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America has a FAT problem

Zola Jarrett Henry Headshot

I remember going to my high school’s nearest corner store bright and early (the earlier, the better) to order my grand breakfast–a slice of bacon, egg and cheese, a Starbucks bottle of coffee, an Arizona, a big bag of Hot Cheetos, anything sweet, and candy to get me through my day. This was an everyday thing. Yet, according to data from Johns Hopkins, “more than half of America’s youngest adults — 56 percent of those, ages 18-25, are overweight or obese.” 

Being the fat kid is not easy, as you cannot understand why you can not eat the same way your peers do. Luckily, I have had many opportunities to receive proper education when it comes to nutrition, such as “fat camp,” or others might call it a “weight loss” camp. Even though my experience as a whole sucked, one thing I did take away was how it was essential to understand what goes in and out of your body. However, that was a temporary solution to the problem, and after returning home from camp, I continued to gain the weight back at a slower pace. 

When we think of eating disorders, we commonly think of anorexia but not binge eating. Health care barely shines a light on this issue, and yes, we know how more people are becoming overweight–but why? Many Black and Brown kids living in low-income communities cannot access fresh fruit and vegetables. Yet, why would this matter if health care providers are not stressing it? Diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes are already major health issues for Black people. Learning how to create a healthy diet is a way to combat these diseases. When I used to go to my primary health care doctor, I would step on the scale, be told I was overweight, and then be given the generic “healthy eating plate” guide. Do we genuinely think this will fix the issue? 

We need doctors to sit down and start explaining nutrition and why it needs to be taken seriously. When comparing both eating disorders of anorexia and binge eating, anorexia is taken more seriously. Health care providers need to be proactive in their roles by giving their patients options. For example, suggestions on what meal plans to follow, support groups for binge eaters, and weekly vegetable/farmers markets that exist in Brooklyn (Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket) and Manhattan (Greenmarket at the Oculus). Even though I cannot imagine eating like that again during high school, this is a sad reality for people who look like me.

Zola Jarrett-Henry is a member of Young Invincibles’ New York Young Advocates Program.