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Let’s make sure we stay body positive and aren’t feeding into the toxic diet culture when talking about our journey.

By Dr. Jonathan P. Higgins A few months ago I was reminded of how much I missed working out. As someone who viewed the gym as one of the best stress relievers, I began to realize that my addiction to food and “rest” was now compromising my health. After gaining almost 75 pounds, dealing with issues related to my blood pressure and constantly being made to feel as if I should buy an additional seat on a plane (I fly often), I finally decided that I needed to get back to doing the one thing that made me feel my best: exercising. Over the years, I have always struggled with my weight. After losing almost 150 pounds in college, I realized how beneficial exercising was to my physical and emotional health. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, going to the gym was always the one thing that helped me feel better about my outlook on life. Running gave me a moment to let my mind breath. Aerobic classes gave me a moment to just center myself with the music and the connections I made with others in the classes. The gym had always been my escape. After contending with hating how I felt and hating how I looked, I re-committed myself to going to a local gym. A few weeks after being told by several of my friends that I was beginning to lose weight, I thought about posting a photo on social media to talk about how much weight I was losing and how important fitness was. But in that moment, it truly hit me: what I was about to post was not only problematic in the sense that the undertone of said post was fat-shamey, but the post was in turn telling other BIPOC that the only way they could be seen as worthy and beautiful was if they too decided to pick up a weight loss regime. In this, I began thinking deeper about how BIPOC people can talk about their weight loss without it coming across as fat phobic and how we can hold others accountable when equating weight loss with beauty.

As someone who also lost a dramatic amount of weight over a fairly short period of time, I find Gabby’s words almost revolutionary.

Like many, I first became aware of Gabourey Sidibe when she played the title character in Lee Daniels’ 2009 film Precious, an adaptation of the urban novel “Push” by Sapphire. I was stunned to learn it was her debut acting role, and was moved by the compassion and humanity she brought to a character who would likely experience neither in the real world. I remember being impressed with her talent, but doubtful that she would be offered many other mainstream roles. Hollywood is all about profit, and the industry is only just beginning to admit that Black women bring value to the industry. The Black women who are given screen time must be seen as palatable to broad audiences, meaning that fat, dark-skinned Black girls are often excluded. Gabby defied these odds though. After Precious, she took on a variety of roles ranging from comedy to horror. In fact, I struggle to think of another role where her weight was central or even tangential to the character’s development. Despite our society’s obsession with policing women’s bodies, Gabby remained as confident as ever, reminding us that such criticisms often reflect our own insecurities.

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