it pass me by from my bed with a plate on my stomach; by deciding that I am more grateful to God for the gift of ME and the opportunity to use that gift to His glory than I am for red velvet cheesecake. So, I’ll keep making this a priority because I know that, in the end I will have the strength and will to be what I have been purposed to be. And when someone asks me yet again, “Dang, where’s the rest of you?” I’ll tell them, “The part that matters is right here; I left the rest at the gym.”

  13. nadia

    May 23, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    I have to disagree with the notion that blacks consider eating healthfully “eating white people’s food”. I am black and I do not think that way and of all the blackk people I know, at all income levels, none of them think that way… There are people overall who write off healthy eating so it shouldn’t be said in the context that any significant number of blacks feel that way… it implies basically, that most of us are ignorant when most of us are in fact, very intelligent…

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      May 24, 2013 at 8:02 AM

      I have to disagree with the notion that all of us think one certain way, even if I gave off that implication in my post.

      But, after over 1,200 posts on this blog, I have a nice healthy collection of people with stories about how eating “like that” is “white people food.” You might know people at all income levels, but at all ages? It’s, more often than not, our elders who perpetuate this.

  14. Evon Barnes

    July 25, 2013 at 3:45 AM

    Thanks again, Erika. Your articles always provide that extra push I need to move foreword. I started passionately working out about 6yrs ago with a trainer, but I only worked out twice a week. Fast forward. I’m moving towards a size 8 (now more rapidly since I know what to eat), I can walk/ run 8mls outdoors, I’m attending boxing/ circuit gym classes, I completed a boot camp class 2 wks ago, & I am adding body pump tonight. I am thoroughly loving the physical & psychological effects of working out. I now have a plus one for my nature walk/ run, & I’m hoping my girlfriends, all 45 & older & MOST already struggling with medical conditions exacerbated by poor health habits, will follow suit. Most definitely think themselves unworthy of good health they share tons of health related & often silly excuses. My body’s definitely my temple! You rock.

  15. Gail

    August 1, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    Great and timely post as usual, Erika!

    I’m dealing with family members and friends who are now disabled, CAN’T move their bodies and so wish they could!

    I look around and see people who still CAN move their bodies and won’t for the silliest of reasons. We move our bodies or we degenerate and die…early and regretfully.

  16. Alana

    August 5, 2013 at 2:49 AM

    Thank you for this. I love your definition of “wellness.” Somehow, somewhere, I have picked up the notion that I need to apologise for wanting to lose weight. That somehow, after losing the weight that puts the pain in my knees and back –I’ve “no reason” to lose anymore even though I am 200 pounds at 5’5″ (and 49). So, somehow, I go back up the scale. I start eating like an idiot. I stop exercising. The weight returns, the pain returns. And so I gear up to start over again. Today. Now. I am reading your site voraciously to try and understand. I am learning so very, very much. Thank you.

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