(NEW YORK) — Queen Latifah is speaking out about her weight and why she’s angry at having been categorized as obese.
The actress and singer opened up on a new episode of “Red Table Talk” about the day a personal trainer told her she would be considered obese.
“She’s showing me different body types, and she’s telling me, this is what your BMI is, this is what your weight is, and you fall into this category of obesity,” said Latifah, referring to Body Mass Index, a measure of body fat based on height and weight, according to the National Institutes of Health.
“I was mad at that,” Latifah said in a preview clip for Wednesday’s episode of the Facebook Watch show. “It pissed me off. I was like, ‘What? Me?’ I mean, I’m just thick. She said you are 30% over where you should be. And I’m like, ‘Obesity?"”
Latifah also told the “Red Table Talk” co-hosts, Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris, that her body has been the subject of scrutiny her entire career. She said the scrutiny was especially prominent in the early 90s when she starred on In Living Single.
“We looked like four women who live in Brooklyn, and that’s what we were supposed to be representing and we loved being able to do that,” Latifah said of herself and her three co-stars.
“But the word came down that we needed to lose weight,” she continued. “We’re on the number one show among black and Latino households in America, and you’re telling us we need to lose weight. Maybe you’re the one with the problem.”
Latifah’s comments about her BMI and the scrutiny she faced have prompted a conversation about the use of BMI to determine health, especially in women of color.
BMI is calculated using a person’s height and weight to sort people into categories like underweight or obese. But experts say it does not distinguish between excess fat, muscle or bone mass. That’s why health providers only use it as one of many tolls to help determine a person’s health.
Maya Feller, a New York-based registered dietitian, said BMI does not take body composition into account, which can impact women of color.
“For women of color, we tend to have more muscle mass and also be in bigger bodies,” said Feller. “So the BMI will falsely say that we are in the overweight or obese category and then we get flagged, but we may be healthy metabolically.”
In another example, BMI may “overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have a muscular build,” according to the NIH.
Feller recommends that when it comes to health, a variety of factors beyond weight should be looked at by doctors and other health professionals.
“How’s your blood pressure? How’s your blood sugar? How are your lipids? We need to change the conversation to really be talking about metabolic health,” she said.
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