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Linda Fondren - Inspirational & Motivational Stories

Linda Fondren - Aims To 'Shape Up Vicksburg'

Nicknamed the "Hospitality State", Mississippi has ranked as the most obese state in the country for the last six years according to a 2009 report by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 34.4 percent of the adult population in the state are obese.

"Most people ... they do not know that they have a weight problem because we live in an environment where everyone almost looks the same," Linda Fondren, 54, says. Being overweight is so commonplace it is often considered normal. Even though she owns a gym in Vicksburg with over 600 active members, she still felt it was not enough to expand her reach to the community. She was determined to move her state from the fattest to the fittest and worked towards countering this increasing trend of unhealthy lifestyle choices. This paved the way for the ultimate birth of 'Shape Up Vicksburg' in October 2009, a strict 17 - week weight loss challenge which has now evolved into a walking club. The initiative aims at challenging residents to lose weight while at the same time giving them the necessary tools they need to live a consistently healthier lifestyle. Her programme also employs a balance of fitness and nutrition in the hopes that participants will be able to achieve and maintain a healthy weight over time. In addition, she has managed to convince many of the city's restaurants to add healthy items to their menus.Till date, approximately 2,500 people have joined Fondren's movement, and over the course of the programme have shed more than 5 pounds each on an average. "She takes no prisoners. She's committed to weight loss," said Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield, who lost 16 pounds. As of today, Shape Up Vicksburg a walking club of nearly 200 members, weekly nutrition classes and a gym which is open to all women every Saturday. Linda also teaches fitness classes at schools and churches regularly free of charge. "It's the poor African-American and white communities that are the most obese and those are the ones that are most unreachable," Fondren said.

A successful real estate developer by profession, Linda manages to fund this exercise on her own, but the initiative also receives donations from local businesses which drive her determination even further. Determined enough to want to expand across the state as well. She believes obesity is a life or death issue and the only way to overcome it is to stand together.

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