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Heavy D —

November 18, 2011

Trigger warning for discussing Heavy D’s weight loss history.

Today we have a farewell of a different nature.

On November 8, the world lost a legendary rapper and his family lost a husband, father and son with a heart of gold. Dwight Arrington Myers, best known as Heavy D the Overweight Love, collapsed in his apartment complex and complained of breathing problems. An “associate” of Heavy D claimed he had pneumonia. He was 44.

Although the coroner has not yet released the details of his death, news organizations, such as The Boston Globe and The LA Times,  are already suggesting that obesity was the cause, and citing studies that link impaired lung function in obese people with pneumonia. And from the even skeevier side, Mariah Carey is exploiting Heavy D’s death to promote her new partnership with Jenny Craig.

But Carey told the Associated Press weight loss goes beyond helping pregnant women shed baby fat.

“We just lost Heavy D,” she told the AP of the rapper who collapsed and died Tuesday. “I considered him my friend and … he was (in his) early 40s, so it’s serious. It’s really serious.”

For a moment, let’s just set aside this sensationalist bullshit and look at the facts.

In 2003, Heavy D lost 135 pounds to improve his chances of landing an acting role, and denied it had to do with health concerns. By February 2004, he had regained the weight and reached his heaviest at 445 pounds, according to his profile on, where he contemplated weight loss surgery. In the profile, Heavy D shared his weight loss history as well:

I started my weight control diets early on, and been on some type of diet off and on for 23 years. At age 17 I was 315 pounds, tried weight watchers, diet tea, slim fast, cabbage diet and Jenny Craig for a month, to expensive for me.

He also used pharmaceutical drugs to aid in his weight loss.

In 1997 while living in Junction City Kansas I was prescribed Redux and took it for 8 months until it was banded. Lost about 20 pounds.

After consulting with his PCP about WLS, Heavy D began the Atkins diet in April 2004 in order to control his blood sugar and lose some weight prior to the Roux-en-Y surgery. He also quit smoking cigars, a habit he had for five years. In April 2005, as his surgery date neared, he announced that he quit smoking “again.”

He stuck with Atkins all the way up to August 6, 2005, the morning of his surgery. That morning, he had a change of heart:

I did not have the surgery. I got cold feet while in the holding room. A nurse came to me and said she forgot to get me to sign some papers. I looked at the document; the document outlines what may happen during surgery or after. Out of 50 items three of the items was death. I became very nervous my blood pressure went up. The doctor came over to me and asks what was wrong with me; I simply told him I’m not ready for surgery. He walked over to my IV and released a bag that he tied into my IV. I later found out that it was calming medicine. He smiled and said It’s ok you don’t have to have the surgery now. He went and got another doctor he came over and said it’s ok if you want to get up it’s ok. The surgeon came over and was very upset with my decision. I was already nervous waiting on the sleeping gas then this nurse came over and put this paper in my face.

In 2008, Heavy D lost 150 pounds with the help of a personal trainer, and had returned to that trainer three months before his death, having regained the weight. His trainer confirmed that Heavy D was working out six to seven times per week in the days leading up to his death.

Bear these in mind as the autopsy results are released and anti-obesity crusaders attempt to tie Heavy D’s death to the dangers of obesity. Heavy D was a model dieter in every way… he perpetually struggled to lower his weight out of fear that his weight was killing him.

From a very young age, and throughout the years, he followed the mainstream weight loss prescription and lost hundreds of pounds in a desperate attempt to save his own life. Sadly, it may have been these very desperate attempts at losing weight that contributed most to his premature death.

Researchers have released conflicting data on the effects of weight cycling, this analysis of the weight cycling research in the International Journal of Obesity makes it clear that there are some facts that are not in dispute:

Although the topic of health consequences of weight cycling has been the source of considerable controversy, several large population-based prospective studies have clearly reported an increased risk for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in association with weight cycling, even after adjusting for preexisting disease.

Weight cycling is deadly, but you won’t see these connections drawn in the mainstream media. Instead, you’ll see headlines like this one in The International Business Times, “Heavy D Dead: Rapper Weighed 344 Pounds, had Pneumonia.”

Contrast the public health outcry over Heavy D’s obesity with Amy Winehouse’s alcohol-induced death, and you’ll see exactly the kind of double standard I shared regarding NPR and “lifestyle diseases.”

Last night, family and friends of Heavy D did exactly what real friends and family do in times of tragedy: they celebrated his life. I just pray that the press will grant him the dignity of not turning him into an anti-obesity martyr after his death.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    November 18, 2011 12:05 pm

    I’m afraid it’s not going to matter why he died, what’s going to matter most, in the mind of the media and the public, is that he died while fat. That will be what’s remembered, and that will be what “killed” him, no matter what the autopsy findings are.
    Remember Mama Cass? Recall how many times she dieted? What’s common knowledge of her death? That she choked to death on a ham sandwich that she was eating in bed (which isn’t true, btw). So, yeah, the public and the media will believe what they want to believe and if it doesn’t even come close to the truth, they don’t care, especially if it’s about a fat person.
    My sympathy goes out to his family.

  2. November 18, 2011 3:03 pm

    Well said, Vesta. I wasn’t familiar with him at all, but I sure am with his story. When are we going to learn!?

    Sending good vibes to his family and friends.

  3. Fab@54 permalink
    November 19, 2011 8:51 am

    IMO, Heavy D (RIP) is the perfect example of why NOT to try over and over and over again to lose lots of weight * IF you are otherwise healthy *.

    The goal should always be to gain and/or maintain HEALTH, and a decent activity level, not a smaller dress or suit size. But we are pretty much preaching to the choir here at FFF. (Well, except for the occasional trolls, who I seriously doubt we have much impact on anyway…)

    Condolences to Heavy D’s family and friends.

  4. November 20, 2011 5:54 am

    Heavy D is one of my favourite old school MC’s. It makes me sick that people are going to use his tragic death to fuel even more anti-fat bigotry. There are too many armchair doctors who want to tell us how he died, when even the coroner doesn’t know why yet.

  5. December 30, 2011 12:50 am

    I disagree with this article, In my *opinion* Heavy D most likely died of complications due to his diet (ie: the types of foods he consumed) …not necessarily by his weight. Although most people his weight are not anywhere near the picture of health no matter what the tell themselves. He was struggling and yoyo- dieting constantly because he probably never ate a balanced diet more than a week at a time in his life. I would venture to guess that anyone that would go on the Atkins diet has no clue about health or nutrition. If anyone knows what foods he consumed daily, I’m sure that his diet included an unhealthy amount of either fried foods, fast foods, fatty foods and or heavily processed foods. And no matter how much you work out or lose weight, you cant get that build-up of plaque out of your arteries. And you’ll always gain it back when you stop. The only way to do that is to get healthy on the inside by changing your lifestyle by eating nutritionally balanced meals *daily….FOREVER, Not JUST until you reach your goal weight. Being overweight is nothing to be ashamed of. Im not bashing him or anyone that has a weight issue. We all have our own issues. But it is irresponsible to not take the opportunity to educate people that look up to him by letting them know not only WHAT he died of, but what the ROOT causes were as well. His cause of death was directly linked to his poor diet. Unless he was born with those conditions -which he was not. People die of lung cancer everyday… but we can all agree it was caused by smoking or something toxic in the environment. People die of cirrhosis of the liver every day too… and we can also assume that they were abusing alcohol. Food is addictive and when its abused like anything else it can and will kill you. Denial of this in this day and age is absurd and to miss the opportunity to educate people about this is wrong.

    • December 30, 2011 12:37 pm

      Hi mamamia1021,
      First of all, welcome to Fierce Fatties.

      Second of all, you don’t lose over 100 pounds, multiple times, by eating fried foods, fast foods or fatty foods. You lose that much weight through severe caloric restriction and/or exercise. I find your assumptions troubling. For example, when you say “he probably never ate a balanced diet more than a week at a time in his life.” How the fuck do you know that? Are you fat? Have you ever tried to lose 100 pounds? Do you know how difficult that is? How utterly presumptive and condescending for you to suggest that Heavy D was not capable of eating a balanced diet. But setting aside your asinine assumption, you’re making a ridiculous point.

      A “balanced diet” won’t turn a 300 pounds person into a 200 pound person. I have previously written about the EatRight program at the University of Alabama, which teaches people to eat a balanced diet and do you know how much weight loss the most successful students were able to maintain after two years? Five percent of their starting weight. As I said in that post:

      The “successful” Maintainers had a mean starting weight of 199 pounds, ended the program weighing 193 pounds, and two years later weighed 190 pounds. Mean followup time was two years.

      Ask anyone who studies obesity, nutrition and health, and they will tell you that a modest weight loss of 5-10% has a profoundly positive impact on a person’s metabolic health, but not their waistline. A 300 pound person who loses 10% of their weight will still weigh 270 pounds, will still look fat to you. Eating “healthy” does not lead to the kind of long-term, significant weight loss that you seem to think it does.

      And in any case, fuck that shit: fat people are told that the only way they can be healthy is if they lose the excess fat. So, a fat person can either try a “balanced diet” and lose 5-10% of their starting weight, or they can use severe caloric restriction and lose a significant amount like Heavy D did MULTIPLE TIMES. According to all of the public health messages, Heavy D was doing EXACTLY what he was supposed to do: lose the fat. But what happened? It came back.

      Now, you, in your judgmental position of power can point the finger and say, “Well, clearly he was stuffing is face with Gorditas.” If that’s your position, then you are the one who has no clue about health or nutrition. Are you familiar with the hormone leptin? It was only discovered in 1994 and scientists are still trying to figure out how it works and what it means. But the man who discovered leptin, Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, is quite clear that willpower has absolutely NOTHING to do with what a person weighs or whether a person is able to maintain their weight loss. If you’re so interested in being educated in health and nutrition, then take the time to watch this series of lectures from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which includes Dr. Friedman explaining exactly how leptin works and why the assumptions you have brought to us today are outdated and biased.

      You go on to say “anyone that would go on the Atkins diet has no clue about health or nutrition.” Have you ever read studies of Atkins? Because the evidence in support of a low carb diet as ideal for health is just as compelling, if not more compelling, than the evidence for a low fat diet. Were you aware that clinical trials have shown that the Atkins diet reduces triglycerides and raises HDL (or “good” cholesterol)? Meanwhile, the low fat diet does the opposite, lowering HDL and raising triglycerides? And in the middle is LDL (“bad” cholesterol) which is slightly raised by Atkins and slightly lowered by low fat. Low fat proponents will counter that LDL is more important than trigs or HDL, and that the Atkins diet causes long-term damage to endothelial function, a marker of heart disease.

      Now, this is just scratching the surface of the argument for and against Atkins. The fact is, the evidence that supports either an Atkins or low fat diet is very complicated, but one thing that is consistent across them all is that they do not lead to significant, long-term weight loss.

      The only diet that seems immune from criticism is a vegetarian diet, and one of our dedicated trolls was kind enough to share research that showed that Seventh-Day Adventists who stick to the diet prescribed by their religion, a lacto-ovum (they eat eggs and milk) vegetarian diet, have a life expectancy of 1.7 to 2.3 years longer than non-vegetarian Seventh-Day Adventists. So, even sticking to the healthiest diet out there gives you just 2 years of extra life.

      But you cannot tell by simply looking at someone what kind of diet they are on. You proved this point perfectly when you say, “People die of cirrhosis of the liver every day too… and we can also assume that they were abusing alcohol.” Um… there are multiple causes of cirrhosis of the liver, including Cystic Fibrosis, Hepatitis and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. So, no, someone who dies of cirrhosis of the liver is not necessarily abusing alcohol.

      Heavy D was doing the best he could based on the advice of well-meaning physicians and our society that told him that being fat would kill him. He took whatever measures would accomplish his goal of getting thin, and the weight cycling that he experienced is not because he had no will power or he never ate a balanced meal in his life. If you are significantly fat (let’s say 100 pounds overweight) and you have attempted to lose that weight, then maybe your perspective would be welcome, but I’m going to take a turn at making assumptions and say that you have never had to lose a significant amount of weight in your life and keep it off. Because if you did, then you would know, as research shows again and again, that a 200 pound person who has recently lost 100 pounds will have to maintain a significantly lower caloric deficit than a person who has been 200 pounds their entire life. That disadvantage alone makes sustaining significant weight loss near impossible. For you to point your finger at Heavy D and tell him that he wasn’t doing enough is shameful and disgusting.

      If you want to educate yourself, then do so. But don’t come here and tell us that we are being irresponsible by not educating people here. I have studied this issue exhaustively for two years and I consider myself quite well-versed on the actual research underlying weight loss and nutrition. And unless you can substantiate your assumptions with research, facts or data, then I suggest you keep in mind that your opinions are completely and utterly baseless.


      • December 31, 2011 12:16 am

        thanks for having the eloquence when i dont, or am too angry too. over and over again you remind me why weight loss for the sake of weight loss (even under the guise of health) is bs. I DO eat a healthy balanced diet, despite what my 6 foot 2 inch 300 lbs frame would say.

        • January 3, 2012 9:36 am

          You’re welcome, erylin. I had to resist the urge to go nuclear. 🙂


      • December 31, 2011 8:36 am

        Basically you have to be on a diet FOR LIFE in order to maintain that type of weight loss. I can’t really say that I’ve learned to like myself fat–but then again, I didn’t really like myself when I wasn’t fat. I do know that it is a weight off my mind, so to speak, to not be having to go through the painful cycle of losing the weight only to “fail” and gain it back because I’m dying of hunger from only eating 1000 calories a day.
        I look at Heavy D and think about what a friendly, good character he had, he was so likeable. And really he was handsome. Such a sad shame he fell into that trap of needing to be thin instead of realizing that he was great just the way he was.

        • January 3, 2012 9:39 am

          Exactly. In order to maintain the kind of weight loss that Heavy D achieved, you have to maintain permanent caloric restriction, which is not possible for most people. But most people who give this kind of advice have never even tried losing that kind of weight. They just don’t understand.


  6. Lillian permalink
    December 31, 2011 10:11 am

    As someone that tried to maintain a weight loss, a small weight loss of twenty pounds, it’s nearly impossible. I found that I was too tired to exercise the three to four hours a day that it required indefinitely. I exercise less, say an hour a day and the weight crept back on. Weight that took nearly two years to come off returned in six weeks. Still, the fitness remained. I find now that I can walk, bike all day without feeling like I’m going to die. I can carry a heavy backpack for hours when I shop or travel without discomfort.

    Read what people do to maintain weight loss and many still fail. They have to exercise like their training for a marathon. They have to eat significantly less than what would satisfy their appetite. It’s hard to be that diligent every day for the rest of ones life. The weight that takes years to lose can return in less than a month. People that insult people for weight cycling have no idea the effort involved.

    • January 3, 2012 9:43 am

      Lillian, what you experienced was completely normal. You can’t engage in the kind of caloric deprivation AND exercise that causes significant weight loss without something giving. Either you’ll crave more calories because of the increased output or you’ll feel too exhausted from caloric deprivation to maintain the level of exercise. And regardless of what your diet is, your caloric needs are internally set. So, you may eat a healthy, balanced diet, but need a whole helluva a lot more calories from it to sustain your activity level. But that is okay! Fuck calories! Exercise and eat a balanced diet and satisfy your hunger, and you will maintain your health. Period.

      This commenter has no idea what she’s talking about.


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