As someone who’s spent their entire life struggling with weight issues, I am very familiar with how the stigma around being overweight can affect every aspect of your life. The thing people don’t know about obesity is that it’s actually a disease. To increase understanding around weight issues, on March 8, It’s Bigger Than Me is launching a video series hosted by actress Yvette Nicole Brown. The Act Your Age star spoke to The Root about the importance of removing the stigma from obesity.
To most people, obesity boils down to someone living an unhealthy life. However, those of us with weight issues know there’s so much more to it than that. Yes, eating healthy and exercising more is part of the equation, but there’s also complex issues around your body that contribute to the disease, including things that we have no control over. But since weight isn’t talked about in medical terms, it’s not something most people understand.
“I never knew that obesity was a disease. So the idea that this movement began from the desire to make sure that part was known by everyone is what made me want to be a part of it,” Brown told The Root. “The initiative began with the great Queen Latifah. She did a wonderful tour when she went to different cities and had these open conversations and panels. Now it’s moved on to a video series that I’m blessed to host. We’re going to continue those conversations about how do you live with obesity? How do you support and care for those that are living with it and also just basically getting the truth out that it is a disease. The same way you would not stigmatize someone with diabetes or heart disease, we need to stop stigmatizing those that are living with obesity. That’s what this whole movement is about. And I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
Particularly in the Black community, we don’t treat obesity as a disease. Everyone knows someone who struggles with their weight, so while we understand the risks, we treat it as another element of Black life. Of course, obesity leads to many of the other health issues our community deals with, so it’s past time we give it the serious treatment it deserves.
“Part of it within our community is we make light of things. My mom used to say, ‘You laugh to keep from crying.’ There’s some jokes that we make because it is hard, and seeing family members suffer…it’s easier to just crack the jokes,” she said. “But we’re at a stage in life where we know better now, and we know that obesity is a disease and we need to create a safe space for those of us living with it, to feel free to talk about it and also to get help, because help is available. I hope that that’s what comes from this series. That people realize that if you are living with this disease, you can talk to your doctor and figure out a plan to make life better for you. Because health is really the purpose. It’s all about health at the end of the day.”
In case you’re wondering why this is such a big deal, ask yourself when was the last time you heard a fat joke? Did you laugh? Yeah, of course you did, because most people don’t really care about hurting our feelings. They think it’s my fault for being overweight and therefore I don’t deserve compassion. A movement like It’s Bigger Than Me offers a safe place to discuss all aspects of being overweight.
“I’ve found that when my weight is fluctuating, the thing that breaks my heart the most is the feeling of invisibility. It’s upsetting to me that based on what size I happen to be at any given time, people either see me or they don’t,” Brown said. “It’s a complex disease and these are difficult conversations to have. The goal of It’s Bigger Than Me is to create a website where you can go and there’s information about it for those of us that are living with it, and those that are trying to support those that are living with it. It also begins with how we deal with entertainment and how we respond to the memes we see online. We need all hands on deck to make sure that we realize that it is a disease and just like you would not make fun of someone with heart disease…with diabetes, why do they still make fun of us? I hope that It’s Bigger Than Me starts the conversation and helps us going forward.”
The It’s Bigger Than Me video series hosted by Yvette Nicole Brown launches March 8.