Cover image for Shape up sisters! : what it took for my town in one of America's fattest and poorest states to lose 15,000 pounds : the permanent weight-loss and fitness program for the rest of us
Title:
Shape up sisters! : what it took for my town in one of America's fattest and poorest states to lose 15,000 pounds : the permanent weight-loss and fitness program for the rest of us
Author:
Fondren, Linda, author.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Emmaus, Pennsylvania : Rodale Books, 2014.
Physical Description:
xiv, 226 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Summary:
"Straight talk and a simple, easy-to-maintain diet and exercise plan for people who think they don't have the money or time to lose weight. Linda Fondren, one of 11 children born to a single mother in the poorest and fattest state in America, watched the consequences of obesity ruin her sister's life--and was motivated to open an all-female gym in her hometown of Vicksburg, MS, with the motto "positively reshaping women." Then, witnessing how many middle- and low-income Vicksburg residents were brought up short in their fitness and health efforts by limited budgets, time, and access to resources, Fondren responded by striking at the root problem. In 2009, she spearheaded Shape Up Vicksburg, a City Hall-supported program in which she convinced the local hospital to offer free health screenings, restaurants to create healthy low-cal menu options, and Walmart to host weigh-in stations. Fondren signed up more than 2,500 Vicksburg residents to take charge of their health and nutrition--many of them for the first time. They lost more than 15,000 pounds. Shape Up Sisters! is a get-healthy prescription for regular people with jobs, budgets, and real-life challenges. Fondren offers tactics to incorporate exercise into daily activities, delicious recipes and menus to for eating healthfully on a budget, and motivation for a major attitude shift. She wraps it all in her empowering personal story and the uplifting tales of women who have changed their lives by following her simple strategies. With Fondren's approachable personality and practical advice, Shape Up Sisters! is both an easy-touse guide and a bold statement in the greater national narrative about improving health and weight loss across socioeconomic lines"--
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781623361440
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Linda Fondren, one of 11 children born to a single mother in the poorest and fattest state in America, watched the consequences of obesity ruin her sister's life--and was motivated to open an all-female gym in her hometown of Vicksburg, MS, with the motto "positively reshaping women." Then, witnessing how many middle- and low-income Vicksburg residents were brought up short in their fitness and health efforts by limited budgets, time, and access to resources, Fondren responded by striking at the root problem. In 2009, she spearheaded Shape Up Vicksburg, a City Hall-supported program in which she convinced the local hospital to offer free health screenings, restaurants to create healthy low-cal menu options, and Walmart to host weigh-in stations. Fondren signed up more than 2,500 Vicksburg residents to take charge of their health and nutrition--many of them for the first time. They lost more than 15,000 pounds.

Shape Up Sisters! is a get-healthy prescription for regular people with jobs, budgets, and real-life challenges. Fondren offers tactics to incorporate exercise into daily activities, delicious recipes and menus to for eating healthfully on a budget, and motivation for a major attitude shift. She wraps it all in her empowering personal story and the uplifting tales of women who have changed their lives by following her simple strategies.

With Fondren's approachable personality and practical advice, Shape Up Sisters! is both an easy-to-use guide and a bold statement in the greater national narrative about improving health and weight loss across socioeconomic lines.


Author Notes

Linda Fondren owns and manages Shape Up Sisters, a fitness company for women based in Vicksburg, MS. She is a certified personal trainer and is on the board of the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce. In 2010, she was named a CNN Hero for her work with Shape Up Vicksburg. She lives in Vicksburg with her husband.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Fondren, owner and manager of Vicksburg, Miss.-based female fitness center Shape Up Sisters, offers a how-to on battling obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, as well as sharing the inspirational story of her life, family, and hometown. As one of 11 children, Fondren grew up in one of the poorest states with an "over-the-top" obesity rate; after losing several family members to obesity-related illnesses, she was determined to educate others about exercise and eating well, with an emphasis on community support as a key to long-term success. Fondren discusses the launch of Shape Up Sisters, follows with "Mother Wit" (advice on adjusting thought patterns to tap into emotional and physical strength), and concludes with a practical guide on nutrition and exercise using resources found in everyday life. The book provides accessible suggestions for beginners, especially those battling obesity. Fondren's encouraging, urgent tone is infectious and will appeal to readers who want to change their lives. After hearing Fondren's story and encouraging advice, it's impossible not to feel empowered to focus on personal wellness, and to get others on the path to health as well. Agent: Lynn Johnston, Lynn Johnston Literary. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Excerpts

Excerpts

What I Came From NO MATTER WHAT YOUR STORY HAS BEEN, you can write yourself a new one. No matter what has happened to you, your past does not define your future. No matter what choices you've made in your life, at any moment you can start making different ones. Have the drive and desire to go for it and take a chance on change, because you cannot leave the world the way you found it. Listen to me here. I know this from personal experience. I can't talk about my life without first talking about where and what I came from. The places you have lived can shape you as powerfully as the genes that get passed down from your family members. Here's some background: Today, Vicksburg, Mississippi, is the seat of Warren County, 45 minutes west of Jackson, the state capital. About 23,000 people live in town and another 23,000 or so live in the surrounding area. But you can't understand the place without first talking about its link to the Mississippi River and the Civil War. A horseshoe bend in the Mississippi River gave birth to Vicksburg. It had long been a hunting and fishing ground for the native Natchez and Choctaw Indians. In 1825 it became a town, and five flags have flown from its bluff- -French, Spanish, English, Confederate, and American. The combination of agriculture, the traffic from barges moving supplies up and down the river, and the railroad made it a prosperous place (it was also full of gamblers and saloons). Vicksburg is where Joseph Biedenharn bottled Coca-Cola for the first time, in 1894. It is most famous, however, for its role during the Civil War. Holding Vicksburg was the key to controlling the Mississippi River, so in 1863, she was besieged by Union forces and became a memorable chapter in history, ending the war. I wish I could say that all was peaceful and prosperous after that, but you all know history wasn't that kind. In the late 1800s racists murdered some 50 black men in what has come to be known as the Vicksburg Massacre, and the cycle of lynching and voter suppression continued well into the civil rights era. Today, blacks no longer belong to whites. And Vicksburg's white supremacists no longer patrol the streets with guns to convince black voters to stay home on Election Day. Yet, we still do. The jobs that left in the boom years have never really returned. Poverty and a resigned sense that "things will always be this way" make for a legacy that's hard to shake. Mississippi has a tortured past, but it also has an evolving future. I confronted my past when I married a white man and moved back to my hometown to help make a difference. But, there are a few things you need to know first. Comedian Steve Martin had a joke that began, "I was born a poor black child . . ." Well, in my life it was no joke. I was one of 13 children born during a time in the South when it was not okay for people who looked like me to walk through the front door of nice establishments. We lived in a series of shotgun houses, wherever we could afford rent, in different parts of Vicksburg. We were poor, plain and simple. A decent meal was hard to come by. I remember eating sugar sandwiches when there was nothing else to put between two pieces of white bread. There were some bright spots, though. For instance, sometimes in the summer we would stay with our Aunt Francis and Cousin Jenni in the country outside of town known as Rose Hill. Jenni owned a small store that was a gathering place for blacks and the core of the Rose Hill community. On Sunday after church, the store was the most crowded, and it was the place we kids grouped together, eating candy and playing. Aunt Francis was a big woman who could cook anything and always wore an apron. I see her as Aunt Jemima from the syrup ads because she always had a bandanna on her head. We would listen to her ghost stories at night and her tales about working the cotton fields in the daytime. She was always rubbing us down with her healing herbs if we were sick. Aunt Francis had a garden around her house, and most of the food we ate came from her land. I can't remember opening a can of anything. We were shooed away from playing near the vegetable gardens, but we had chores like feeding the chickens and hogs, gathering kindling and wood for the stove, helping churn butter, and making ice cream. When we weren't doing chores, we played tag outside, running and chasing each other. Although we were poor, those times we stayed with Jenni were the most healthy and wholesome of our young lives. Back at home in town, my mother was always exhausted from childrearing and working the night shift at Goldie's Trail Bar-B-Que. She was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed well over 200 £ds. I can't remember a time I saw her happy. She was always yelling at us. Perhaps the lingering memory of being abandoned by her own mother as a child kept her sad, upset, and confused. In one of her confused moments, I was hurt badly in a kitchen accident. With so many young kids to control, she had a habit of throwing a shoe at us when we were rowdy or disobedient. One time she meant to throw her shoe at me but instead threw the butcher knife in her other hand that she'd been using in the kitchen. I don't remember what happened, but my siblings tell me I was taken to a veterinarian--maybe because there were no doctors close to us, maybe because good doctors didn't treat black folks back then. I don't think I'll ever know for sure. The veterinarian bandaged my wound, but the bleeding would not stop, so they finally took me to the hospital. The emergency room doctor told my family that the knife came 2 inches from my heart. My mother must have been sick for a long time before she finally went to a doctor herself, but by then the cancer that started in her uterus had spread throughout her body. Her only relief was a morphine drip. They gave us her cancer diagnosis, and she was dead within months. She was only 39 years old. She died when I was in seventh grade, and that's when I quit school. There was no one to tell me to keep going. My father's presence in our lives was random at best. I still can't tell for sure if there were simply too many of us for him to support or if he just up and left us. I want to believe he could not get help, so he did the best he could by dropping off a couple bags of groceries to the house once a week. It was never enough though, so we quickly learned to steal bread and whatever other food we could lift from the local Piggly Wiggly grocery store as a way to feed ourselves. We were left to raise each other, a pack of children with no guidance. My sister Pat and I were just becoming teenagers in the midst of all this, and we were drawn to what we thought was the exciting world of the juke joints, where we could get the attention of adults, mostly men. An older man--he was 21, I was 14--wanted to be my boyfriend, and I was grateful for the attention. He asked me to dance, and I said yes, both of us smiling, me out of shyness. I had never been told about sex or contraception, and I got pregnant. I knew even less about being a wife and mother, but because I had been to church often as a child, I did believe my boyfriend was supposed to honor God and marry me because I was carrying his child. My upbringing in Rose Hill Baptist Church helped frame my faith. I know for sure that my faith, even though sometimes it has been as small as a mustard seed, has seen me through many storms. I was 15 when I got married to that man. But he left me soon after, so I was alone with a baby to raise. I moved to California, partly to escape him for good and partly because I heard some cousins in California say that welfare there offered enough money to actually live on. So I packed up my 3- year-old baby girl and got on a Greyhound bus, with just a phone number in my pocketbook. No one knew we were coming. Eventually my daughter and I landed in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we stayed with some cousins who lived in Richmond. I didn't have much education, but I had always enjoyed learning and reading whatever I could. I enrolled in night school at Richmond High to get my GED. One day at the welfare office I saw a flyer for a job-training program at Linton Business College that was free to welfare recipients. They paid for your childcare and lunch, which is what made it possible for me to enroll. I signed up right there. My cousins thought I was crazy. "What do you want to do that for?" they said. "If you get a job they'll cut your welfare." But I didn't want to sit on the steps in front of the apartment day after day, bored and singing the blues. More than anything, I didn't want that kind of future for my daughter. So I went to the training program and I never missed a class. I learned everything I could about bookkeeping and typing. As serious as I was about having a better future, keep in mind that I was 19 and still wanted to get out and kick up my heels, so on the weekends I would go to parties with a girlfriend of mine I'd met while attending Linton Business College. Her name was Cynthia. She was beautiful with short hair, thin like me, but had no children. She had fancy clothes and rode in nice cars--a reality I did not understand, but felt mesmerized by. I graduated from Linton in June of 1975 and applied for various jobs, but nothing came through. One day I was out of money and my daughter needed something to drink, so I fell back on what I had done to get by growing up. This time I got arrested for shoplifting a carton of milk. Luckily, it was my first time, so I was able to avoid jail by doing some community service. The whole experience scared me so badly that I never shoplifted again. Eventually I got a job in San Francisco at Bank of America under a federal program to foster equal opportunity for minorities and women. I started at the bank as a clerk typist and later was promoted to trust administrator, investing money for cities and counties. Because I was black and female, employers who wanted to comply with the Equal Employment Opportunity Act that passed in 1972 saw me as a favorable applicant. I think at no other point in history would a single, black mother who had gotten her GED while on welfare have been considered so highly employable. I'm thankful for that opportunity. Working at a bank, I was around real wealth every day, exposed to people who had estates and second homes and trust funds for their children. I wanted to know what all that was like, and I thought if I had nice things, I would be the kind of person others immediately respected and admired. Looking back, I understand how naive I was, but you know, we all have to live and learn. My friend Cynthia quit the college, and I did not see much of her after that. On occasion she would show up at my apartment and ask if she could stay for a while. She never stayed long. Cynthia slept during the day while I went to work. So, when I first heard Cynthia was found dead on the side of the road--her killer never found--and had been a prostitute, I felt ignorant as I thought about the secret she had kept from me. I never even knew Cynthia's last name. I knew she lived with her sister, liked to listen to Chaka Khan, took black pills, and enjoyed singing. She would argue often with her sister and storm from the house with me trailing after her. Her sister told me once, "Don't get messed up in what Cynthia is doing," but never said what she was doing, and I never dared to ask. The closest I'd come to being around prostitution was my cousin who danced in a strip club in San Francisco. She never talked much about what she did; she only told me, "It's not for you." Three years later, when I was 24, I met Sheila. We both worked in San Francisco and had a routine of driving into the city on Fridays and taking the bus on weekdays. Commuting together on Fridays, Sheila would take me to bars in Oakland, introducing me to life in the fast lane. After a few months of driving together, Sheila informed me she was going to quit her job and wouldn't be riding with me anymore. She had met someone. When I saw her again, maybe 6 months later, she had a new car, lived in a gorgeous high-rise apartment in the Oakland hills, and dressed in nice clothes. It was then that Sheila told me about the world of legal brothels in Nevada. I knew too well that prostitution was potentially dangerous. But, at the same time, it planted a seed in my mind--here was an opening to possibility, a path to get the kind of money that could change my life forever. My friend's life seemed glamorous, at least from the outside. Illegal prostitution, it seemed, was an avenue taken by women with no skills, whose only other options were to clean rooms in motels, work in restaurants as short order cooks, or just stay on welfare. But this world of legal brothels seemed different. Even though I had a job and a good apartment outside of Richmond, I was still struggling to pay the rent and cover childcare, medical bills, and transportation into San Francisco. When my car broke down and required hundreds of dollars to fix, it felt to me like I was always one broken-down car away from the life of poverty I had come from. I refused to go back to Mississippi defeated. I didn't ever want to go backward. I wanted to put poverty so far behind me that my daughter and I would never, ever be in danger of slipping back into it. Excerpted from Shape up Sisters!: What It Took for My Town in One of America's Fattest and Poorest States to Lose 15,000 Pounds by Linda Fondren All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.