Fried chicken, mac and cheese and a side of civil rights — the third item on the menu may seem out of place, but not when you are talking to Rev. Al Sharpton. He’s lost over 100 pounds and is determined to keep it off. Even President Barack Obama recently urged him to “go ahead and let loose a bit on Thanksgiving.” Sharpton responded:” I will not break my diet even with a presidential pardon.”

WATCH REV AL DISCUSS HIS WEIGHT LOSS ON MORNING JOE HERE
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The reason is all very simple for the host of MSNBC’s PoliticsNation. “I can speak much more easily now. I’m gliding rather than struggling.” (Politics Nation with Al Sharpton airs on MSNBC, a division of NBCUniversal, which is the parent company of theGrio.) The new stamina comes with sacrifice and one of the first thing chopped out of the Reverend’s diet was meat. As for the payoff, he says he hopes it’s one the entire black community reaps. “You can’t address our issues and demand social justice when you are a prisoner in your own body, and you can’t have a reckless social life when you are looking for social justice.”

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In 2009, nearly 63 percent of all African-American men were obese, and that number jumped to just over 77 percent for black women, according to the National Stroke Association.

Although Rev. Sharpton did not plan on his own weight loss to be a platform to address the overwhelming health issues that plague black America, he’s vocal about unveiling the demons that have shackled generations after generations into unhealthy lifestyles.

“Plenty of times in our neighborhoods you can’t even get a salad. You have to cross the tracks and go downtown to get a nutritious meal. We’ll never be healthy as a people until we take our communities back.”

Rev Sharpton not only charges black entrepreneurs to open restaurants that embrace healthy menus, but says pastors bear a responsibility too.

“How do you pastor when they are in the church cafeteria frying. We can’t preach community control when we aren’t practicing self control,” said Sharpton.

Rev Sharpton’s weight loss is a picture of self control at its best. He says he weighed more than 300 pounds, but lost 30 in 2001 during a 40-day fast in a Puerto Rican jail. He had been arrested for protesting the U.S. Navy bombing exercises on the island of Vieques.

Sharpton admits a lengthy fast isn’t the best or most healthy way to start a weight loss program, but adds he liked the way he looked and decided to stay the course. Motivation comes in all forms and often the best source is family. It’s something Reverend Sharpton cautions you to keep in mind when you and your loved ones sit down to enjoy the “soul food” feasts for the holidays.

“You should not celebrate being reckless. You are with your family, the people you love, so why celebrate in a way that could take you away from them. Celebrate in a way that shows you are thankful for another year of life and plan to see another.”