When Memphis topped the list recently, according to Newsweek magazine, the self-proclaimed prophet of “healthy living for African-Americans” came out fighting.
For nearly a decade, cities in the south have led the nation in highest obesity numbers. But when Memphis topped the list recently, according to Newsweek magazine, the self-proclaimed prophet of “healthy living for African-Americans” came out fighting.
“We’ve always been a few places down the list, ”said Dr. Clarence Davis of Blue Cross Blue Shield. “Several cities in Mississippi generally dominate the top spots. But this year, Memphis was named the fattest city. Mississippi has been on their game, and it was time to get on ours.”
| Since The Healthy Church Challenge 100-day weight loss competition first began, nearly 1,000 participants have lost collectively more than 1,700 pounds. The competition attracted men and women, including family members such as Nygel Yancey, 15, who continues to work out and weigh in with his parents, Johnny and Marcquinne Yancey. The Yanceys are members of Spirit of Life Church. (Photo by Wiley Henry/The Carter Malone Group)
“The church in my thinking was the natural place to start,” said Dr. Davis. “It has always been a place of mobilizing our community and inspiring unity concerning issues of importance. And you can just look at those church dinners and see how unhealthy our diets have become.”
According to the Office of Minority Health, African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure. Renal failure, stroke, blindness, and heart disease are chronic conditions linked to obesity. The other two major risk factors are genetics and harmful lifestyle choices, namely, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.
A ‘biggest loser’ speaks out
Even if his church doesn’t walk away on June 17th with the contest’s top prize, Grady Cowley has already won big. Weighing in initially at 330 lbs., he has lost a whopping 25 lbs. in only 60 days. He accepted the challenge for all the right reasons.
“For me, it was all a matter of improving my health. I have high blood pressure and diabetes. I choose to live. I choose to makes the lifestyle changes that will help me get healthy and enjoy a more fulfilling life,” said Cowley.
“I don’t want to be a statistic, so when I heard about the challenge, I knew this was something I really wanted to do, something I had to do if I wanted to get back down to a healthy weight.”
It really wasn’t that hard to do,” said Cowley.
“I have eliminated fried foods from my diet and paid closer attention to the size of my portions. I had been so sedentary, and I knew I had to make some real changes. My life depends on it. So I walk every evening after having a snack. I substituted dinner for a snack, a piece of fruit, a serving of vegetables, or a cup of fat-free yogurt.
“I feel better and the weight just began to drop off,” said Cowley. “My wife, Shirley, keeps me in line and walks with me. After the challenge is over, I plan to continue these healthy habits. These changes are long overdue, and participating in this weight-loss challenge was just the help I needed to do what I should have done.”
A pastor leads by example
The Rev. Patrick Lewis, pastor of St. Matthew Baptist Church-Pendleton Street, joined 20 members of his church in accepting the challenge. At the 60-day weigh-in this past Saturday, Rev. Lewis had lost 13lbs.
“We have all become so excessive and undisciplined in our eating habits and failing to exercise. In the early 1900’s, we lived on the land. We worked in the field, and all that unhealthy pork and fatback our people ate was sweated off working all day,” said Lewis.
“Our people must begin making changes in how we live. I didn’t get in this condition overnight, and I know it’s going to take some time to come out of it. This is where perseverance and a made-up mind come in.
“This contest has helped me to return to the healthy eating habits I have neglected,” said Lewis.
“I now walk in the morning a couple of miles, and one or two in the evening. I weighed in at 215 lbs. I’d like to lose 30 altogether and maintain the healthy habits I have developed. It is very encouraging to see some of my members join me, but this decision was an individual thing.
“I want to be the best I can be for the Lord. Remaining healthy is crucial.”
Others will be motivated
More than 1,000 participants from 50 churches have taken up the challenge. Dr. Davis hopes that others will be motivated to make similar lifestyle changes. Challengers are boasting a total of nearly 1,700 lbs.
The winner will be announced on June 17 at the upcoming Juneteenth celebration.