A few years ago I wrote a piece on how I lost weight using raw food. I submitted it to the San Diego Reader, my local news magazine. I had hoped to incur some interest in my business by sharing how raw food had saved my life.
The editor contacted me and told me to skip the raw stuff and get to why I had gotten fat in the first place. He gave me a challenge. Read the book “Fat Girl” written by someone he really respected, and see if I could write my story in the same way, with the same intensity and painful truth. When I read the book, I saw the pain and twists the editor wanted from me. He wanted blood and guts.
The blood and guts are as follows: Growing up as a black female in the early 70’s was a kick in the teeth. I witnessed firsthand that in order to be pretty as a black female, I needed to be light-skinned, preferably with light eyes and long “good” hair – attributes I didn’t possess. So I grew up thinking I could never be pretty, and so I didn’t even try – I was chubby and wore boys “hang-ten” shirts and tough-skins pants. Then, at the age of nine, my mom told me that I had two strikes against me, I was black and I was female, so I didn’t need to be fat too. That well-intended comment had to be the first real defining moment of my life. Being fat wouldn’t change being black and it wouldn’t change being female. So let people despise me over something I could control – being fat. So being fat became my shield and my sword. I was determined to be smart and powerful. Hence my becoming a civil rights attorney – defending others on the grounds of their immutable characteristics. My fat power sustained me for decades, until my it sipped away all of my vitality. After nearly losing my son (he almost toppled down an escalator and I was too fat to move fast enough to catch him – luckily he caught himself), I went organic, vegan and mostly raw. Within 18 months I had lost over 150 pounds.
It took me about five months to get myself in the place where I was willing to put my blood and guts story into writing. But once I started writing, it took only two days to craft my story. What I saw was a young girl who picked up hurts, nurtured them and built defenses around herself for protection. But by the conclusion, I saw that my story was everybody’s story. It surprised me to realize that we are all essentially the same. We come into this world a complete perfect package and then forces of society start to shape us and dent us, and make us feel less than or unworthy. We all receive and dole out hurts, or jimmies, and we nurture them and build defenses that shape our beliefs, actions and lives.
My defenses showed up as fat.
So I submitted the story, entitled, “I’ve lost 150 pounds, but I’m Still Fat, and I blame it on Jimmy.” It was published in December of 2012. And people who read it called me brave and courageous. I didn’t feel courageous, I felt dispassionate and disconnected, like I had only been an onlooker of my life, rather than having lived it. Those were the facts – It was what it was.
Needless to say, during the process of writing my story, I discovered some of the many dents in my soul. I’m working on smoothing them out, even while knowing that the dings of life will continue to come my way. But now I won’t hold on to them on to them at all costs.