After obesity factored in her sister’s death, Linda Fondren made it her mission to get Mississippi, the country’s most overweight state, into shape. Fondren, 55, is personally financing fitness and nutrition classes throughout her town with money she earned in real estate so that those with the highest need and the fewest resources can be helped.
Aware that her sister had been too embarrassed to exercise at a gym with men, Fondren opened an all-female workout facility in 2006, the Shape up Sisters, home to 600 members. Shape up Vicksburg came in 2009, and includes a walking club, weekly nutritional meeting and access to her gym — all free. Participating residents of Vicksburg have lost 15,000 pounds since Fondren started the project.
Linda Fondren is making history … motivating residents of the hospitality state to shed pounds, lowering their risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke and death. She has even signed on the mayor of Vicksburg, who has since lost 16 pounds.
What’s next for Linda?
Linda Fondren is currently seeking a ban on smoking on all tax-paid properties in Vicksburg, and SUV is expanding its online presence through a website and other social media to serve as a model for other communities that wish to build similar programs.
In her own words …
“By getting the spirit out among the people in Mississippi that we can have healthy equality in our communities, but we have to forge ahead,” she told theGrio. “If we want better education, we must talk it up, if we want better health, we must talk about the proposed improvements we can do. This is the only great way that I know to set a foundation in a state that has been plagued with racism and health disparities, but a state that has been kind to me. Blacks and whites are more unified than ever before, but with a majority of powerful voices dividing the have and have-nots in our nation, I will not turn my back on the persistent disparities in area of health, education, crime and jobs that continue to break down the color line.”
What inspires Linda?
“I inspire me. I give myself a challenge, I succeed, I am inspired to do more,” she told theGrio. “What inspires me are real stories people tell about a positive transformation in their life.”
A little-known fact …
In the United States, 63.1 percent of adults are overweight, and African-Americans are 40 percent more likely to be obese than white Americans.
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