Queen Latifah: ‘Health is most important. It’s not losing or gaining weight’

Queen Latifah has nice interview in People. She’s teamed up with Novo Nordick for their It’s Bigger Than Me campaign, which is looking to change the way we discuss obesity. The campaign wants to widen the discussion, so people know that obesity is made up of more than food habits. Genetics, disease and – I didn’t know this one – hormones all factor into obesity as well. People who have been diagnosed anywhere on the obesity scale have to manage their condition just as anyone else with a health condition does and that’s what It’s Bigger Than Me is trying to do, normalize the conversation about treatment so people can seek it without shame. Latifah had a trainer tell her she fell “into the obese category” and it woke her up about her own health. But she puts the emphasis on health, not weight. Because she’d rather say no to a job than go to unhealthy means to lose weight quick. Queen La is only going to slim down in a way that works for her figure.

Queen Latifah takes pride in being a “rebel” actress when it comes to unrealistic body standards.

The 52-year-old star of The Equalizer recently spoke to PEOPLE about understanding the difference between health and body size, revealing she’s learned to advocate for herself in career settings when her health is not necessarily a priority to others.

Working in industries where she faces constant criticism, the Broadway vet says that she’s fortunate to have strong support growing up from her parents, who gave her “positive reinforcement” when it comes to body image. That translated into her confidence to turn down jobs, vowing to lose or gain weight only on her own terms.

“Health is most important to me. It’s not about losing weight or gaining weight. When I want to lose weight, or gain weight, I know how to do it in a healthy way,” Latifah explains. “So if I have to do something that is going to be completely unhealthy for me, then that’s not the job for me. Someone else should have that job that’s already there… It’s called No.”

“I practice my no’s. I go in the mirror and I say, no, no, no, no, like 20 times. And that’s it,” she continues. “I need to be okay with me. If I’m okay then I feel like I can do anything. But if I’m not okay, I have to say something. Like, it’s time to take a break, stop, cut.”

[From People]

I’m compelled to learn more about the It’s Bigger Than Me campaign. I’ll admit, I know very little about obesity. My kids godfather had cancer with a side effect that filled one of his thighs with water, which made walking difficult. The water and lack of mobility put him in the obese category. A doctor charted it and insurance stopped paying – during cancer treatment. He battled everyone involved and came out fine, but it opened my eyes to a different side of that coin. As Queen Latifah said, there’s more than just not eating right that factors into weight categories and it’s counter-productive to write people off due to our perception of their weight, thin or heavy.

Latifah’s message about losing (or gaining) weight in a healthy way is an important one no matter what category you fall into. I hope to raise my kids without them ever knowing what the term “bikini-ready” means, but Latifah works in an industry that demands it on a dime. There are many reasons why quick weight loss or cutting corners are dangerous, but they also don’t last. Latifah suggests looking at your overall health journey and self-esteem like “maintaining a car.” Stay with me here, because it’s a great point. What she said was that when you buy a car, you know it takes annual oil-changes, tire rotations and tune-ups. You also can’t use Chevy parts on a Prius. Latifah suggests checking up on yourself in the same way, making sure everything is running the way it should. And make sure that what you are doing for your health is the right thing for you and not someone else.

Photo credit: InStar Images and Avalon Red

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

21 Responses to “Queen Latifah: ‘Health is most important. It’s not losing or gaining weight’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Gabby says:

    I highly recommend the « Maintenance Phase » podcast: it gives deep and well researched insight into our biais toward fat people and the billion-dollar industry behind « thin equals healthy ».

  2. Stef says:

    Love her – she’s a treasure and I appreciate these types of candid and realistic interviews. That pic in the yellow dress is fire!

  3. BaronSamedi says:

    An important conversation. I feel like the importance of mental health and addiction also get discussed too little when it comes to this.

    I keep thinking about one of Lizzo’s interviews where she nonchalantly talks about hiding food and that being something many people relate to her. That’s not normal. Or at least it’s a sign of an unhealthy relationship with food that needs to be discussed with a therapist.

    I think apart from medical issues many obese people literally eat their emotions and this needs to part of the focus. There’s no self love or self acceptance when something is off emotionally.

    • Concern Fae says:

      Not true. When studies are done by psychology researchers on emotions and eating, they find that emotions towards food and that inspire eating are in no way predictive of someone’s weight. Everyone does “emotional eating” so it is an easy way to shame the overweight into thinking that they are at fault for behaving like normal human beings.

      One problem is that we have developed a field of “obesity researchers” who have very lax policies for their studies, which wouldn’t be tolerated in other medical fields. When they declared the War on Cancer in the 70s, one of the first things they did was declare all studies had to follow the same rules for who was included and excluded. Cancer studies must list everyone who drops out of a study as a failure, obesity studies are allowed to pretend they never were in the study, which makes diet interventions look far more successful than they are.

    • KFG says:

      The BMI chart is racist, classist, and sexist. It’s based on a chart created by a British doctor who only studied wealthy white men in the 1800s! It’s not at all accurate. I’m obese according to bmi and the barbaric doctor i see and yet the exercise specialist who did my body analysis found im primarily muscle. I can run and do planks no issue. I’m in better shape than most thin people. I only started seeing the bariatric doctor bc insurance requires it to deal with my hip and back pain. So yeah its bs. Lizzo can dance while playing flute and singing. Out of shape, unhealthy people can’t do that

      • Aevajohnson says:

        Adolphe Quetelet the creator of the BMI was actually a Belgian academic who never studied medicine but your 100% on every other point you make.
        He also was very clear when he created the BMI that it was NEVER intended as a measure of individual body fat, build, or health. He created the BMI solely as a way of measuring populations, not individuals- and it was designed for the purposes of statistics, not individual health.

        Modern medicine has completely misused the BMI and it’s disgraceful.

  4. K says:

    I love her. Always have. On a purely superficial note I could look at her all day.

  5. Cel2495 says:

    I simply love her and she is right. I have been struggling with my weight gain and hate how I look and was very hard on myself. My weight gain are due to my severe thyroid issues and autoimmune disease. Now that I have a handle on my conditions I am focusing on the weight and taking it one day at a time. It’s really scary because you can get diabetes ( my sugar levels are high not, not diabetic but I have to take care of it). Anyhow, yes, there are many reasons why people gain or loose weight and all doesn’t have to be related to food ( overeating or under eating).

  6. Louise177 says:

    Health always gets lost when discussing weight. It’s annoying when people say “why doesn’t she lose weight” or “she needs to eat a sandwich”. I say she since it’s usually complaints about women. Very often health issues not related to weight is an issue. Also someone who “looks” too thin or overweight may be in better condition than a “normal” looking person.

  7. Penguin says:

    As someone who has been struggling with body image my whole life, I really feel it’s important to separate body weight as an appearance indicator and body weight as a factor in a person’s health. So while I think that a person’s attractiveness has nothing to do with size, it is a significant factor in their health. Weight gain and loss as well as unusually high or low body weight is a symptom like any other. It might be nothing or it might indicate a bigger issue and it should be explored.

  8. Thelma says:

    She’s gorgeous. And I like the way she thinks about this issue.

  9. emmi says:

    Love her. She has such a great screen presence and exudes so much warmth, it’s super sexy.

    I think what often gets lost in the discussion is that there are, in fact, levels ob obesity. Some people are just a little overweight per BMI or whatever but eat mostly healthy and exercise. I’m in that group. I could stand to lose a few kilos still but I can run 5k in an okay time no problem so I don’t think heart disease or diabetes is imminent. My check-up results are always good. Once you get to morbidly obese, you most likely are dealing with trauma, mental health issues, etc. And then food is no longer the first thing to be adressed unless someone’s life is in danger. But even bariatric surgery won’t fix anything unless the underlying issues are tackled. There are many levels in between and I wish we could talk about it in a non-judgy, non-accusatory or even cruel way. Who’s going to be helped by that?

  10. Lucy2 says:

    Genetics and hormones play such a huge part. And when books work against you, it really sucks.

    I love her, I’ve always thought she is so beautiful and has such a wonderful movie star presence, it’s a shame she is always asked about her weight, and that she hasn’t been given more movies to really shine. But she seems to have a very good attitude towards her health, and hopefully inspires others to do the same.

  11. SpankyB says:

    I get so frustrated with people who have never had a weight problem say “just eat less!”. Yeah, no. Not everyone’s body is running at optimal levels for that to be a reality.

    Insulin is a hormone. It can be easily controlled by what you eat, or don’t eat (as long as you’re not Type 1 diabetic). I’m lucky in that I figured out that is what *I* need to do to stay healthy and keep weight off. Too many people are still struggling.

    I love Queen Latifah. I remember watching her videos on MTV (I’m that old) and just being spell bound by her. She has the “it” quality.

  12. JJS says:

    I’m glad she is doing this. I think people vastly underplay the role of genetics and hormones. Admittedly, I was trying to lose weight as a “lifestyle/forever” since I was in grade 5. Was athletic, ate only “healthy” food, was still “too big” compared to my peers (probably only 10 or 20lbs bigger than them then…) shamed by bullies, though I was the best female athlete in my class for a lot of things. Since then, I didn’t eat bread for a decade. Didn’t eat fried foods for a decade. Tried every healthy way of eating, am still overweight. The only thing that helped me feel good in adulthood was lifting weights.

    My kids eat mostly healthfully, as teens now they are healthy and also normal weights, I think they benefit from half of my husband’s genes which err more thin. I’ve been having crazy hormones the last few years, I was diagnosed hyperthyroid (Graves) six years ago (which I, I hate to admit, hoped would actually result in weightloss) after thankfully going on meds which caused my body to tack on another 30 lbs,(though more importantly am thankfully in remission for the last five years.)
    This is a long rant just to say, this is all more complicated than people give this credit for. There haven’t been enough studies yet and there is not a deep enough understanding of things like metabolism. I DO believe calories matter to some extent, but I just think everything is too simplified and there is too much hate out there. (I second the mention of Maintenance Phase, I encourage people to read those articles about biggest loser contestants…) I deeply wish I had a ‘problem’ I could hide from strangers.

  13. Eggbert says:

    She is the best, and I am so happy for her! She is just beautiful inside and out

  14. J. Ferber says:

    Multi-talented powerhouse. I like her in comedies and I’ll always like her song with the lyrics, “Who you calling a bitch?” It was a big deal at the time and still is. Good role model. Oh, and I loved her in Bessie (about Bessie Smith) with Monique as her love interest. Fine movie.