*What retailer Abercrombie and Fitch is doing with its “fat policy” is what I wish the person behind the counter at McDonald’s would do to me whenever I show up and ask for a No. 3—tell me no, you’re too fat.
Now while I don’t subscribe to the idea that skinny equates to beauty, the reality of the situation with Abercrombie and Fitch is that they have every right to not want fat people wearing their brand of clothing—and fat people who dig Abercrombie and Fitch’s style of clothing, have every right to lose the weight, walk into their store, and buy their clothes.
Protesting Abercrombie and Fitch is sending the message to children, teens, and adults that it’s okay to be fat and if people don’t accept you being fat and make clothes to accommodate your fatness that they are somehow bad.
As one of the 35.7 percent of U.S. adults who are considered obese, at 5’6” and 195 pounds, I could easily join the chorus of those upset over the retailer’s exclusion of anyone bigger than a size large, but the energy I’d invest would be better spent on taking a hike, playing a set of tennis, or hitting the gym.
Unlike your gender or race, being overweight is a choice that people make. A choice identical to the one that millions of Americans make everyday when they light up a cigarette knowing (now) that it’s likely to lead to cancer. Obesity is likely to lead to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and yes—your inability to shop at Abercombie and Fitch.
The blame could be pointed at the proliferation of fast food restaurants in urban inner-city neighborhoods where the cost of buying groceries is so high that it’s cheaper to get a bucket of friend chicken. We could attribute it to the lack of parks and affordable gyms or how obesity and diabetes are passed down in generations of families like great-great-grandma’s recipe for macaroni and cheese. But the reality is that while those are all contributing influences, they are not the determining factor in one’s being overweight—we are.
I know because I struggle with myself every time I supersize an order of fries or go back for a second helping sweet potatoes and macaroni and cheese. But what I don’t do is blame someone else for my being unable to make healthier choices.
In 2007, I was 30 years old, weighed close to 240 pounds, and wore a size 22. If it weren’t for stretch pants and retailers Ashley Stewart and Lane Bryant I don’t know what I would have done for clothes.
I was miserable. Not just because years of carrying around all of that weight was hard on my body and health, but because I did have a real desire to try out some of the fashion trends and cuter clothing that I admired thinner women wearing.
So I finally got up off of my fat ass (literally) and said enough is enough and by the end of that same year, I had lost 80 pounds resulting in my wearing a size 10.
I will never forget the feeling that I had the first time I walked into H&M and Victoria Secret and realized I could fit their clothes. Epic.
But that was a choice that I made.
A choice to get up every morning and walk. A choice to leave the cookies and the cakes alone. A choice to pick up a tennis racket and learn a new sport at 30. A choice to drive past all of the fast food restaurants and go home and cook my meals. A choice to take control of my life.
The U.S. government contradicts itself all of the time on the issue of obesity. On the one hand millions are being spent to encourage Americans to lose the weight and eat healthy and with the other hand they are endorsing the opening of thousands of fast food restaurants that are selling the very same food they are warning us to stay away from. And in the end what’s left is literally a fast-food nation where more than a third of the population is obese, with the number climbing every year and healthcare costs in the trillions of dollars.
My goal is not to bash overweight and obese people, because I am one. We have to take responsibility for our own eating and exercise habits—and not fault stores for not catering to our fatness. For every store that doesn’t carry anything over a size 10 or 12, there are plenty of stores that do. I think you’d agree that most folks who are obese are not walking around naked.
Our greatest strength as a country is our freedom and our right if we so do choose—to use that freedom to eat ourselves into an early grave or at the very least the inability to wear anything that doesn’t stretch.
Chosen as one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, Jasmyne Cannick is a native of Los Angeles and writes about the intersection of race, politics, and pop culture. Online at www.JasmyneOnline.com. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and @myfatdiary, and on Facebook at /jasmyne.