Dr. Ro, Fierces new nutrition adviser, sits down with MoNique to talk about the 92 pounds shes lost and how shes taking off even more weight, while focusing on her family and her new film.
You could call her an Oscar winner, talk-show host or comedian, but the girl once called Neeke by those who share her Baltimore roots prefers wife. Thats the role she unabashedly owns and lives to get right. Next to being Mrs. Sidney Hicks, MoNique is most proud of her role as mommy. She has four boys Shalon, 23, Michael, 10, and twins, David and Jonathan, 8.
Her philosophy is a departure from that of many women who find it difficult to prioritize their lives with such precision, particularly as it relates to where their children fall on the list. On this, MoNique is crystal clear. People will say well, why not mommy first? While acknowledging that she adores her boys, she says: I knew Sidney first and together, we are their parents. When they are older, they will have lives of their own and Ill still be his wife.
Speaking to MoNique is an exercise in familiarity. She makes you feel as if youve been sista-friends from way back. On the day I spoke with the actress, who made us feel her wrath and her pain in the film Precious, she was excited and passionate and even more vivacious than her character, Nikki Parker, on the television show The Parkers. This time it was her new lease on life that had her fired up.
Time for a Change
In 2009, shortly after the launch of MoNique, her nightly talk show on BET, she received a phone call from Margaret Avery, her co-star on Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins. (Avery was also nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Shug in The Color Purple.) She simply said to me, I need you to come down.
MoNique took Averys concern for the impact obesity could have on her health in the spirit of love that Avery intended and used it as motivation. Despite her efforts to lose weight, she knew that she had much more work to do. In fact, her willingness to accept constructive criticism and follow it up with determined, well-planned action has helped to catapult her through the successes she has experienced to date in fitness and on film.
At 5 feet 9 inches, MoNique had reached 300 pounds a figure even she found so startling that when her husband, Sidney, asked how much she weighed she could only bring herself to say, 267. Any number under 300 would do. She was facing a struggle familiar to millions of black women. Approximately four out of five African-American women are overweight or obese. Although obesity is not just a black womans problem it is rampant in the United States we have the highest rate in the nation. The effects on our health are devastating: Obesity is the No. 1 contributor to our communitys disproportionately high rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes and many other ailments.
But for MoNique, it was her husband Sidneys loving response to her 267 pounds that helped her make a change. He told her, I want you to be here. The combination of her husbands plea, her friend and mentor Averys entreaty and her desire to see her boys grow into adulthood fueled her decision to start her journey toward wellness. This has resulted not only in a 92-pound weight loss but also in a newly balanced life that includes eating more vegetables, weekly three-mile walks, and get this home schooling her youngest kids and serving as their gym teacher.
Hitting a New Goal
To transform her body, Mo Nique opened her mind and her taste buds to new experiences. During her days as Nikki Parker on the set of The Parkers, she recalls a co-star eating hummus. Suffice it to say, he got the side-eye for introducing such fancy foods.
Today, the chickpea dip is among her favorite snacks as well as kale patties with homemade salsa, okra, Swiss chard, black-bean burgers and, she enthusiastically adds, I never knew Brussels sprouts could taste so good! MoNiques progress has been slow and steady by design. I wanted to do it the right way so the weight would stay off, she says.
It took her three-and a-half years to lose the weight, and shes not done. She wants to get to 190 pounds, a weight at which she feels her best and most healthy.
Having had so much body fat to lose, she stoked her metabolic fires by first eliminating red meat and chicken and adding copious amounts of fresh vegetables, fruits and seafood to her meal plan, while drinking a minimum of 80 to 120 ounces of water a day. She has since re-introduced free-range chicken to her diet, but she is still on track.
MoNique keeps her heart rate up with cardio three times a week (walking hills and mountains, dancing and doing calisthenics including plenty of jumping jacks and jumping rope to keep it interesting for herself and the kids). The health benefits from her slow-and-steady program have paid off.
For the first time in my life, I can walk up and down stairs without running out of breath. Ive lowered my blood pressure and blood sugar. Everything is better!
And although she includes strength training in her fitness regimen for a healthy core and frame, she intends to keep her belly. My baby was sick one day and he said to me: Mommy, your tummy is soft; it makes me feel good.
I love my belly, MoNique admits. Its a part of who I am. If it makes my baby feel better, Ill keep it for him and for his babies to have a place to lay their heads when they come, too. Besides, my husband likes me a little fluffy and that works for me.
Her healthy body image comes with an understanding of the difference between fitness and fatness. She realizes that its possible to be a size 14 and fit or a size 4 and in terrible shape. Ultimately, MoNique seems most connected to the idea of loving yourself for what you are. She also sends a gentle reminder to her sistas that no matter what others (even the powers that be in Hollywood) think of you, be confident and OK with yourself flaws and all. Just make the adjustments you need to achieve better health.
So whats next for the woman who seems to have it all together but cautions that shes still a work in progress?
Look for Blackbird, her upcoming independent film produced by Hicks Media. It co-stars actor-producer Isaiah Washington (Dr. Preston Burke on ABC’s “Greys Anatomy” and John Allen Muhammad in Blue Caprice). Blackbird is the complex story of an age-old dilemma for the black community and church: sexuality and a mothers struggle to love her son, despite her religious dogma, and the choices the two must make.
After reading just one page of the script (based on a novel of the same name), MoNique says she felt the familiar chills she had experienced while reading the screenplay for Precious.
Of Blackbird, she says, you are sure to care about these characters and you will surely feel.
Its a gift she brings to the screen, large or small, whenever she appears. But an even bigger gift is her message of health and well-being. If you are still waiting for the perfect moment to mount your own fitness challenge, MoNique advises: Don’t wait for a wedding or class reunion to get your body right. Push yourself. Surprise yourself. Love yourself. Right now!
Rovenia M. Brock, Ph.D., also known as Dr. Ro, is Americas Nutrition Coach and author of Dr. Ros Ten Secrets To Livin Healthy (Bantam Books). For Dr. Ros tips on nutrition, visit www.everythingro.com.