Laila Ali on how to keep your New Year's resolutions

Photo by Johnny Louis/FilmMagic

Retired boxer and daughter of Muhammad Ali, Laila Ali is a healthy lifestyle advocate and cookbook author.

It's a new year and time for a new (and possibly, improved) you. Retired boxer and healthy lifestyle advocate Laila Ali wants to ensure you take the next 12 months to invest in a better you. Doing better is her mantra and she wrote the book, literally, on living well without sacrificing comfort. Ali discussed her resolutions, inspirations and what she thinks will help 2019 be your best year yet.

espnW: You advise people on becoming their best selves. What inspires you to do so?

Laila Ali: Just people. I'm inspired by people that are brave enough to share their truths. That's why I'm so passionate about health and wellness. My goal is to help people gain control of their lives. That's why I do the work that I do. For me, this is just natural.

espnW: Seems like everybody resolves to eat better and be healthier in the new year. What are your tips on doing so?

LA: Keep it basic. Stay away from the processed foods and other things that come out of a package. If there are 25 ingredients listed on the package and you don't know what those items are and don't understand how they might impact your body -- it's not for you. It's not made to help your body function at its best. As soon as we get off processed foods -- even if you're a vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian -- the better off we are.

I encourage people to eat whole foods, including lean proteins. I suggest that everyone add more veggies and fruit to their diets. Another obvious one is to drink a ton of water and stay away from sugary drinks.

Everyone can make smarter choices with their diet. For example, have a big salad before your main dinner course. Even if you have a fast food burger, have that salad ahead of it. It could help crowd out the bad. I suggest people focus on what they can add to their diet versus what they can take away. 

espnW: You've also made a point to address the African-American community and what we can do to adjust our diets. Please discuss.

LA: I'm an African-American woman, and I know what we like to eat. Any time we see a black person on the cover of a book, [like my "Food for Life" cookbook release in 2018], we automatically think ... "Oh, this is for us." And we all enjoy soul food, not just black people. I want people to enjoy what they are eating, but doing so in a manner that feeds their body. Also, I know that in our community we have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, which is directly related to our lifestyle choices. It's really about bringing it back to the basics and moving away from processed foods and junk foods. We also need to be more active. I encourage people to get up and go.

espnW: In spring 2018 you were named as the ambassador for the TIAA Difference Maker 100 program, which honors everyday folk who work in the nonprofit sector and how they impact the world for the better. In your opinion, what is the definition of a difference-maker?

LA: Having a positive impact on the world and giving back to others, doesn't matter if it's your time or money, you're making the world a better place. We should all do a little. Touch other people's lives for the better. Be intentional in not just thinking about yourself, but thinking of others as well.

espnW: Who inspires you?

LA: Educators, because they take time to prepare the next generation for the world. Educators and parents give children the tools they need to have confidence in themselves and to build their own lives. I'm also inspired by Michelle Obama. From her book to her overall influence, she uses her platform to better the world. As a mother, wife and African-American, I couldn't think of a better example of just being positive.

Watching these inspiring people sort of regenerates me.

espnW: What's on your vision board for 2019?

LA: I ran out of space on that vision board, girl! I'm excited to be coming out with my nutrition line; it's launching in 2019. I also created a line of spices, it's a passion project for me. I will be working hands-on with these projects, and I hope to launch those both in the second quarter of '19. It's an exciting time.

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