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DeJuaii Pace, who’s on the new Addicted to Food docuseries, told The Root how the show helped her embrace her life as a black, Christian, gay, 45-year-old virgin.

DP: No, I have not. I am a real-deal, true virgin. Because my mother and my dad had brought us up [to believe] that the greatest gift that I could give to my husband, my soul mate, is to give to them myself that has not been tainted with anybody else or anything else. And I value that highly. And by the grace of God, [the Lord] has helped me and kept me.

TR: How has coming out affected your weight?

DP: It’s been an eye-opener. It’s been a deeper spiritual journey for me that’s blown my mind. After the years I’ve been in church, here’s another level of understanding, another level of clarity. I don’t have all of the answers, but I’m even clearer about this thing: We really have to give people better answers than we’ve been giving them.

TR: You come from a family of heavier men and women, yet you attribute a lot of your weight gain to being in the closet. Why?

DP: I attribute my weight gain to not having a voice to speak out about things that were bothering me. And my number one thing was having that temptation to be with women. When I first went to Shades [of Hope], of course, they would not let us know how much we weighed.

After I came home in February [from Shades of Hope], I weighed 227. As of today, I weigh 215 pounds [down from 265 when I arrived at Shades of Hope in August]. My goal weight is 125 pounds. Even now I see my bone structure. I used to think I had big bones. No, now I really think I’m pretty small.

TR: You’re the seventh of 10 children — nine girls and one boy. How did your siblings react to your coming out?

DP: At the time, the ones that were in the room were like, “Yeah, we understand what you’re saying; thank you for sharing it.” Then they’d act OK, but I feel that they are OK with it because I am not [sexually] active. If someone happens to come along and that person knocks me off my feet, and it’s a woman, then it would be a different story.

TR: You’ve known since you were in the fourth grade that you were attracted to women. How do you feel overall since you’ve come out?

DP: I feel like a ton, a weight, has been lifted. I don’t have to hide it anymore; I don’t have to be ashamed. There are times when I’m like, “Oh God, I’m literally coming out with this thing; I’m being open about it. What are people going to say?”

And then I have to encourage myself again. I say, “You know what? It’s up to God to take this thing and get us right.” Nobody has the answers. Nobody can condemn me about it. There’s only one God. I love God dearly and totally trust that he knows what he’s doing, because in such a time as this, I am alive.

TR: How are you doing with the regimen?

DP: I am still eating the Shades way. That will be forever; that will never change. Every now and then, I may go out and treat myself — maybe one meal — but not eat that way for an entire day.

Now, [the Shades staff] may not agree with my exercise, because they thought I was an exercise addict.

TR: Your older brother, Murphy, died in February from complications related to being overweight. Has your weight loss inspired your sisters?

DP: I’m living with my two youngest sisters, and they are so excited about this. I cook for them, every meal. I even go grocery shopping. Actually, the first day I got home, my baby sister, when I prepared the meal, she was sitting at the table, and she started crying.

She was soulfully sulking, and I asked her what was wrong. And she said, “I just thank God for this. I’ve been wanting an answer and just to see you and you cooking the meals. You’ve lived this thing. It’s not something that I have to wonder if it has to work. I can see that it works.” And she’s been doing the meal plan ever since. I really want to get the rest of my family on it.

Aisha I. Jefferson is a frequent contributor to The Root. You can follow her on Twitter or visit her at aishaiman.com.

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