With my kids, I am notorious for saying that I am “fat” nonchalantly in a funny, self-deprecating way. I often tell them “Don’t be fat like daddy!” as a warning of what can happen if they eat too much and don’t exercise. I do all of this, but I can see I am sending mixed messages. I often say this with a smile and a confidence not befitting someone who actually regrets his life choices.
The reality is that I am not happy being fat. I don’t like the way I look in the mirror when my clothes are missing in action. I don’t like getting winded when I do regular tasks like walking up stairs, picking up my kids, or moving in general. I don’t like hating how I look in every picture I take, because my face, or stomach, or side, or legs look huge. Mostly, I hate this feeling that this is how I am supposed to look since I am getting older.
“My greatest fear is that my sons listen to me, look at me and decide that it is perfectly normal to grow increasingly unhealthy when they get older.”
My greatest fear is that my sons listen to me, look at me and decide that it is perfectly normal to grow increasingly unhealthy when they get older. They will just jokingly tell their kids what I tell them and think that being overweight and making terrible eating choices is their right and privilege as a man. I think about what James Baldwin said about children being terrible listeners but never failing to do exactly what their parents show them. I can honestly say I have been a terrible example regarding health, eating and fitness. I know that continuing down this path is a death sentence at worst and a life of health complications and burden upon my family at best.
Black men develop diabetes at rates eighty percent higher than white men and are almost twice as likely as white men to die from heart disease. The rates of cancers and kidney disease are also astronomical when compared to the broader population. While there are socio-economic factors that contribute to our negative health statistics, I believe the major factors at play are poor eating habits and lack of meaningful daily exercise. We can control what we consume. I can control what healthy foods I eat and what poisonous processed foods I avoid. I have allowed myself to establish a dangerous pattern of not caring about the nutritional value of my food, as long as it satisfies my taste buds, while I sit and mindlessly eat and drink.
“Black men develop diabetes at rates eighty percent higher than white men and are almost twice as likely as white men to die from heart disease. The rates of cancers and kidney disease are also astronomical when compared to the broader population.”
My father passed away suddenly last year of a heart attack. He was just 61 years old. He had been overweight for years, but was in great shape most of his youth going into early adulthood. It was after he became a father that he started to gain weight and eventually stopped working out like he used to. The thing I think about over and over is the fact that when my father was my age he was not as close to how heavy I currently am. He gained weight over time, but not as drastically or in the dimensions that I have. If I don’t make a significant change in my habits then I may not even make it to the age he was and I know that would deeply affect my family and would not be a way to truly honor his memory.
So I have decided to make a change. I am committing to losing 100 pounds by Thanksgiving Day (November 23 this year). To do this I am going to cut out sodas, processed fruit juices, junk food of all kinds and processed foods in general. I will commit to drinking large amounts of water weekly, working out at least 20 minutes per day, walking everyday as a routine, and consistently eating healthy throughout the months. This is my #ThanksgivingChallenge and I am excited to start this! This is for me, my sons, my wife, and for anyone else who needs to make a change but is afraid to start. Walk with me on this journey and let’s see where we end up on the other side!
About The Author
Rick McCray is a married father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast. Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter and Instagram @RealRickMcCray.