Urban radio king Kurt "Big Boy" Alexander weighed in at more than 500 pounds before he underwent gastric bypass surgery 10 years ago. Now, at 195 pounds, he's sharing the story of his weight-loss journey and the success of his radio career in his new book, An XL Life: Staying Big at Half the Size. In the book, released last month and published by Cash Money Content (yes, the same Cash Money that brought us Lil Wayne), Big Boy spills his guts about it all: his love affair with music, food and his wife, and all challenges he's overcome to get where he is.
Big Boy spoke with The Root about being healthy, the dangers of weight-loss surgery and why he's so surprised by the reaction to his book.
The Root: Was writing a book always in your plans?
Big Boy: I never thought about writing a book. I never thought that my story was interesting, but once I had the gastric bypass, I became sort of a health ambassador in a way.
TR: You underwent the most drastic form of gastric bypass. Why did you decide to do it? And would you recommend the procedure to others?
BB: I felt like if I didn't do something drastic, I was going to be dead in a year. [The procedure] added years to my life. I was over 500 pounds, so I was severely obese. But I had lots of complications.
If anyone were to come up to me and say, hey, I am thinking about doing it, I would tell a person that's the last thing you want to do. You don't know what you're getting yourself into. Even after researching, talking with doctors and patients and thinking I knew everything about the procedure, I didn't know a fraction of the stuff I should have known until I was post [surgery].
I had a lot of complications, so if I went down Seventh Avenue and someone beat the hell out of me, I would advise people not to go down Seventh Avenue. I just tell people, this is the effect this procedure had on me.
BB: We're in denial, thinking it can't happen to us. We don't understand how young we are and how young it can really happen. Not using anyone as an example, but we lost some real soldiers at young ages. Cats dying in their 20s, 30s and 40s should be rare. We're becoming immune to people dying young.
Hopefully that will serve as a wake-up call to anyone who is still here. I don't want to say that their deaths should serve as an example, because I don't know anything about how those guys took care of themselves. But I know what I do wrong, and you know what you are doing wrong. We don't go to the doctor as much as we should. Do we need to put all of our trust in a doctor? No, but we should at least grab some knowledge about what is going on with your body.
I tell people that your life is like a credit card: Whether it's drinking, smoking, unsafe sex, eating or just wild living, you can keep charging and charging and charging, but one day that statement is going to come in. And what we have to ask ourselves is, what is going to be the price we have to pay?
TR: What kind of feedback are you getting from your fans about your book?
BB: I keep hearing the word "inspirational," and that's crazy. You never write a book and think, "I'm going to inspire people." But it's not a weight-loss book, you know. I talk about my single mother, who had seven kids. There was no dad around; we were homeless at points and had no money. But we were affluent with love and hugs.
So it's that book that's, like, if you're morbidly obese, OK. If you're just trying to get somewhere in life, then OK. It's about overcoming obstacles and knowing how to celebrate life. And I'm not speaking from a mountaintop. I'm also speaking to me when I speak to other people.
Akoto Ofori-Atta is The Root's assistant editor.