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Video: Supermodel’s daughter discusses obesity battle

  1. Transcript of: Supermodel’s daughter discusses obesity battle

    KATHIE LEE GIFFORD, co-host: Imagine you are the daughter of a supermodel. Now imagine you weigh 330 pounds.

    HODA KOTB, co-host: Wow. That's how Zulekha Haywood begins the story of her life in this month's Glamour magazine . She also writes a woman's worth can never be found on a scale. Zulekha who we will call Zu , hello. How are you?

    GIFFORD: Hey, Zu.

    Ms. ZULEKHA HAYWOOD (Author, "Imagine You Are the Daughter of a Supermodel"): Hi , ladies.

    GIFFORD: So nice to have you here.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: So nice to be here, thank you for having me.

    KOTB: So was there a lot of pressure, I mean, your mom is this incredible supermodel, Iman , and you have -- you struggled with your weight throughout your life, right?

    Ms. HAYWOOD: I did, I did. And you know, there was no pressure at home...

    KOTB: Uh-huh.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: ...for me to feel -- for me to fit into any sort of ideal because at home I'm a daughter to a mother and a father.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm. Yes.

    GIFFORD: And your father is a super athlete as well.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Yes, he was an Olympic -- he was an Olympic athlete. And you know, at home it was a completely different, you know, situation. I'm just -- I'm just their daughter and at the end of the day they just want me to be healthy.

    KOTB: You went up to 330 pounds, right?

    Ms. HAYWOOD: At my heaviest I was 330 pounds, yes.

    KOTB: And you tried every diet it sounds like.

    GIFFORD: Everything.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Everything.

    KOTB: What did you -- got through a couple of things you tried.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Well, I tried -- I tried pretty much the standard fare.

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: I tried Slim Fast , Atkins , Jenny Craig .

    GIFFORD: Right.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Some of those fad diets like the cabbage soup and the lemon juice and...

    GIFFORD: Oh, yeah, right.

    KOTB: Did they work for a while, all of them?

    Ms. HAYWOOD: All of them worked for a while, but at the -- you know, I would always gain the weight back plus interest.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: You know.

    GIFFORD: When you were young , your mother had a sweet way of telling you that it was enough.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: And she would say it in Italian and she would say basta?

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Yes.

    GIFFORD: Which she was saying, honey, not that's probably all you need. But ultimately, you ended up having to have the gastric -- you chose to have the gastric bypass .

    Ms. HAYWOOD: I did choose.

    GIFFORD: Tell us about that.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Well, I chose to have the gastric bypass . You know, and I should preface this by saying that I was always happy. You know...

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: ...at 330 pounds, at 320, whatever weight I was at, I was always very happy.

    GIFFORD: Right.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: But what happened is at age 26, I was having an increasingly hard time getting out of bed. I started to develop osteoarthritis at 26.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Well, you know, so that leads to heel spurs , you know, deterioration of the bones. And, you know, and I just wasn't feeling vital anymore. And if this is at 26...

    GIFFORD: Yes.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: ...then what's going to happen down the line? And you know, I had tried everything and gastric bypass was the last resort.

    GIFFORD: Last resort.

    KOTB: And whenever -- the weight came off and it came off over time , but what's the main difference you're feeling?

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Well, you know, the difference that I feel now is now that the weight is gone and that's no longer an issue for me, I really had to look within and figure out what exactly is it -- what it is for Zulekha to be happy?

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: And where is my self-worth now? And now I'm so much happier, not because I've lost the weight ...

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: ...but because I feel such a sense of contentment with myself.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Because I really -- with the -- with the weight gone, with the weight gone, I really went through a sort of spiritual transformation .

    KOTB: Really.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: And it wasn't just about buying skinny jeans and getting, you know, getting some new jackets.

    KOTB: Right.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: I really -- I really started to look and question what it meant for me.

    GIFFORD: The burden you were carrying.

    KOTB: Right.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Yeah. And what it means to be beautiful and what it means to be a woman.

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    KOTB: What about reaction from other people? Because I know every woman, and we all know if you've been overweight, they always say, `God, you have such a pretty face , you know, it would be good if you could work on that.'

    GIFFORD: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Yeah.

    KOTB: Do you -- are you getting just reaction from regular everyday people ?

    Ms. HAYWOOD: I get a lot of reaction from other people.

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: At my lowest was 160 pounds and a lot of people would just run up to me and be like, `Are you a model?'

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: And I mean, which is a strange thing to run up and ask anybody anyways.

    KOTB: Yeah. Right.

    GIFFORD: Well, another thing I remember reading was that you -- your pediatrician when you were young said to your mom, `You know what? You're going to have to be very careful with her.'

    KOTB: I found this interesting.

    GIFFORD: `Because she's got obesity, a tendency toward obesity on that side of your family .'

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: Right? So your mom was aware. So she wasn't trying to be harmful to you, she was trying to protect you from exactly what did happen to you.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Of course. She was just trying -- she was just doing what any mother would do.

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: You know, at the advice of a pediatrician. But you know, at eight years old, if you want a Twinkie , you're going to find a way to get it.

    KOTB: Yeah, sure.

    GIFFORD: Twinkie just turned 80, by the way.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Did it?

    GIFFORD: Yeah, it did.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Well, happy birthday .

    KOTB: What -- just quickly, what's your takeaway for people at home? There are a lot of people struggling with weight issues and they can't get it off and they can't -- they can't do gastric just for...

    Ms. HAYWOOD: Yeah.

    KOTB: ...you know, for a lot of reasons.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: You know, my takeaway -- my takeaway is that, you know, whatever size you're at, you have to find happiness within, and all of the answers will come from that place...

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: ...whether it's -- whether it's to lose weight . And at the end of the day , the numbers on the scale are inconsequential, it's about health.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: And if you don't feel healthy, you know, as a human...

    KOTB: Sure.

    Ms. HAYWOOD: ...rational acting being, you have -- you have an imperative to do something about it.

    GIFFORD: Take charge of it. Take charge .

    Ms. HAYWOOD: And to do something.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 4/9/2010 1:40:50 PM ET 2010-04-09T17:40:50

Her father is Spencer Haywood, a former Olympic basketball player and a legendary scorer in the NBA. Her mother is a supermodel so famous she needs only one name: Iman.

But Zulekha Haywood wasn’t like her parents. She wasn’t a super athlete like her father. And where her mother was sleek, “Zu,” as everyone calls her, was chunky.

OK, maybe a bit more than chunky. But let her tell you how it was: “Imagine you are the daughter of a supermodel. Now imagine you weigh 330 pounds.”

Those are the first two sentences of a first-person article Haywood wrote for the current issue of Glamour magazine. In it, she chronicles her lifelong battle with obesity and her eventual decision to have gastric bypass surgery three years ago.

Spiritual and physical transformation
After dropping to 160 pounds, which turned out to be too skinny for the six-footer, Haywood has settled in at 180 pounds. After a lot of soul-searching into what it means to be a woman and what it means to be beautiful, Haywood told TODAY’s Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford Friday that she’s found happiness.

“Now that the weight is gone and it’s no longer an issue for me, I really had to look within and figure out what is it that makes me happy and what is my self-worth now,” the 31-year-old writer said. “Now I’m so much happier — not because I lost the weight, but because I feel such a sense of contentment with myself. With the weight gone, I really went through a sort of spiritual transformation, and it wasn’t just about buying some skinny jeans and getting a new jacket.”

TODAY
Even as a young girl, Zulekha Haywood had a predisposition to obesity, her parents were told.
Haywood explained that she was never unhappy when she was super plus-size. Her parents hadn’t made her feel inadequate because of her size. They had been told when she was 4 that she had a predisposition to obesity and had tried to help her. But, she said, when you’re a clever kid and you want to get something to eat, you find a way to get it.

“There was no pressure at home for me to fit into any sort of ideal,” Haywood said. “At home, I am a daughter to a mother and a father. At home, it was a completely different situation. I’m just their daughter and at the end of the day, they just want me to be healthy.”

The predisposition to obesity came from her father’s side of the family, she wrote. His way to deal with it was what he called, “eat like a pig, run like a horse.” The more he ate, the harder he worked out to burn it off.

Back and forth
As a teen, Haywood tried that approach. She played tennis all summer and dropped 30 pounds, impressing her girlfriends when she got back to school. But without the constant exercise, she gained it all back.

TODAY
Zulekha Haywood before her weight loss. At her heaviest, she weighed 330 pounds; today she is about 180.
That was her history, said the woman who admitted to trying every diet in the book.

“I tried pretty much the standard fare,” Haywood told Gifford and Kotb. “I tried SlimFast, Atkins, Jenny Craig, some those fad diets like the cabbage soup, and lemon juice. All of them worked for a while, but I would always gain the weight back plus interest.”

Happy but not healthy
Health issues made her start thinking about a gastric bypass.

“I was always happy. At 330 pounds, at 320, at whatever weight I was at, I was always happy,” Haywood said. “But what happened was at age 26, I was having an increasingly hard time getting out of bed. I had started to develop osteoarthritis. That leads to heel spurs, deterioration of the bones, and I just wasn’t feeling vital anymore. If this is at 26, then what’s going to happen down the line? I tried everything, and gastric bypass was the last resort.”

TODAY
Young Zulekha with her famous mom, the international supermodel Iman.
She writes that she wound up in intensive care because of complications from the bypass. But Haywood recovered and the weight started melting off.

Suddenly, she started getting attention that she wasn’t used to.

“I get a lot of reaction from other people. At my lowest, I was 160 pounds, and a lot of people would run up to me and just, ‘Are you a model?’ which is a strange thing to run up and ask anybody,” Haywood said.

It sometimes annoyed her, and one time she exploded at a clerk in a store who said she looked like a model. Relating the incident in Glamour, Haywood writes she exploded, telling the woman: “You know, being a model is not the only thing an attractive woman can do with her life, and being beautiful is not the only thing that women should aspire to. I'm so sick of a woman's entire stock being in her looks!"

Haywood said she’s learned a lot about herself and about life since losing the weight.

“My takeaway is that whatever size you’re at, you have to find happiness within and all the answers will come from that place,” she said. “At the end of the day, the numbers on the scale are inconsequential.

“It’s about health, and if you don’t feel healthy, you have an imperative to do something about it.”

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