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Viewfinder: Fayette residents working to change lifestyles

Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Janell Edwards, with the Fayette Community Service Agency, joins other participants in dancing during the third annual “Let’s Move Mississippi from Fat to Fit” event at the Jefferson County Multipurpose Center on Friday afternoon.
Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Janell Edwards, with the Fayette Community Service Agency, joins other participants in dancing during the third annual “Let’s Move Mississippi from Fat to Fit” event at the Jefferson County Multipurpose Center on Friday afternoon.

Editor’s note: The Viewfinder is a regular feature where a staff photographer finds a story that highlights the diversity of our community.

FAYETTE — When Janell Edwards tells people about the benefits of adopting a healthy and active lifestyle, she is speaking from experience.

Edwards, the executive director of the Fayette Community Service Agency, has lost nearly 100 pounds during the past 36 months, a loss she credits to a number of small lifestyle changes she started three years ago.

Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Valerie Glass, center, dances with her granddaughter, Samiah Glass, 4, during the event. At top right, Destiny Carson, 9, twirls a hula-hoop during the event.
Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Valerie Glass, center, dances with her granddaughter, Samiah Glass, 4, during the event. At top right, Destiny Carson, 9, twirls a hula-hoop during the event.

Edwards was hoping to both share her experiences and get others started on the path to a healthier life during the Fayette agency’s third annual “Let’s Move Mississippi from Fat to Fit” activity fair this past weekend.

“What we are promoting is a lifestyle change,” Edwards said. “We do not promote weight loss, but one byproduct of a healthy lifestyle is losing weight.”

Edwards said the two-day health fair, which was Friday and Saturday at the Jefferson County Multipurpose Center, featured a myriad of outdoor activities designed to show area residents both young and old the benefits of getting up and being active.

After seeing numerous national health rankings over recent years that put Jefferson County among the least healthy counties in the country, Edwards said it became clear for her that the time to change the culture was now.

“We’re the 17th poorest county in the nation. We’re rural,” Edwards said. “There are a lot of cards stacked against us, but we have to do something.”

The goal of the health fair was to increase natural physical activity, Edwards said.

“That’s why we do the field day events, the hula hoops, jump roping and basketball,” she said.

Edwards said she hopes that those who attended this weekend’s health fair take note of the little lifestyle changes they can make that can make a lasting difference.

“It’s the little things,” Edwards said. “Drink some more water, get off the couch during a commercial break and challenge your child to see who can do the most jumping-jacks.”

Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Destiny Carson, 9, twirls a hula-hoop during the event.
Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Destiny Carson, 9, twirls a hula-hoop during the event.

Edwards said that a pick-up game of basketball with friends or even a set of sit-ups or push-ups can be the beginning of a new life.

“You don’t have to spend money to increase your natural physical activity,” she said.

Valerie Glass and her daughter Samiah, 4, were on hand for Friday’s activities and Valerie said she is hoping that the event can be the start of a change for both of them.

“I heard a commercial for this on the radio and just decided it sounded like a great activity for the family,” Glass said. “Everybody could use a good workout.”

Glass said her daughter has already expressed interest in a more active lifestyle around the family’s home.

“She’s always wanting to play on the basketball goal at home, and she’s already saying we need to walk more,” Glass said.

The younger Glass, an avid fan of running and jumping, has said she already has an athletic hero she one day hopes to be just like.

“I want to be like (American Olympic gymnast) Gabby Douglas,” Samiah said. “Because I want to turn flips in the air.”

Edwards said events like this weekend’s health fair are just one tool to increase public awareness of the health issues affecting the region.

“In a place where everyone is the same size, you don’t see it,” Edwards said. “It gets to where your vision is off and you don’t notice it.”

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