On Blacks and Fat: Mark Jenkins

This celebrity trainer says that black people need to put health before image and hair.

Courtesy of In Fitness
Courtesy of In Fitness

MJ: Write down what you eat every day — when you eat it, what it consists of, what your emotions are at the time — to see if you find a pattern. See if you’re eating when you’re upset, when you’re happy, when you’re bored. It’s a different system for each person … but if you’re conscious of what you’re eating and why, you can start to address your diet.

You can find a way, but you have to be motivated. I got out of the Fort Greene projects in Brooklyn. I ate mackerel, frozen vegetables and brown rice for every meal. That might be an extreme, but still, because of that, it’s very difficult for me to listen to excuses when it comes to healthy eating.

Finally, we have to get out of that mentality of only investing in things that are tangible. Black people have to invest in themselves, and not just in the superficial. Spend the money on the organic food, on the BPA-free containers and on whatever you need for a fitness regimen if you want to have a healthy life.

TR: What cultural and historical or psychological issues make the black community’s relationship with weight and health unique?

MJ: There’s fashion and beauty — black women don’t want to mess up their hair, so [they] don’t want to work out. It perpetually frustrates me. Any guy would much rather [see] a sexy body and have the hair a little messed up. I just don’t get it. I battle back and forth with my female clients about it. I tell them to go natural. Your health is more important than your hair.

And the larger issue is, when you’re in an oppressive society, you’re going to do things to find comfort and make yourself feel better. And food is one of the biggest drugs on the street right now.

Next: Celebrity chef Aaron McCargo.

Jenée Desmond-Harris is The Root’s staff writer.

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