Comedian B.D. Freeman’s Food Addiction & Weight Loss Journey: “I’m Starting Over”
The recent health-related deaths of notables including Prince, syndicated radio host Doug Banks and hip hop artists Phife Dawg (A Tribe Called Quest) and Prince Be (PM Dawn) continue to drive the conversation about African-American men and healthcare. “I think that’s a discussion that needs to take place all over America—definitely with Black people—and certainly with Black men,” says actor and comedian B.D. Freeman.
Freeman, a Racine, Wisconsin native, is a staple of VH1’s pop culture programs. Through appearances on several shows including “I Love the 2000s,” “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” and the popular “Black to the Future” series, he has cemented his place as one of the most recognizable faces on the network.
While he kept television and comedy club audiences entertained with his hilarious take on pop culture and other issues, his health had eventually begun to take a toll on him and interfere with his career. “There’s no way to keep up with this schedule and have a personal life with the weight—there’s just no way to sustain it,” he says.
BlackDoctor.org caught up with Freeman (who has shed over 200 pounds) to talk about his health and fitness journey and why he sees his new lifestyle as his “rebirth.”
On the gradual weight gain:
When you do stand-up comedy, you’re on the road and performing every night, and then when you get done performing so late, you’re hungry. I’d look for something to eat afterwards but the only things that were open were the fast food joints. I existed on that for about 10-11 years while on the road but by the time I got to Hollywood, I was over 400 pounds. I carried my weight ‘well’, I guess. I had no idea that I was that big.
How the weight loss and fitness journey were born:
I was doing my VH1 show and when I got back from the set one day, my wife literally had to walk me into the house and help me get undressed because I was so exhausted. I was completely drained and then my back, feet and ankles started to hurt. Everything was inflamed and in pain. I was just walking through the house and all of a sudden, my feet literally went out from underneath me. I went to the doctor and it turned out that I was carrying so much weight that it was sitting on a cluster of nerves and had actually cut them off; at that point, it became a matter of I didn’t lose the weight in a matter of six weeks or so… I was even in a wheelchair. I resolved at that point that I was going to have to do something drastic. The doctor told me about a surgery called “The Wrap” which is much less invasive than other surgeries of that type. I had the surgery and the weight literally fell off of me.
On being addicted to food:
Food became a friend. Anytime I felt bad or sad or upset or nervous, it was always there for me. I’m in Hollywood, so I’m going though emotions and rejection and the food was always there. It then got to a point where it actually became a “lover.” When my wife would go to bed, I’d sneak out to McDonald’s and get two Big Mac meals, donuts and Doritos and go back to my “man cave,” lock the door, turn on an old Bogart movie and try to eat as much as I could and put whatever was left in a trash bag and take it outside. She didn’t know I was doing this. I’d even hide candy bars in drawers. It was out of control. I wasn’t seeing that it was the same kind of behavior as a drug addict but that’s how I learned that the body takes in all those sugars and chemicals and that it fires off the same areas of the brain like that of a heroin addict. When I had the surgery, my life changed and I went through a mourning process. I cried for three days straight and I had no idea why but I figured out I was mourning the loss of that “friend.” Like an alcoholic or drug addict, I had to “dry out”; I had to go through withdrawal from all those years of eating that way.
On not incorporating his weight into his routines:
I never did that because I never saw myself as a “big guy”; I just saw myself as me. I’m moving away from [stand-up] comedy, though and with dropping the weight, I think the need to be onstage and [use] funny as armor kind of falls away with that. In a way, I think anyone who puts on an excessive amount of weight really is armoring themselves up against the world.
On how his new lifestyle has affected his creativity and approach to performing:
I noticed that having dropped the weight, I think clearer. It’s forced me to rethink a lot of my approach to how I write and what it is I want to do in this industry. I’m always going to love comedy and even if I do a serious subject, I’ll always handle it with a comedic slant like my role in No Stranger Pilgrims. It’s a weighty part and it’s great for my first starring role in a film because it fluctuates on that border of humor and seriousness.
On how some fans react when celebrities lose weight:
There’s pressure because once you present yourself like that, [they feel] you are supposed to stay that way your whole life. I’m very open with my fans and told them I was going to do this [surgery]. I think there are some people who are afraid of alienating fans; I have even gotten fan mail from people who felt betrayed because I lost weight.
On how he hopes people are inspired by his journey:
I think it’s a huge blessing from the Lord that I’m in the position I’m in and to go through something like I’ve gone through, especially under a spotlight. I’m a big believer in teaching by doing if you’re going to tell or teach somebody something, you better be doing that yourself. People are all kinds of sizes but I also believe no matter who you are, you need to be as healthy as you can be. People don’t value themselves and they’re willing to pollute themselves whether it’s with drugs or even overeating, but if you’ve got family and friends who want and need you to be here, then you have a responsibility to keep yourself healthy for them. You’re here for a purpose—value that.
LaShawn Williams is a freelance writer and editor from Chicago, Illinois. She is an arts and entertainment enthusiast who has a serious thing for stand-up comedy, music and dance. Follow her on Twitter: @MsWilliamsWorld.