Zulekha Haywood, the 31-year-old daughter of supermodel Iman and former basketball player Spencer Haywood, wrote an essay for Glamour magazine in which she said after ballooning to more than 330 pounds and having unsuccessfully tried almost all of the weight loss programs on the market, she underwent gastric bypass surgery. A year later, she's not a size 26 anymore -- she's a svelte size 6 and weighs 165 pounds.
She said: "I have more or less been on a diet since I was eight years old. None of them worked. An overweight kid and already dining for sport, my first was the “basta” diet. At home, my mother, Iman, a beauty icon and devotee of clean eating, would whisper "basta" (“enough” in Italian) when I was in danger of overeating."
While she said she often followed Iman's command, she would then raid the refrigerator when everyone was asleep and traded her healthy school lunch to others for baked goods and other unhealthy options.
Here's what else she said:
It wasn’t easy being a heavy, ungraceful teenager when looks and athleticism came so naturally to my parents. As a child I knew that my mother was lovely and people liked to photograph her, but when I was old enough to understand that she was a legendary beauty, I was left questioning my own self-worth because I didn’t look like her. I wasn’t physically lean and powerful like my father, so I didn’t fit in that world either. I was an outlier, and I was determined to find a third option. To be happy with my looks, to accept my body at 300-plus pounds and to love myself, with all of that weight, felt revolutionary. Subversive, even.
So I searched for beauty icons who seemed more accessible and real. Role models like my aunt Dia, who, at 5’3” and size 18, made her entrance at one family reunion in a studded halter catsuit and stilettos. When someone snickered as she sauntered by, she threw her hand on her hip with sass and laughed: “Don’t hate on my shape!” We couldn’t pull her off the dance floor. For me, she was beautiful because she lived joyfully and without apology. That’s exactly what I wanted to do.
I largely succeeded. My life was full of love, fun and adventure, but eventually it would have been hampered by health problems—and possibly cut short. My BMI was a soul-crushing 46 (healthy is between 18 and 25). Being that morbidly obese could cut my life expectancy in half, doctors had told me, and put me at risk for diabetes and heart disease. I already had osteoarthritis, hence the slow climb out of bed each morning, and high blood pressure. So I celebrated that twenty-eighth birthday—and then made an appointment with a surgeon who specializes in gastric bypass. After dozens of questions and medical tests, I walked out with a presurgery packet.
Not long before my operation, I was at my mother’s house sharing a laugh while she cooked lunch. “At least you’ll never have to say basta again,” I told my mother. “I won’t be able to eat as much anymore.” She looked at me with an expression that said being hypervigilant about her daughter’s diet had never been pleasurable. “I had to watch your weight as a child,” she said. “Your pediatrician told me that you were going to be obese when you were four years old. At four, she knew!” She turned around and finished cooking, but I was stunned. What was my mother supposed to do with that information? She had tried her best, I realized. As a child, I had been so angry with her. Now my compassion for her nearly brought me to tears.