Friday, April 9, 2010

WLS Heroes: Zulekha Haywood

I'm late to the party on this one. But better late than never.

Zulekha Haywood is the daughter of supermodel Iman (pre-Bowie) and basketball star Spencer Haywood. She is also a badass RNY post-op who, in the March edition of Glamour, told an RNY story that counterbalances a lot of what you see in the media about depressed/crazy 600-pound people in obesity hospitals. She's young at 31, hip, and vibrant. I relate to several aspects of her story.

Here's a part of her article that particularly resonated with me:

Six months in, I was down another 80 pounds. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to shop in a plus-size store. (Yay, H&M!) But it felt foreign and made me anxious. There were so many things to choose from, I enlisted friends to help me shop, because I couldn’t tackle it all at once.
Yeah, this. I still find shopping in regular stores weird and overwhelming even at a year out.

I mentioned in a previous post how long it was taking me to find a dress for an event this weekend. I spent hours shopping for the past 4 days after work. I probably tried on over 100 dresses. I returned to some stores 2 or 3 times. I only need one dress, but I bought two (cheap - Ross and JC Penney). It was a huge ordeal for an event that is really not that serious. But I'd never bought a dress in a regular size before - never! I didn't know how to conceptualize being a part of that.

It was also creepy how nice salespeople were to me, even at skinny people stores like White House Black Market. I still half-expected someone to kick me outta there.

I also loved Zulekha's list of previously attempted diets at the end of her article, and her closing comment about them:

You Name the Diet, I Bet I’ve Tried It

I did them all, and that includes:

Jenny Craig I lost 40 pounds with Jenny until I stopped buying the pre-portioned meals.
Slim-Fast Left me watching the clock from shake to shake.
Diet Pills I nearly didn’t walk across the stage at my college graduation because I was jittery from appetite suppressants.
What started as The. Best. Diet. Ever. ended with weeklong bouts of constipation.
Cabbage Soup
Gave me gas.
Master Cleanse The cayenne pepper and lemon juice in this detox left me with horrible acid reflux.

Surgery was an extreme step, but it taught me and my body what my parents had preached all those years: At 31, I now know it really is about eating right and exercise.
(emphasis added).
All I can say to Slim-Fast, Atkins, and Cabbage Soup is LOL. I can sympathize with some of her comments there, particularly re: Slim Fast!

I didn't do Jenny, but I did Nutrisystems, which is basically Jenny without the counseling sessions. That food was tasty. But I didn't even lose any weight on them because I acquired a habit of eating more than one meal at a time . . . heh! :-/ And, thank God, I never did Master Cleanse. Cayenne and lemon juice? Blech. I did, however, do a bunch of other diets. Too many to list right now. I took a bunch of diet pills too. I was more a fan of the ones that kept you from absorbing calories (e.g., Xenical, Alli), not the ones that left you without an appetite (most of them.) I knew early on that my problem wasn't physical hunger; I just liked to eat and it didn't matter whether I was hungry or not.

Of course, her last comment is Spot. On. Sure, I could have realized it was about diet and exercise without surgery, but I didn't have the physical and spiritual tools to make it last. I hope I do now. I don't want to be a major regain story.

Finally, I loved the last line of her article:

Looking back, the lesson that a woman’s worth can never be found on a scale is one that I have known all along. I’m proud of the fact that at 330 pounds, I didn’t hide from life, and I didn’t let my weight define me. At 165 pounds, I won’t do that either.
I can't say I sympathize with this. I wish I could.

I never let my weight hold me back from opportunities, but I did allow it to define me in important ways. The very outgoing persona I had in middle school in high school had the express purpose of deflecting attention from my weight. The persona served me well, but it wasn't genuine. I'm an introvert.

When I started law school at a little over 200 pounds, I was actually a little freaked out because classmates would forget my name or confuse me with other people. It was almost like I was just some generic no-name without my full obese flower blooming. Then, the next thing I knew, I was back at 300 pounds - no one ever confused me with anyone else at that weight!

Whatever. I'm rambling. But, Viva Zulekha! You absolutely MUST read the entire story at

I want to hang out with her. Or, at the very least, I would prefer for her to be the public face of RNY, as opposed to Star, or even Al, or certainly the hapless people often featured on True Life or other reality shows featuring WLSers.

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