My name is Matthew – and I’m regular member of the Beyond Black and White Community on Facebook, the Beyond Black and White Google Plus Hangout Group, the Beyond Black and White Twitter presence, and now the Beyond Black and White Forums. I have a story to tell you about my personal weight loss journey. On December 31, 2013, at 5’8-9” tall and 246 pounds, I was a morbidly obese Caucasian male. My knees hurt when I walked up the stairs – and I was huffing and puffing after only short walks up 2-3 flights. I was eating a diet high in processed foods and fat. I was on my way to making frequent doctor visits. I knew that if I wanted to change my life for the better, I had to lose weight.
The health risks of being overweight and obese are clearly documented by the National Institutes of Health. If you are overweight and obese, you are more likely to contract a stroke, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, abnormal blood fats, metabolic syndrome, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, obesity hypoventilation syndrome, cancer, reproductive problems, and gallstones (and these are just a few of the problems). The science is very real here – and you are in denial if you do not think you health problems will arrive on your doorstep. Obesity is very prevalent in the African American community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percent of non-Hispanic black or African American men 20 years and over who are obese: 37.9% from 2009 to 2012. The percentage of non-Hispanic black or African American women 20 years and over who are obese is much higher – 57.6% of women in this category from 2009 to 2012. Christelyn Karazin-Russell has posted several times at Beyond Black and White about health problems that can be caused by awful nutrition (and I was 100% guilty of this myself – I was walking in those shoes).
On the personal side of my life, I was being teased at work (even though I’m 43 years old). I was living a lie in that I was putting outdated pictures of myself on various online dating sites. I had to answer embarrassing questions, such as, “Why don’t you have any updated pictures?” If I did get dates, they’d be one-time sorts of dates – and that would be it (the woman would see me – have the free meal or entertainment event – and run). I remember going to a high school reunion – and having someone tell me that I looked ten years older than I was (and that was especially painful). In December 2013, I got yelled at by my personal doctor indicated that you better get your health in order (and it was a little more R-rated than that).
On January 1, 2014, I made a decision that would change my life forever. I joined Weight Watchers – and slowly progressed to a modified version of the Mayo Clinic Hunter‑Gatherer Diet (Christelyn calls it the Paleo Diet). For years, doctors have said that a diet in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (including lean meats – like grilled chicken), increasing omega 3 fats (such as those from fish or nuts), eating a diet high in various fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, avoiding most processed foods, and drinking a lot of water is the best way to stay healthy (after all this is how our ancestors lived). Combine this approach with a consistent regimen of exercise and you’d be surprised with the results you can have in your weight loss journey. In the last year now, I’m down 65 pounds – and I hover between 179 and 181. I can still lose a few more pounds – but I’m back to a normal, healthy medical weight. And God has blessed me with these results – but it’s also hard work to eat healthy (and it will be for the rest of my life). I’m getting more looks from women – even though I’m still a hard geek (and I’m okay with the geek part) and I feel pretty darn good.
I write about this topic because I’ve recently seen several people that have been critical of Christelyn’s take on nutrition in the black community (and those nutrition concepts are really colorblind – every race, nationality, or ethnicity can benefit from improved nutrition). I find it unfortunate that people would take offense and what I perceive as a nutritional education campaign – because it is not a criticism campaign (as it has never been than). If you are overweight or obese, she is not shaming or criticizing you. If you are taking it that way, perhaps the conversation is hitting home with you and you know that you need to take action – but you should not be frustrated with her message. Please note that she – and most of us are aware of some people that need prescribed medication to treat eating disorders (she is not taking pot shots at those with eating disorders).
Let me tell you something from someone who has walked in those overweight shoes: Eating healthy and the performance of regular exercise is a journey that I will take seriously the rest of my life. It’s easy to say, “I don’t want to go to the gym tonight.” Or, “Maybe these two extra slices of pizza won’t hurt me.” The simple fact is that you add the pounds faster than you subtract them. It is not easy to eat healthy – it has hard work to prepare healthy food. It is hard work to exercise – that’s why, in some cases, the phrase “no pain – no gain” is true. Thanks for your time.
 Let me qualify what I mean by modified version: I still enjoy a few potato chips here and there – I might have some pizza here and there – but I don’t eat the entire damn bag of chips – and I don’t eat the entire pizza. Capiche?