Khaliah Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali, is an Emmy-nominated talk show host and has won the Pennsylvania Broadcaster's Award. She has also contributed to more than two dozen charities over the years. Khaliah says these organizations are in search of people with time. Near and dear to her are: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Help USA, Project Sunshine – groups that provide free programs and services to children affected with such illnesses as cancer, AIDS, and other serious medical challenges. Other important charities Khaliah participates in include Lupus Foundation of America, Inc. –an estimated 1.5 million Americans suffer with this disease — and Soup's On, the only self-supporting project of the Salvation Army.
Khaliah's new book, Fighting Weight, was recently published by Harper Collins.
I spoke with Khaliah not long ago about her experience with Lap-Band surgery, and how it changed her life.
Khaliah, would you like to speak about how your childhood affected your weight?
Khaliah: My mom, AG Fletcher is a petite woman of Portuguese and Jewish descent. When I was young, I remember my mother with hair to her waist, wearing pearls and high heels. And in the majority of the schools I attended, I was a minority child. I looked at myself in the mirror, round and nappy – thinking, ‘why can’t I be the pretty little girl?’ As a child I told myself I wasn’t pretty, but ugly. As a plus size designer, I’ve had a struggle and a journey, but am very proud about how I’ve turned out to be. I’m very happy.
My mom was terrified with my heaviness. She didn’t understand me. I was a second grader. At age 9, I was put on the Today Show with Jane Pauley for a program piece about slimming down overweight kids. There’s danger in starting children on diets.
In your book, Fighting Weight, there is a picture of your grandmother, Mama Bird, and yourself. You two look quite a bit alike.
Khaliah: Yes, we do. It was a privilege knowing her. She was called Mama Bird and I was known as Little Bird. She’s one of my angels.
Who, more than anyone else, motivated you to change your life and have the banding?
Khaliah: My highest source of inspiration is my son, Jacob. At age 30, I was young enough to do better but old enough to know better.
Having been a fat teenager, a chubby teenager, I’d morphed into obesity.
I’ve written in the dedication of Fighting Weight – “And to all children whose parents have opted out of too many photos with them.”
Heavy parents opt out of photos with their children, because of their rings of fat they’re avoiding the beach. I decided I was playing myself out of life and cheating my son. I was concerned that obesity was a family illness, and worried about spreading my eating habits to my son.
My son was not yet in elementary school and I was not the “hot mom.” I was afraid of kids teasing my son later when he became older.
I really had to surrender myself and regiment my meals.
Khaliah, how long has it been since the banding?
Khaliah: This August will be 3 years.
And how do you feel now?
Khaliah: Amazing! The lap band system is like a marriage or a having a child.
Before the band, hunger controlled my life. That hunger is no longer there.
The lap band system to me is the safest and most effective measure to allow flexibility and causes hunger to be killed. (That demon chased me everywhere.) I thought I’d die if I had a gastric bypass.
I’ve become really comfortable and familiar with the band. Who you were before the banding is still there, and it allows me to be who I truly hope to be without the monster.
I have really grown a lot with my band and continue to look forward to more growth.
Do you think of yourself as a thin person?
Khaliah: NO. I will fly to Texas this summer to remove excess skin. It will be performed in two procedures. I’m a plus size designer. I’ll always be a big girl – taller, big boned, curvy, voluptuous. I’m not looking to achieve thinness.
What do you typically eat in a day?
Khaliah: It depends upon whether I’m losing or maintaining my weight. Right now I’m maintaining. I eat 1300-1500 calories a day.
Typically, for breakfast, I have a protein shake.
I workout in the afternoon and will have a rice cake with peanut butter ½ to two hours before.
Lunch is usually a chicken breast or a piece of fish with salad.
A late afternoon snack is yogurt or a rice cake.
Dinner is at 6 PM. It’s either another protein shake or something similar to what I’d eat for lunch.
I’m a fan of vegan foods. I like to get creative and make a tofu dish or use nori in a miso soup. I’m also totally kosher and eat little red meat.
Everyday I eat avocado and strawberries.
This eating style allows for dessert. I’m a sweets person. So, if I want a cookie, ½ a cup of ice cream, or a piece of chocolate, I have it.
I drink 1 gallon of water a day too, sometimes I have it with lemon.
For my own health reasons, I fast two days a month – two days out, I eat just raw foods.
I aim for optimal health. I was born and raised a vegan, by my mother. In a subliminal kind of way, it affected me.
Sugary cereals though, are my demon!
What is your exercise regimen?
Khaliah: I’m working on my certificate in physical fitness, and would like to work with children. Exercise helps emotionally and spiritually.
I’m at the gym to sweat! My trainer, Ishmael Newman is a huge source of support, especially when hitting plateaus. I love what he does; he has helped me and is a super trainer, but it’s hard!
I also take classes, do Pilates, and am a light weightlifter. For cardio I use the elliptical machine 5 times a week for 45 minutes. It’s amazing!
Would you like to mention your current age and weight?
Khaliah: 158lbs, 5’9” tall, 32 years old.
Khaliah, who’s the man in your life today?
Khaliah: Jacob’s dad, Spencer Wertheimer, a lawyer in Philadelphia. We’re still together. He was my first relationship, back when I was a size 12. After delivery of Jacob, I ballooned to 335 lbs. Spencer’s love never wavered. He never said to lose weight. For him it was never an issue.
I was miserable though. I’d think, “How could he love me?” Even though some of Spencer’s friends were speaking horribly about me, he never stopped loving me.
When we’re overweight, we push away people who love us. In terms of sexuality, we (obese people) are forgotten. We forget to dress up and feel good. Becoming angry on the inside, it manifests itself on the outside.
My Prince Charming – Spencer did show up. And we got things together.
Basil & Spice readers have excitedly been awaiting this interview with you.
What advice do you have for them?
Khaliah: There’s no such thing as ever too late. My mom is in her 50s, and my aunt is in her 60s. They both have a band.
A time will come when you have to make a choice what to do. We are blessed to live during a time in history when there are so many options to improve the quality of life.
Listen to what is good for you, honor yourself, listen to yourself. Women are intuitive – we know what we know. Take a quiet moment, listen to what your heart is telling you.
You can’t help someone until you help yourself.
Start with yourself. Your body is your house.
You are an inspiration for other overweight women. Has this experience changed how you view life?
Khaliah: Completely – as equal to how my son changed my life. He’s more of course, but life is drastically altered. You realize what changes your perception. I use it as a tool.
Has the fairy tale ending of being thin come completely true?
Khaliah: Yes, it absolutely has come true. This is a tool. I work with this tool. I’m a healthy happy size 10. It’s who God made me to be.
Khaliah, thank you for your time. Have a nice evening.
Thank you Kelly.