Thursday, August 13, 2009

Comedianne Mo'Nique becomes weight loss leader

Philadelphia, PA
Lately, the blogosphere has been blowing up over two big sisters: comedian Mo'Nique and President Obama's pleasingly plump new surgeon general, Dr. Regina Benjamin.

There's so much controversy that I'll need two columns to address it all. First, let's talk about Mo'Nique.

Actress-comedian Mo'Nique Imes Jackson, author of "Skinny Women Are Evil" and "Skinny Cooks Can't Be Trusted," has lost 40 pounds. Rumors have been flying that she had gastric bypass surgery, which she flat- out denies. But that hasn't appeased the size-acceptance camp, whose members are angrily abuzz about the weight loss she disclosed in a recent interview with Jet magazine.

In the interview, Mo'Nique says she knew it was time to lose weight when her husband, Sidney Hicks, watched her step off the scale at 262 pounds and said, "Baby, that's too much, and I want you for a lifetime."

Now the 5-foot-6-inch star is making the necessary sacrifices and has vowed to get her weight down to 200 pounds.

"This was truly making the commitment to watch what I eat and commit to working out," she said. "I stopped eating red meat. I want to say to big people, 'Let's be healthy big people. Everybody can't be a size 0, but let's be healthy.' "

Her efforts are worthy of applause. So why the criticism?

It is true that for years, this fat and fabulous one has been a champion for size acceptance. She has made a generous living dissing so-called "skinny bitches" while encouraging fat women to stay, well, fat.

Mo was always the first to say how proud she was to be representing for the big girls. So is this some sinister plan she's made to unleash an internal skinny bitch who's been dying to get out?

I don't think so.

Quite frankly, it has always stupefied me why the plus-size community feels betrayed when a plus-size celebrity - or a friend, for that matter - decides to slim down. Why are efforts at living a healthier lifestyle viewed as a personal affront?

Mo'Nique shouldn't be shunned for losing weight. Even if she reaches her goal of 200 pounds, she'll have a BMI of 32.3, which still makes her medically obese.

Would size acceptance groups prefer that Mo'Nique eat herself into disease, disability or death?

I suspect that fat advocates' swagger and confidence is really false bravado. Embracing your size does not make your health problems disappear. None of us has the luxury of throwing in the towel on a healthy lifestyle of daily exercise and good nutrition.

From where I sit on the front lines, it's clear we cannot continue this masquerade. And this is especially true for black folks. Black women, who have the highest overweight and obesity levels of any U.S. population, cannot afford false bravado. We need solutions. We need to keep it real with ourselves and take control of our health.

Why can't we be honest with ourselves and admit that being overweight or obese is not healthy? Why don't we understand that this hits the black community especially hard?

It's not healthy to carry an extra 20 pounds, let alone 100 pounds. Our bodies are just not designed for this type of trauma.

I have seen enough premature death, disease and disability in the black community to confirm the truth. I don't even have to cite the statistics on this, but I will.

If you are still on the fence about where black women are on the obesity front, then check this out:

_ African Americans, particularly African-American women, need to protect themselves against the ravages of obesity, which strikes us harder than any other group.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, 31.2 percent of African Americans were obese in 2001, up from 19.3 percent from the previous decade. That's a whopping increase in just 10 years. And experts say that today, half of all African-American women are obese.

_ African Americans suffer disproportionately from heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes, among other lifestyle-related diseases.

Surely, Mo'Nique is aware of all this. Now she's on the precipice of change.

Mo'Nique has the extraordinary potential to save some lives. Her decision to tackle her weight may influence more women to take charge of their health.

Can you imagine it? Maybe, just maybe, Mo'Nique is going to help lead the battle against obesity. Could she be the one to kick-start Obama's new health initiative? And will she get some help, perhaps, from a recent Obama appointee?

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