Wednesday, April 8, 2020

WARRIOR SPOTLIGHT: Laila Ali, Athlete/Lifestyle Coach/Entrepreneur

by Cyrus Webb

People literally around the world love Laila Ali, not just just for what she has achieved in the ring but in life overall. As a bestselling author, brand ambassador and entrepreneur she has shown by example what is achievable as well as what it takes to make it happen.

She and I first connected in 2019, and her love of service came through in everything she talked about. In this conversation she shares her passion and purpose, proving why she is worthy to be celebrated as a warrior.

Thank you so much, Laila for your time. First of all what has it been like for you to be able to share your passion of food and also sports with the world?
It’s been fun! I mean, I'm someone who's always gone after my dreams, whatever it is that I'm interested in and passionate about. I just go for it, you know? So I have really tried to encourage others to do the same. I decided to become a boxer. I remember people saying, ‘Oh, why are you boxing? You're a woman. You're too pretty. You won't be able to do it.’  And I said, ‘Hmm, watch me.’ So I did that. And then I learned a lot. I learned a lot about health and wellness and just how food affected my body.
That's when I really became passionate about encouraging people, especially African Americans because we die at high rates and suffer from heart disease, diabetes, obesity and all these things that most of the time come from lifestyle choices. So using that information, knowing that, I was able to change my body and change the way that I think and change how I perform just from eating a certain way. It was really what made me want to go after that market and just try to help encourage other people to do the same.

That's why you have such respect, because you're not just talking to talk, but you're walking the walk as well. People can look at your example and be able to tell what you've been able to do. So then when you share information like you do in your book FOOD FOR LIFE it’s not just about food that is good for you, but also food that tastes good as well. Do you find that is the perfect combination to be able to get people to looking at their eating habits differently?
Honey, nobody's gonna want to make food or eat food that doesn't taste good. I am not a fanatic. There's certain people who are like, you know, they're vegan or they're plant-based or you know, they never eat sugar or they never eat fried food. I'm not that person. It's what you do 75% to 80% of the time that matters. And you know what? I was healthy 10 years ago, but I'm healthier now, because I continue learning and trying to refine things and get even better. But you've got to start somewhere. And I think a lot of times people are overwhelmed because they're being told you can't eat this, you can't eat that.

It sounds like you’re saying it’s about taking it one day at a time.
What I try to do is say what can you add to your daily meal plan? What can you add to your life if you're not drinking any water? Can you drink a glass of water? Can you have a salad with your meal? When you start seeing how different it feels it encourages you to want to do more. So my book for example has fried chicken, Mac and Cheese, Jambalaya and pizza. It's like how can we take these foods and just make them healthier by choosing the best quality ingredients that we can.
One thing we have to understand, especially in our community, is it might taste a little different, but it's still good. So we just got to get out of the way. Certain people are like, ‘Wow, I've been cooking this way for this many years.’ And it's like, and how was your health? Aren't you on such and such medication? Don't you want to get off that medication? And we can. We can heal ourselves. It happens with the food we eat and the choices we make.

Layla, that seems to tie in with your whole platform, the importance of our lifestyle choices and our mindset. Do you think that is where a lot of your satisfaction comes from when you hear from people about how you were able to get them to not only look at food differently but also themselves differently?
Oh, absolutely. I mean, first of all, you have to know that you have the power to make changes and that you are going to have to make changes. That's one thing that you're going to have to accept. If you think the same as you did 20 years ago you're not advancing. We're supposed to learn. We're supposed to grow.

For someone to say, well, I've been doing this for this many years is not good enough, especially if you're not successful. You see what I'm saying? When I say successful, I'm talking about health-wise. I’m talking about living with vitality, not just making it, not just going through life, worried about your bills and worried about how you're gonna make ends meets. That's not really what life is supposed to be about. I understand that we have those things that we need to think about, but if you don't have your health, you don't have anything. You know what I mean? And a lot of times we get caught up wanting things that we don't always need and spending our money on things that we don't necessarily need, but we don't want to spend the time, the money, the investment that it takes to go take some time to get some exercise.
We put so much in our bodies that we have to think about what are doing to really honor the temple that we have. We only have one body. We only have one life to live.  One thing I never wanted to regret is doing the best that I can to honor this body and take care of myself.

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