Black Novelist Alice Randall Says She Was Happy Fat, But Now She Wants To Be Healthy

May 18, 2012


Alice Randall is a successful novelist and country music songwriter living in Nashville, but when she turned 50, she asked herself a tough question—How did I get to weigh over 225 pounds?

“And how did I not notice that four-fifths of all black women in America were seriously overweight, like me?” Randall said.

Randall was a skinny child. She grew up in Detroit where she listened to Joe Tex’s song “Skinny Legs And All.” A line in that song goes, “Some man, somewhere, will take you, baby—skinny legs and all.”

“This song gave me a kind of anxiety about whether or not I would be perceived of as attractive,” Randall said.

Randall was also a skinny undergraduate at Harvard, where she took a course on high tea with Julia Child. She baked scones and Madeleines for credit. She estimates she weighed 109 pounds.

“So, it wasn’t until I was about 37-years-old that I ever began to have a serious weight problem,” Randall said.

Randall says that was the same year she remarried.

“My second husband truly embraced his rural, Southern, black roots. And he was absolutely down for his wife and the gorgeousness of big curves.” Randall said.

Randall herself looked up to her grandmother who, Randall says, “was big as three houses.”

“And so my idea of the quintessential beautiful woman, and the quintessentially powerful woman, is that large, black grandmother,” Randall said.

When Randall became overweight herself she liked it. “Because I felt big and strong,” Randall said.

But she worried about the example she was setting for her daughter. “I thought if I stayed that big, when she wanted to be big and strong, she would want to be like me,” Randall said. “And I knew that that wasn’t as healthy as it could be.”

Randall says she had a problem with not exercising. “Which I think does go back, in the black context, to this issue of complexities about having my physical labor, or the physical labor of my family members, exploited historically,” Randall said.

Randall started exercising. She started eating sweet potatoes, almonds and yogurt, and drinking more water, and she did what she does best—she wrote a novel.

“I wrote the book I wanted to read when I was trying to get under 200 pounds,” Randall said.

Ada’s Rules: A Sexy Skinny Novel is about a black preacher’s wife who is trying to lose 100 pounds in preparation for her 25-year college reunion and, perhaps, an affair. If you’re interested in making healthy life-style changes with the novel, click here

“Because the numbers are depressing, the numbers are debilitating, the numbers will freeze you,” Randall said. “But we’ve got to get past the numbers. We’ve got to get to the spirit.”