The Intersection Of Obesity, COVID-19, Social Justice And Mental Health

(Photo courtesy Anthony Wilkins.) In a world that seems out of control, self-described "control freaks" like Anthony Wilkins sometimes realize they have to step away from situations to maintain their sanity, but some causes are too important to step away from, especially if you are a Black man in America, even if getting involved causes risks to your business.

Ive known for a long time that I am a bit of a control freak. But over the past few months, Ive found myself at a critical intersection that is showing me there’s only so much I can control. Its the intersection of obesity, COVID-19, social justice and mental health. Taken as individual topics, they each pose their own questions, concerns and emotional reactions. But add them all together and you get a cocktail of discovery, enlightenment, anxiety and self preservation.

I chose the field that I am in to be an entrepreneur in the fitness industry, which brings its own challenges under the normal course of business. As leaders in the health and fitness industry, we are tasked with tackling obesity and many other health-related issues. We do our best to educate and support our clients down a path toward success, but ultimately, we are merely navigators as their success is directly determined by the sum of their choices. Ours is a daily reconciliation with our passion for helping others and the fact that our clients may not be as ready as we are to help themselves. Sure, I can give up, but I’m just not made that way.

Now add a global pandemic on top of dealing with an obesity epidemic, and the picture gets even messier. We still have to operate our businesses as normally as possible in the face of having no idea what life will throw at us each day. Our lives and our businesses are based on the human interaction that we now are told could actually kill us. We have pivoted online and outside in an effort to “save the ship” and keep our industry alive. As business owners, we no longer have the option of simply thinking outside of the box; we now live outside of the box for the foreseeable future.

With so much already going on in our professional and personal lives, it is easy for us to hunker down in our own bubble. Well, the world around me burst my bubble and changed the way that I will forever live the rest of my life. Sadly, America has taught me to get used to seeing Black men being killed by the same police that are supposed to protect us. But the rash of Black people dying at the hands of the police put me in a position where I had to make a decision. I had to decide not if I needed to get involved in bringing the fight for social justice to more people but how I would do so.

My initial thought was that I couldn’t just jump right in as I had a business to think about and my actions could by default adversely affect my ability to make a living. My first real interaction with taking a stance on social justice was simply to attend a Black Lives Matter rally with my family to teach my son about the movement. That rally changed my life as I unexpectedly went from spectator to speaker during the event at the request of a friend. I ultimately felt that I needed to speak for those who either could not or would not do so on their own. My short speech pushed me to take the lead to educate people on why social justice is important for all people in this country. I will continue to speak from a position of education and believe that the people that will patronize my business are the ones for me—no more, no less.

My mental health was the last of the four topics to be addressed even though it is the most important. We often get so caught up in trying to fight and conquer the world that we forget to protect ourselves from the battle wounds that come with it. During my social justice fight, I’ve learned that so many people lack the ability to empathize with the experiences and feelings of others. I believe it is based on the fact that they have not been personally affected by an issue so they don’t want to believe the truth of the experiences people share with them. This realization has taken its toll on me; I had to learn it the hard way through direct interaction with many people on social media—so much so that I took a much-needed break from all platforms to save myself from getting pulled into a desperate place of having no hope for the future. I now only engage in direct conversations with those I know and prefer to interact with in person in an effort to save my sanity as this fight is going to take some time. And that action is something that the control freak in me can control. 

BIO

Anthony Wilkins was inspired to get into the health and fitness industry as well as open his own gym based on the life-long inspiration of his mother who is a breast cancer survivor. He has been with Alloy Personal Training since 2005 and has been the co-owner of Alloy Personal Training for Women in Suwanee, Georgia, since 2016. He is a graduate of Temple University with a bachelor’s degree and an MBA. He has certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and is a Titleist Performance Institute Certified Personal Trainer. He is author of the book “Foundation to Fairways: The Everyman’s Guide to Golf Through Fitness & Strategic Performance.”

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