In honor of the tenth anniversary of A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, I’m counting down ten days with ten posts that will help illuminate the reason why this community is so amazing, so incredible, so life changing, and so worthwhile. I’m only one writer, here—this space has been full of remarkable people contributing and giving not just to me, but each other. For these ten days, counting down, let’s celebrate that.
Sometimes, writing for the Internet can be scary.
Let’s face it—whatever you say here lives on somehow, somewhere, in infamy forever. It takes a lot to believe that your thoughts are coherent and solid enough to be seen by potentially thousands of people, ready to rip your whole argument to shreds.
But somehow, over the past few decades, we built communities where we could dig into the most intense memories and experiences of our lives, and be received well with empathy, support, love, recognition of our courage and love, and—most of all—cheers. Life is hard, but damn. We’re still standing. And that’s amazing and should be praised, too.
Below, are ten of my favorite examples of those conversations about intense and serious moments:
1—For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Eating Disorders When Dieting Wasn’t Enuf
In this post, I talked about my experience of trying to force myself into a functional eating disorder, something that scared me so badly, I was straight up shaking as a clicked “publish.”
My God, I am shaking right now.
— Erika Nicole Kendall (@bgg2wl) November 23, 2010
Pizza arrives, and I immediately smash at least half of it. I give myself a little time to recognize what I’ve done, then I go over to the sink and shove a butterknife down my throat.
Nothing happened. I immediately panicked. I shoved it even further down my throat. Again, nothing.
I was completely mortified. My plan was foiled. I wouldn’t be vomiting up any pizza that night. But I’d spend the rest of the night confused and crying about it. I took that as a sign from The Powers That Be that I had no business trying to puke up any food, and that if I was going to lose weight… I’d be doing it The Way That Makes Sense.
Although I want to giggle at the idea of being able to stick a whole butterknife down my throat and have nothing happen, I can only smirk at it because this entire situation reminds me of how desperate I was to get beyond this “fat thing” and how I was so lost and confused about why I’d scarf down [what I’d definitely consider] too much food, only to be starving again a few hours later.
What made this so important, to me, is that this was the start of my realizing that I was a compulsive eater, and I was looking for ways to continue that behavior while still managing to avoid the [perceived] consequences. Whew.
And the comments are full of women sharing their stories, too. As awful a thing as it is to experience, it helps to know you’re not alone.
2—An Open Letter to the XOJane Writer Who Cried About a Black Woman in Her Yoga Class
This is pretty much the story of one of the most amazing self-owns ever published on the Internet, and the response to this post was so major that celebrities were sharing it, causing my site to literally implode. Like, fully unreadable!
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: self-proclaimed skinny white girl walks into a yoga class, finds a plus sized black woman there…
You may not know this, but when non-skinny people enter a fitness facility, there is major anxiety. Some are constantly wondering if others are staring, if someone is making remarks, if someone’s going to say something within earshot. You feel like a morsel of food in a room full of starving cats. It takes vulnerability to walk in the door in the first place – it almost feels like you’re validating every awful thing being said about your body to begin with – but to actually work out? In public? It can feel downright paralyzing.
To read a quote from someone that says if she was this fat, she wouldn’t want anyone to look at her, is downright fat shaming. No person should feel shame for their body size, and no person should believe it is acceptable to shame someone for their body size. The end. To do otherwise is to be a complete and utter scumbag.
Read more here, because the drag was long and strong—so bad, that the site changed the author’s name because she basically went into hiding. Alas, we outed her anyway, because how dare you?
3—The Body Magic Isn’t Magic After All
This really shouldn’t be a favorite post of mine, but honestly out of all almost 2,000 of ’em? I cannot forget this one even if I tried.
This post is actually pretty blah. The comments are the gag.
One of those multi-level marketing scheming-ass companies was selling waist trainers, encouraging their sellers to market them as some form of weight loss device, and I outed them for what they were, which is was scam. Almost a decade later, it’s obviously a scam because where are those Ardyss salespeople now? If it was a business, it certainly wasn’t a sustainable one.
Now, I was also advised that the Body Magic could also aid me in my weight loss endeavors. Oh… really? How so?
“It’s so uncomfortable and tight, that it prevents you from overeating or stuffing yourself.”
So, wait. You mean to tell me that I don’t have to stop eating my favorite fatty foods, because the Body Magic will force me to eat it in moderation? So… forget the fact that those foods are unhealthy and lack proper nutrition for the body (empty calories like soft drinks vs. nutrition-rich ones like sweet potatoes.) Forget that those are the same foods that got you in a physically unfit figure in the first place. Forget the fact that those foods aren’t going to help you maintain that figure should you magically obtain it. You don’t want to sacrifice… and this magic garment (it’s no surprise that the thing is called Body Magic, trust me) can give you all you want and you don’t have to sacrifice at all. It doesn’t work like that.
This was also the early days of me finding my voice as someone who can honestly and thoroughly debunk claims made about weight loss. Also… I was taking fire from left, right, and center behind this post. Whew, there are still people calling me everything but a black girl for this post.
4—On Becoming “That Fit Bitch”
I don’t really say this in the post, but this is about the mythical “Alpha Dog” energy that comes with walking around the gym like someone who knows what they’re doing and are comfortable doing it. A lot of us aren’t there yet and don’t realize that being there requires more than we think.
It’s actually kind of interesting. The position I’m in, because I write for this blog, makes it especially ironic because when people DO ask me how I became “that fit bitch,” I can just point them to this blog. What answer do I get?
“I don’t wanna read all that shit. I just wanna look like that… and eat what I eat.”
It’s so funny… because I used to swear that I could accomplish that, too – eating what I eat and looking the way she looked. It never dawned on me that her benefits were the result of her lifestyle, much like my consequences were the result of mine. And until I changed that, I had no choice but to live out the consequences of my lifestyle. My lifestyle – the combination of choices that I make each day.
I didn’t want to be obnoxious. How bizarre is that? I didn’t want to learn how to live and be healthier because I perceived it as being obnoxious. I never actually questioned what I found to be so obnoxious about it in the first place… I never questioned whether or not it was fear that kept me from pursuing living like her. I just wrote it off as being obnoxious, and went on about my merry little way.
This post also spawned a rebuttal to people who felt diminished by the idea that this meant they were “that fat bitch.”
5—Blogging While Black: On Having An Accidentally Controversial Blog Title
So, Huffington Post featured my site for something, I don’t know, whatever, and the white folks that troll the Black section of the site railed in the comments about what if there was a white girl’s guide to weight loss or some other such ludicrous nonsense.
This is one of the first times I explicitly answered this dumb ass question.
I exist in a society where the people who set the standard for what is beautiful are not “women,” like I am, and they certainly aren’t Black, like I am. I contribute to a culture (because culture is, in fact, dynamic) where the people who set the standard for what is “beautiful” and “desirable” may be Black, but they certainly aren’t women. The standards for these two places are, in no parts, similar. At all. Ever. The ridiculous part of this all, though, is the fact that beauty is subjective. All things aren’t beautiful to all people, but all people are beautiful to someone, most importantly themselves, and that needs to be okay. We don’t work that way in America, though. Someone else sets the standard for what is beautiful. The rest of us suck it up and buy the products and get the procedures it takes to be desirable.
6—Q&A Wednesday: The Stretch Mark Question
There’s nothing particularly remarkable about this post. It’s just the first time that someone legit just straight up called me a “self-righteous bitch” in the comments. Whew—when someone calls you a multi-syllabic insult, you know it’s real.
I guess that’s why I’m so annoyed by stretch mark talk. I don’t even understand why this matters. I just.. I don’t. I’m literally throwing my hands up in confusion, here. I mean, I know why I don’t care… because this isn’t a conversation about wellness. It isn’t a conversation about fitness. It’s a conversation about appearances… and I’m no longer someone who cares to impress others with my appearance. No offense to anyone else, but my opinion about me matters sooo much more… and I’m not impressed by a lack of stretch marks (nor am I turned off by their existence.)
People were—and, in some ways, still are—very invested in the idea of trauma bonding over their anxieties around having imperfect bodies. This post, a years-long fight to defend my right to not care about these imperfections, still stands strong.
7—5 Things I Learned While I Was Running 10 Miles
Picture it: you pack up all your stuff in a 14′ truck, and drive it across the country to move into a place you paid for with a money order you mailed to a dude you met on Craigslist.
In other words, I was prone to doing dumb shit.
So, when I tell you I drove to drop that truck off in the middle of Miami without having secured my way back to my new apartment, you obviously believe me, right? You have every reason to believe that I’m that dumb.
When faced with the reality that I was ill prepared to get home, I did what any goofball would do. I ran home.
To be a runner, one must “move swiftly on foot so that both feet leave the ground during each stride.” It says nothing of how fast you must move. It also doesn’t say you have to look a certain way, either. You don’t have to be Speedy Gonzales (or look like an olympic hurdler) on the sidewalk in order to qualify yourself as a runner. Own it, regardless of how long it takes you to finish or what size you are when you begin.
8—What a Victim Blaming World Looks Like to a Victim
I hold grudges. Long ones, that I nurture like orchid plants in encased gardens, ensuring they grow and thrive and procreate and have beautiful babies. Because I hold these grudges, this post sticks in my craw, as a response to the idea that women, specifically, have some responsibility to protect themselves from sexual violence.
Despite what you may believe about how sexual violence happens, and that’s a topic for another day, you have to acknowledge that the decision to violate another human being’s boundaries is, in fact, a choice that certain people in society seem to feel comfortable making. The choice to engage someone in sexual activity without their enthusiastic consent is, in fact, a decision. Saying anything else is to make excuses for the decision-maker… the rapist.
A victim blaming world looks like a space where women believe that the reason they were raped was because they were too attractive and, therefore, must remedy this situation by making themselves unattractive. Throwing away makeup, no more high heels, no more fancy dresses, and no more svelte figure. (We can talk, all day, about what’s wrong with society thinking these are what make a woman attractive, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is what society thinks is attractive.) It is a space where women “make themselves ugly” by “making themselves fat.” It is a space where women cope with that fear (of it happening again) and that shame (because, you know, they have to take responsibility for their rape, too) by eating with their emotions. Except… fat women can be victimized, too.
Can, and are. And it is a cyclical pain that we do not navigate healthily. This post was basically the prelude to this post, all about power dynamics and sexual violence. It’s an in-depth discussion of what sexual violence is and the harm it causes others.
9—My Name is Erika, and I Have Postpartum Depression
After giving birth to Baby Sprout, I realized that the world felt different, It was a kind of pain I just wasn’t used to. It hurt. I didn’t think I was going to make it. But, with the love of family and friends and a damned fine therapist, I’m here.
Maybe I’m acknowledging my battle with postpartum depression because I want to redress the idea of being “strong black women,” impervious to the multitude of aches and pains—be they physical or emotional—that come my way, still able to stand strong and tall and proud. We deny our struggles because we need to—so many of us have had our partners stolen from us by violence or by the state, so many have had our partners’ earning ability negatively impacted by their past, had our hearts broken by the same people who’d then turn around and beg for forgiveness, that our love often includes a need to be, as we know it, “strong.”
I think there’s more to that, though.
One of the things my research taught me, and ultimately helped to save my life, is that it is not so much “strength” we are priding ourselves on; calling us “strong” is a mischaracterization, and might even be a dangerous one. To call ourselves “strong” implies that anything that is perceived to impact that “strength” is a “weakness.” If the idea of being a “strong black woman” is to be followed to its logical conclusion, then my postpartum depression “weakens” me. Women who resist the idea of having to be “strong” run around calling themselves “weak black women.”
It is not that we are “strong,” nor is it that “weakness” should be praised instead. It is that we are resilient. It is “resilience” that we’ve watched our foremothers pass down generation after generation, the ability to bounce back when things get rough, the ability to weather the storm. Calling it “strength” implies a sort of “above it all”ness; calling it “resilience” actually acknowledges the struggles and allows you to admit that they cause you to, well, struggle… but you come out on top in the end. You come out alive, something that becomes incredibly difficult if shame keeps you isolated from the very people you need to connect with to survive.
10—A Very Big Piece of My Weight Loss Story
This is the first time I told my weight loss story—it was on my own website, a response to a question from a beloved friend who has since passed away. I hold this post in my heart not only because of Cryssy and her encouragement that mine was a story worth telling, but because it was the first time I was taking ownership for what happened to me. It wasn’t an accident that all the stars aligned the way they did for me to lose all that weight and create this blog and tend to this garden for a decade. It was deliberate and intentional, it was work, and it was this post where I started to feel the weight of that.
What a beautiful thing to feel.
In short (even though this is FAR from short, sorry), everyone has their “come to fitness” moment. Some even choose to never come to it. But if you can read my struggle and identify what the catalysts for change were for me, then maybe you’ll be better prepared when yours arrive. Maybe you’ll use them as starting points. Maybe you will use mine to start yourself up.
To date, literally millions of people across the planet have done exactly that. Wow.
This is really great!
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