Before I begin, I will commence this blog with a trigger warning. This blog post is not suitable for all audiences. We will be discussing the issue of weight, content which may be disturbing to some audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.
Although I have warned you about the blog post content, I do want to preface this post by saying that I really did not want to write this post. I cannot believe that I am writing a post about weight. I always promised myself that I would never speak on this issue, as I know how deeply it impacted me. I got the idea to write about weight after reading the comments that Penny got when broaching the subject of black women and weight. However, I chose to fall back and eat my words when I saw the level of backlash she received. The words of the post were literally flowing through my mind when I wrote the other relation articles about Loni Love. I decided to let it go, as I did not want to upset our audience any further.
The Peloton Controversy
However, with the recent Peloton controversy, the words are coming back to the surface. Let us begin with the most recent controversy. From my understanding of the Peloton story, they offer stationary bicycles and cycling classes on the go. On November 21, 2019, the company released the following advertisement.
In case they pull the ad from YouTube, you can also see it on Twitter:
Nothing says “maybe you should lose a few pounds” like gifting your already rail thin life partner a Peloton pic.twitter.com/E2M9gFdD5A
— Siraj Hashmi (@SirajAHashmi) December 2, 2019
It features a woman who was gifted a Peloton stationary bicycle for Christmas. She did not sound super excited for the gift, but she was definitely surprised. We then follow her journey into challenging herself to be more fit. I really felt like they tried with this ad, but it fell flat. The acting was not believable at all. The storyline seemed stilted and a bit forced. Despite my personal feelings about the advertisement, I am actually somewhat surprised about the reaction online. The backlash was so severe that Peloton stock fell ten percent. For those of you who are not mathematically inclined, like me, that equals $942 million dollars in market value. Was that advertisement really that serious?
I have questions for anyone offended by the ad. Why does this video trigger you? Did you realize that she did not lose weight in this journey… that the focus was on other aspect of health? Why would he have bought this gift if she didn’t want it? This was awfully specific, and rather expensive. What is wrong with a man wanting a fit wife, and supporting her journey? She was even waking up at 6 am to use it. She may have wanted to build muscle, tone and increase her stamina. As people love to remind me when I am discussing weight loss, thinness does not equal healthy. Would the outrage increase if they had featured an overweight woman? Worse, if she had actually lost weight? What if she had been a black woman, like one of us?
On the other hand, I am not that surprised at all. We have become a people who have become so desensitized to violence and calamities plaguing our communities and our world, but if someone mentions our weight, we explode with rage. When they discussed this on The Real, in part one and part two, Jeannie asked a really poignant question: If you get mad, is it your insecurities? I want to gently ask additional questions, both to you, and to myself: if you are upset with advertisements and information like these, what is the root case? Why is this a hill that you are willing to die on? I ask this to myself as well as to you, as this topic hits close to home.
My 180-pound life
I am going to quickly share a personal story, before you all go postal on me. I know it can be difficult to hear about weight from someone who has not struggled like you. I have been in the same boat. At 5’6”, weighing between 170-180 pounds, I am in the boat too. I feel as though I have always been fat. It wasn’t until I became an adult, that I actually looked at my childhood photos, and realized that I did have a skinny period. What happened? I could blame puberty, but the main problem was me. I loved sweets. To be quite honest, I still do. I ate all the time – when I was bored, when I was happy, when I was sad, you name it. (I may dig into why in the next post, but this post is getting long, so let us put a pin there for now.)
My family tried different methods to try and convince me to lose weight, which included teasing and insulting me to my face, weighing me on the scale in front of the family, lecturing me constantly about my weight and encouraging friends to do the same. When those methods did not work, they decided to take drastic measures. One day, they decided to buy an elliptical for me. It was an unwelcome gift. I was made to run on it regularly, and was instructed not to come off until I burned at least 300 calories. It may have worked, if I had not decided to get angry and offended, weep bitterly, and eat back all (if not more) of the calories I would burn. I do not wish for the ”good old days,” as they were not pleasant at all. That said, even though messages on weight, diet and exercise are not what I want to hear, they are what I need to hear. I could have been worse off in some ways. Who knows at this point? No use crying over spilt milk.
Not the Same Thing
With all of that in mind, I do not think that my situation is the same as Ms. Peloton’s. I personally believe that the Peloton actress’ reaction would have been different, had she not wanted the bike. I also think that we as a society are becoming too sensitive. I know that a lot of us have had difficult situations regarding our weight, but we cannot allow childhood traumas and projection allow us to lose our cool when a subject gets too close to home. Penny’s posts may come with some tough love, but she really wants the best for all of us. I see that many of you would like nicer and kinder posts, but when we share Christelyn’s old articles on this topic, you still react the same way.
Personally, I am already bracing for the avalanche of hate and vitriol that will result from writing this post, and some others that I have planned. Some of you thought it is okay to call people on our writing team the c-word and other epithets because the words hit a nerve. All I will say is this: if you were so happy being at your size, you would not see the need to clap back so hard when someone tackles the issue. For those of you who think it is okay to get down in the gutter and tear down someone like that, please consider getting some much-needed therapy and the Pink Pill. I truly believe that both will help you to learn how to articulate your feelings in an impactful way, while maintaining civility throughout your dialogue. (I will take the time to write a post on some of the discussions that we had on Facebook, just bear with me. I do see that there are things that I could have done better, and I intend to highlight that in a future post. I know that Penny is working on a post too, to better address the issue from her perspective.)
Let Us Get Real
I think that it is important to think about the medical issues that come with weight. It is an uncomfortable conversation, but it can prove to be useful. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists obesity as having a BMI higher than 30, which is also a high risk factor for diseases like death, high blood pressure, body pain, heart disease, high cholesterol, stroke, and more. It is literally a Molotov cocktail for your health. I understand that we live in an age of body positivity and individuality, by why can we no longer promote fitness? Instead of people taking the time to promote caring for their physical bodies, offering nutrition, mental health and exercise tips, people would rather lean on moral relativism and feel good messaging. I believe it is important for people to love themselves and the skin that they are in, but not at the risk of our health and our lives. People on social media are advocating for doctors to avoid telling patients how much they weigh. Others will tell people just to live their own lives and not speak about it to others. How is this helping anyone?
In our comments section, people will argue about health issues to the hilt, arguing that some of the issues that we link to obesity can also happen to skinny people. All right, let Us look at another example for a moment. Let us look at smoking, for example. What is so bad with smoking? Why could we not just let people enjoy their lives? Some people are happy with smoking. Smokers can find love. Who cares if smoking can cause certain diseases? I am sure some of you could name old family members who smoked everyday and lived to be 100 years old. It is not a big deal. Anyone can get lung cancer. Non-smokers can get yellow teeth, and be at risk for heart disease and stroke too. We just need to let people make their own decisions.
Why This Is My Business
This post is getting rather long, so I will start to conclude. The reality is that people still ascribe the actions of one to the entire collective. People in our race and outside constantly assume that black women are fat. It goes beyond just imagery. Some of us could really improve our quality of life. We would not have to die early or live in pain due to weight-related diseases, something that can impact the healthcare system, your friends and your family tree. If you want to date interracially, there is a high probability that losing weight will help to expand your dating options.
Christelyn has made it her life mission to bolster the image and wellness of black women, inside and out. I am so pleased and privileged to write alongside her and Penny. Back in 2010, when I first found the blog, that was a distant dream. I hope that all of us on the team can continue to encourage and inspire you in the way that you have expected over time. I hope that I can build meaningful relationships with each person who interacts with my blog posts and the page. I want you to celebrate yourself and love your body. If you see an opportunity for change or improvement in your life, we would like to encourage you to be the best you that you can be. If you need to change on the outside, with diet and exercise, to gain, lose or maintain weight, we will be your cheerleader. However, if you want to stay the way you are, we will not stop you. If you like it, we love it.
That said, we need to be strategic. Take negative commentary with a critical eye. How can this affect us? How can we benefit from this information? We as a world are heading in a very interesting direction. We have to use the chaos as a ladder, and find a way to use information to our advantage. If it does not apply, let it fly. Rest assured, I will continue this topic for a little while. I still would like to address the comments that appeared in the comments section of some of the Facebook posts I shared. I know that some of you have been waiting for my thoughts.