Unless you literally live under a rock, and I’m pretty sure even Patrick Starr has heard about this, Beyoncé released a visual album entitled Lemonade. And yes, I’m a loyal and original Beyhive member so I am obviously obsessed with it. The album and the accompanying film have been hailed for its powerful statements about infidelity, forgiveness, and the strength of black women.
I won’t lie: I sobbed my face off listening to the entire album the other night. It gets me. Beyoncé GETS me. And then I found this truly profound blog entry by Ashleigh Shackelford: Bittersweet Like Me: When the Lemonade Ain’t Made For Fat Black Women & Femmes. I highly encourage you to check it out for yourself, but basically the article points out the lack of representation of overweight black women in Lemonade, except for their brief moments as grieving mothers or impoverished women. Shackelford is kind in her critique and makes it clear that she is very much a fan of the album, but that fat black women and femmes (a term that refers to a person of any gender who takes on traditional feminine sexual roles) are a crucial part of the Southern backdrop that was used throughout the film, and should have been more included. And I have to say, she’s absolutely correct. Black women’s bodies have a long and painful history of violence, sexualization, and scrutiny.
How does this relate to my own body journey? Beyoncé has always been my body inspiration; she’s curvy but fit and bootylicious. It’s hard to argue that wanting a Bey body is an unhealthy goal. She frequently talks about enjoying food and not restricting herself. Except… when she restricts herself. Back in 2012 I reached my peak obsession with losing weight. I binge watched seasons of The Biggest Loser while binge eating takeout and crying about wanting to change. Ashley was my roommate at the time and watched me come home daily and talk about the struggles of trying to lose weight and how I could do better. Keep in mind, I was approximately fifty to sixty pounds less than I weigh right now and was a size 10-12 at my height of 5’10. I was buying the largest size in Urban Outfitters clothing, but I was still buying clothes in the S-XL range. But it was not enough for me. I still wanted to lose about fifty pounds. So I decided to do what Beyoncé had done to lose weight for her role in Dreamgirls: The Master Cleanse.
The Master Cleanse is a famous cleanse that claims to cleanse your body of toxins, help you lose weight, and regain energy by drinking a bajillion glasses of its special lemonade comprised of lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. Basically all the accouterments to a typical Southern soul food dinner, minus the soul or the food. I decided if I was going to do it, I was going to go all in and research it and make sure everything was organic (aka double the cost). I even bought a book on it featuring testimonials of people who said it changed their lives or whatever. What I didn’t know prior to researching the cleanse was that you also have to drink a gallon of salt water every morning to “cleanse” your intestines. Which means me running to the bathroom nearly every 3 minutes and almost soiling myself. Super fun.
I made it through two and a half days of The Master Cleanse, before an intense dream about ravaging a grocery store like a T-Rex in Jurassic Park did me in and I broke the cleanse with chips and salsa. The lemonade, which at first was rather pleasant tasting, had started to make me gag every time I had to drink it, which was pretty much all the time to stave off my intense hunger. The lemonade had turned bitter, and my dreams of losing 20 pounds in 10 days were shattered. And I am so, so glad they were.
The cleanse was not healthy. It was a fad diet disguised as a “cleanse” in order to sell books. The “lemonade” was not made for women like me, who want to enjoy their food and believe that many things do indeed taste better than skinny feels (and this was not one of them.) If skinny feels the way that drink tastes, well, that’s a pretty pathetic glass of lemonade. I’ve come a long way since then. I make my lemonade with sugar, and drink it on warm summer days. “I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.” I’m pretty sure that woman saved her cayenne and maple syrup for her chicken and waffles.
I’ve decided to include the reason I am embraceable now: I’m working with what I’ve got. It’s a lot, but it’s soft, squishy, and the better to embrace you with my dear.