As the daughter of Muhammad "The Greatest" Ali, Khaliah Ali said this morning that even with every resource in the world, she was dogged by weight issues. I felt her pain when she recounted all the hurtful comments endured as a chubby 9-year-old after appearing on a Today Show segment about slimming down overweight children.
Those comments would haunt her for decades. “From that day forward, I just felt something was wrong with me,” she said. “I just started dying many, many quiet deaths, just closing off areas of my life . . . I went from the big-boned child of Muhammad Ali to one day waking up in high school well over 200 pounds.”
Her weight yo-yoed in the intervening years, then after the birth of her son, Jacob, the 5-feet-9-inch tall Khaliah hit 350 pounds. In 2004, she chose lap-band surgery. Over the next three years, she slowly dropped to 180 pounds, wrote the book Fighting Weight about her surgical success and toured and talked about the virtues of weight-loss surgery.
Since then, she’s regained about 30 pounds, and says she is speaking out today to help educate others about making lifestyle changes – for ourselves, and also for our children.
“My child is 11 years old, and I’m very aware of the war we’re fighting now,” Khaliah said during a media teleconference in Washington, D.C., this morning held by the STOP Obesity Alliance Task Force on Women on women, mothers and obesity. “In my house, as a mother, it’s about making lifestyle changes. It’s about health. We can eliminate the co-morbidities of obesity just by losing 7 to 10 percent of our body weight.”
The STOP folks are an impressive bunch: About 20 of the top health-advocacy organizations came together to stand in the gap regarding the tremendous, negative impact obesity is making on U.S. women.
While familiar with most of the awful stats quoted by Ali, this one set me back on my heels: Mothers who work long hours are twice as likely to have an obese child.
Great. More pressure.
Khaliah agrees that right now, the lousy economy, high unemployment and the disproportionate impact on African Americans, have created a “perfect storm” for continuing bad health well into the next decade – unless we put a STOP to it now.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little down just thinking about all of this, so let’s end on the positive:
Khaliah is a beautiful, active, plus-size model and clothing designer who had all the resources in the world at her disposal, and yet she still succumbed to weight issues. But let’s all take note of the fact she always, always came back, refusing to become yet another sorry statistic.
I am inspired.
To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are. ~ Muhammad Ali
Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.