Kid Reporters

Fighting for Kids' Health

Champion boxer Laila Ali does her part to knock out childhood obesity

December 10, 2010

Laila Ali is the daughter of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. She is also a champion boxer herself. Now, she is part of the fifth annual Anthem Blue Cross Live Like A Champion Tour. It is a 16-week program designed to help California kids be active so they can fight a tough opponent—childhood obesity.

Through the end of 2010, Live Like A Champion events will bring professional athletes to communities across California. The goal: to encourage kids to be physically active by engaging them in sports-themed activities. Ali, 32, runs a section at each event called Champ Corner, where kids get to fight a round in the ring against a speed bag. Ali also teaches kids the importance of doing exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups and jumping rope. She spoke with TFK about sports and the need to have a healthy lifestyle.

TFK:

Why did you get into boxing? Did anyone try to stop you?

Laila Ali:

I got into it because I wanted to. It was something I wanted to do that I felt I was going to be good at. Nobody really liked the idea of it. But I've always been someone who does what I want to do; I'm not ever concerned about what somebody else thinks.

TFK:

What was it like growing up with such a famous dad?

Ali:

I never knew any other life. For me, it was growing up publicly, having people around all the time. Everyone knows your dad; everyone knows who you are, so you don't live a very private lifestyle. But my dad was such a great role model for me I wouldn't have it any other way.

TFK:

Why did you want to be part of Live Like a Champion?

Ali:

I wanted to be part of it because I understand how important it is for us as adults and athletes to put positive messages out there about being healthy and helping kids understand why they need to incorporate into their lives healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle overall. I think it's really important—because kids look up to us as athletes—for us to be there and speak directly to them, exercise with them and let them know we care. That helps them and makes them feel good.

TFK:

What's it like working with kids?

Ali:

For me, being that I have my own child, it's great. Kids are our future. When you are a positive role model, you definitely have to get out there and do your part.

TFK:

Kid Reporter
Jamie Paterno Ostmann

Why do you want to fight childhood obesity? Do you have some connection with it?

Ali:

My sister was overweight when she was younger, but that's not really why. It's bigger than just me and my experience. And, it's not about just about being thin or the way you look, it's about the way that you feel about yourself. Kids are not as active these days [as they should be] and it's just not healthy. They can develop diabetes or heart problems.

TFK:

What do you eat to stay fit?

Ali:

I just eat a very balanced diet. I eat a lot of vegetables, a lot of salads. I eat lean meats and fish. I eat whole grains. I drink a lot of water and take vitamins. I sometimes have ice cream and cake and things that I love, because I believe we should be able to do that in moderation. I usually save that for the weekend.

TFK:

How do you get kids to get fit and eat right?

Ali:

With my own child, I'm going to be a positive example and provide the right kinds of food in the house. I think that's what all parents need to do. They need to be better about not eating out or buying processed. I think that once that foundation is there, kids learn that food doesn't have to taste bad just because it's good for you. Then it's easier.

TFK:

What advice would you give kids who want to be athletes?

Ali:

While they are in school they should make sure that their education comes first. It's not easy to make it as an athlete, but if you are one of those very talented kids who can make it, it's school first, and then be prepared to work as hard as you can to be better than everybody else.

TFK:

Do you have any special advice for girls who are athletes?

Ali:

I tell all people [both boys and girls] to do what's in your heart and not be worried about what anyone else thinks. You have to make your own decisions in life. [That way] you won't have any regrets later in life that you listened to other people and did not follow your heart.


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