I could easily tell you that my upbringing in a food desert on Chicago’s South Side contributed to my battle with obesity during my early teen years but this was not at all the case. Looking back, I now know that I had a severe addiction to food—Very much like those who are addicted to drugs and other vices. At the age of 13, I spent all my waking hours thinking about food.
At night, I dreamt of breakfast comprised of bacon, toast with butter, frosted flakes, and Doritos with melted cheese. I’d wake up and prepare for school thinking about how good my battered fried shrimp or hot dogs with French fries was going to be for lunch.
After school, during my walk home, I couldn’t wait to get to the local barbeque house for my daily dose of rib tips and French fries smothered in sauce. This was one of my favorite meals as it was one during which I sat in front of the TV for a line-up of afterschool shows. It was usually after this meal that I received the phone call from my unsuspecting mother telling me what was for dinner—That would be my fourth meal of the day and it was usually a nutritious one.
Neither my mother nor father had any idea about what I was eating throughout the day. I didn’t know any better—I was truly eating without a conscience and totally oblivious to the risks. By the age of 14 my waistline had expanded out of control.
Having noticed, my mother began to grill me about the goings-on of my day. “What have you been eating?” She asked. “Where are you getting the money?”
What she didn’t know was that I had been walking 3 plus miles to and from school in order to save my bus fare in an effort to buy food. When I didn’t have enough money, my friends would foot the bill. Being taller and bigger than most my age, I was quite a dominant force as a teenager so this was pretty easy to do.
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