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Lawmakers Work on Laws and lose Weight

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 29 Mar 2011 04:50pm | comments
Darryl Neely runs on a treadmill in a weighted vest.

Mississippi lawmakers will take part in a 5-K run this week that signals the end of the Fit for Change program. For the past three months state legislators have been writing laws, working out, and losing weight. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports on how legislators are helping the state fight obesity.

Before the sun comes up over the Jackson State campus, a crew of tired looking law makers, capitol staff, and lobbyist stumble into the Walter Payton Health and wellness center.

Jogging on an inclined treadmill, Representative Phillip Gunn of Clinton says he is in his best shape since college and thinks getting fit is just one of the advantages of the Fit 4 Change class.

"Get to meet one another. We set aside a lot of differences between us, so when we get out on the House floor we are able to get along a whole lot better I think," Gunn said.

Darryl Neely, a Jackson based lobbyist, joined the program last year and says he was driven by competition to beat other teams and melt off some of his 350 pounds. But in the year since he started working out, Neely says his motivation has become more personal.

"Getting up at 4:15 AM to start working out at 4:45, it is a strange thing but somehow you get to where your body craves it and needs it. And you start enjoying it. Enjoying the camaraderie and enjoying Coach Paul. And it just becomes a part of your life. It becomes a life style change versus exercise," Neely said.

Coach Paul is, Paul LaCoste a former pro football player and hard nosed creator of the Fit 4 Change program.

One third of Mississippi adults are obese and Mississippi has the highest rate of childhood obesity in the country. That is why LaCoste says he is passionate about pushing people to improve their lives and health through vigorous exercise.

"Its challenging yourself everyday to be the best you can be and taking your life to the next level. And by the next level I mean your religious beliefs, you work, your work ethic, your family life, your workouts and nutrition. Everything you do in your life, take it to that next leave," LaCoste said.

Some experts estimate that obesity costs the state around one billion dollar a year in medical expenses, a figure that is expected to balloon before the end of the decade. When LaCoste ran the program during the last legislative session he helped people lose more than 14-hundred pounds...and this year they have doubled that weight loss total.

"I wanted to help our state. This has been a passion of mine for many, many years. It is something that will change a state and eventually change a whole country's perception of a state," LaCoste said.

The people in the program are divided into teams. team house, team senate, team barbour, team state and team Mississippi. The goal is to lose more weight than the other group.

John Hines is a representative from Greenville who is also nearing his 100 pound weight loss point. Hines says he never thought about how big he was getting because his weight didn't interfere with his life. But since he lost the weight he says he has re-captured his youth.

"My ability to endure longer. My stress level is lower. Its just the whole nine yards overall is just a better perspective on life. I have been able to encourage others because I didn't know how many people were watching me and became encourage to start becoming health conscious," Hines said.

Representative Herb Frierson took what he learned during the first Fit 4 Change back to his home in Poplarville.

"I taught my own classes in Poplarville. Trained about 43 people that lost about 400 pounds," Frierson said.

Most are wearing gym shorts and tee-shirts, but Darryl Neely is fitted with a 60-pound weight vest and carrying another 30 pound free weight to recreate how much he used to weigh.

"It feels crazy. I don't remember being this heavy," Neely said.

Every Friday is weigh in day and this Friday Neely hopes to have crossed the 100 pound weight loss mark. The gym grows quite as Neely steps up to the scale.

101 pounds lost and counting. 

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Darryl Neely runs on a treadmill in a weighted vest.


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