Patrice O’Neal and Why We Need to Monitor Our Health

December 14, 2011  |  

Just a couple months ago, when I was hanging out with my mans and his girl – smarting from a big war between my girlfriend and me. We were waiting on her to get ready to go see 9th Wonder spin, and while we waited we sat down to “Patrice O’Neal: Elephant in the Room” on Netflix stream.

The Shyte was hilarious. I didn’t want to move. O’Neal was aiiiiight on “The Roast of Charlie Sheen”, but I hadn’t been so enthralled by a stand-up comedy since I saw Katt Williams’ Cincinnati show about seven years ago.

After watching O’Neal’s show, all I thought was, “I’m absolutely following this cat’s career from now on.”

Alas, it wasn’t to be. Following his November 29th death after complications following a stroke a month prior, “Elephant in the Living Room” seems oddly prescient, considering he speaks a lot about his illness and the potential death that could come of it.

Now when I look at O’Neal during that stand-up, I see a man sadly headed down a physical road of doom that so many black men have and will continue to endure.

It burns me to see so many black folks in Chicago and Detroit (the “fat” cities in which I reside) find some level of comfort or apathy in being obese or woefully out of shape. Our cultural mindset skews toward an affinity for “bigness” in the sense that some extra weight is simply a by-product of being black.

No. Perhaps you can be somewhat meaty and still healthy – the BMI is not so much the issue as is what’s going on under the hood. Diabetes, which O’Neal was inflicted with, is an entirely manageable, treatable disease. Eating in general is often an addiction, and sweets are even more insidious. But we owe it to ourselves to understand that food is an addiction and that every addiction can be overcome given the right steps. Just a few years ago I saw myself headed down his path: I was far from morbidly obese, but I ate what I wanted, when I wanted and I was pretty thick-ums.

When I lost my job, I turned my anguish and defeat into an excuse to work out everyday. I lost a good 20-plus pounds and knew I’d never, ever go back. Simply put, I’d like to hang around for my unborn kids, be able to throw around a ball – any ball – with them and grow old without tubes running out the side of my butt at age 55 because I didn’t take care of myself.

Another issue black men have is an inherent mistrust of doctors. We tend to think they’re all out to either sell us something we don’t need and can’t pay for, or even more dubiously, make us sick when we weren’t already. My best answer to this is to find a (consciously) black doctor that recognizes your concerns and will do well to be cool with your issues.

I don’t need to spend an entire column preaching to you all about the skewed health factors that affect black folks – especially black men. But think about O’Neal, how he went at an all-too-young age of 41 and what it means to stick around for a while. It’s hard to control stress all the time and it’s nearly impossible to control what the Fawk the police will do at any given moment…but what you can control is what you put in your body.

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