FLINT — Like her famous father, heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, Khaliah Ali took on a worthy opponent and won.
But her fight was against obesity — an ongoing struggle in her early life that gave new meaning to being described as a heavy weight. She was topping the scales at 335 when she decided to undergo lifechanging bariatric surgery in 2004.
She wrote about it in a book, aptly titled “Fighting Weight: How I Achieved Healthy Weight Loss with “Banding,” a New Procedure That Eliminates Hunger — Forever” (Harper-Collins, publisher, 2007).”
Adjustable gastric banding involves a surgeon placing a silicon band around the top portion of the stomach, enabling gradual weight loss by reducing food intake, as described among surgical options on the web site of the Hurley Medical Center Bariatric Center.
Khaliah Ali is coming to Flint to talk about her weight loss and related issues of self-esteem as the keynote luncheon speaker at the Women’s Healthy Living Event “A Day Just For You.” It will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 21 at The Expo Center, next to Hurley Health & Fitness Center, 4800 South Saginaw St.
Sponsored by Hurley Medical Center, the one-day event is free but luncheon seating for Ali’s talk is limited. Register early at hurleywomen.com or by calling 810-262-4938.
In a telephone interview from Philadelphia where she lives with her son Jacob, Ali said she will talk about sustainable weight loss, health and wellness.
“I tell people I don’t feel like I have ever had it (the surgery),” she said. The device is meant to last a lifetime but sometimes do slip and have to be tightened up.
“I intend on having it the rest of my life.” Ali said.
She first learned about the banding surgery from a friend who had heard about it on Oprah. She consulted two doctors and decided it was the right step for her. Others should decide for themselves, she said
Before her surgery, Ali said typical comments for people trying to talk her out of it included “you could die” and “why risk your life.”
At that time, not much was known about the surgery, she said.
“When I started it was a 30 percent choice, not it’s an 80 percent choice,” she said of people opting for banding over other types of bariatric surgery.
“We brought visibility to the procedure,” she said. “We got out there and did front-line PR campaigning.”
Her book is now in its third printing and she had made hundreds of appearances nationwide as a spokesperson for Allergen Pharmaceutical’s “Moment of Truth Campaign,” an initiative that addresses the national obesity problem.
“It’s not about surgery, it’s about well- ness,” said Ali, who also defines wellness in terms of having a personal spiritual life.
“I think it is important to go within and take one day at a time,” she said. “Take what is the right track for you. It is about a lifestyle change. For me, changing my entire lifestyle is what has kept me successful and happy.”
Seven years after her surgery, Ali has developed other skill sets to stay fit, she said. She’s close to earning certification as a Pilates trainer, she’s into hiking and next fall is planning a widely-publicized climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. Ali also said she’s also highly involved with charity work including frequent trip to Africa and working on behalf of the homeless. Also a former plus-size model, Ali has created a line of fashions for women of all sizes, She also designs for Simplicity sewing patterns.
Hurley’s “A Day Just for You” is billed as a way to support women as moms, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and friends. Hurley services represented at the wellness event include its Bariatric Center, Hurley Health and Fitness Center, Diabetes Center, Asthma Center, Sleep Diagnostics Center, Breast Health Nurse, OB/GYN Clinic, joint replacement and nutrition information along with free health screenings (blood sugar, blood pressure.).
The day begins with a 5K Women Walk for Wellness – in-person registration begins at 8:30 a.m., followed by the walk at 9 a.m. Following the Walk for Wellness, Zumba workouts and healthy cooking demonstrations will be offered, along with vendor booths, and mini-health centers.