Queen Latifah Recalls Being Told She's in the 'Category of Obesity': 'It Pissed Me Off'

The actress talked about her work towards ending the stigma around obesity on Red Table Talk

Queen Latifah distinctly remembers the day she was told she would be considered obese.

The Equalizer star, 52, had recently started working with a new trainer who is "scientific and mathematic," Latifah explains in an exclusive clip from this week's episode of Red Table Talk.

The trainer had started showing Latifah body-focused charts, including one on BMI, or Body Mass Index.

"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," Latifah tells hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris.

"I was mad at that," she says. "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?' "

But as Latifah and Pinkett Smith go on to discuss, much about obesity and BMI is based on problematic racial and societal biases. BMI is calculated based on a person's height and weight, and the number is used to sort people into four categories: underweight, healthy, overweight or obese. The "ideal" measurements, though, are based on the body of a white European man in the mid-19th century and do not consider a person's ethnicity, gender or body makeup.

Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah. Dia Dipasupil/Getty

Research has shown that the BMI that is considered "obese" — 30 or over — is not true of everyone. A large 2003 study found that higher BMIs are not unhealthy for Black people, and Black women in particular do not see an increased mortality risk until they reach a BMI of 37. Yet, based on BMI, doctors often diagnose them with obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, and stigmatize them for being "overweight."

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Latifah has spent the last few years working to end the stigma around obesity and help people understand the difference between health and body size, and why they're not always connected.

"We need to change the conversation. We need to change the culture, we need to change the stigma that's involved in it," she told PEOPLE in May. "Let's just get real with it. And then let's back it up with some information that can empower you to do something about it, or change your mentality about it."

And after years in Hollywood, the Oscar nominee knows not to be bothered by comments about her body, and to turn down roles that would ask her to lose weight.

"I practice my no's," she said. "I go in the mirror and I say, no, no, no, no, like 20 times. And that's it. I need to be okay with me. If I'm okay then I feel like I can do anything. But if I'm not okay, I have to say something. Like, it's time to take a break, stop, cut."

A new episode of the Emmy-winning Red Table Talk on alopecia will stream Wednesday, June 8 at 9am PT/12pm ET on Facebook Watch.

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