Carrying on the Food Fight
By Ken Walker-
When famed British chef Jamie Oliver came to Huntington, West Virginia in the fall of 2009 to produce his first Food Revolution mini-series for ABC, I never imagined that I would become part of a healthy reformation that continues to this day.
Filming stretched to April of 2010, when Oliver’s crew taped parts of the final episode at Steve Willis’ church. I went to write a story for a national news service. During an interview, I asked about his toughest challenge.
“Keeping with all the calls and e-mails,” Steve replied. After he appeared on several national TV shows just prior to the start of the mini-series, he had 2,000 messages and e-mails waiting when he returned from New York. Some were from other countries.
“Why don’t you write a book and tell them to read it?” I joked.
That conversation started us down a long road that culminated in Steve and me writing Winning the Food Fight, released in January of 2012 by Regal Books. Oliver contributed the foreword.
Winning the Food Fight is part of a groundswell of health-oriented material hitting the market. Recently, Regal issued another press release about the latest development in this battle: the Food Fight Boot Camps that Steve plans to launch in spring of 2013.
The program is designed to take the principles found in our book and help people struggling with obesity to put them into practice. Unlike traditional treatment, the camps will include a focus on the spiritual.
The difference that can make is seen by a story Steve related recently. He talked about meeting the guy who started the famed Biggest Loser program. One of the man’s associates told Steve that almost 50 percent of the people on the program go back to obesity.
“So the thing is that there is something they are not addressing by just addressing the physical aspect,” Steve says. “They have the best trainers and chefs and best weight equipment, but they go back. So there is something spiritually and emotionally that is not being addressed. That is what this camp is all about.”
Which isn’t to say that this battle is a simple one. I know, having lived through double bypass surgery nearly five years ago. Fortunately, some doors opened and I received a scholarship to go through a lifestyle program at the hospital where I had my surgery.
Because of that program, I became a vegetarian and have since edited three books by doctors, which furthered my education in the need for healthy living. Besides shedding more than 20 pounds, I kept them off. Statistics show that isn’t easy to do over the long haul.
After reversing a 30-year-long trend of drifting up until I weighed so much I felt like I had a roll of blubber on top of the first roll, I feel better than ever. I am also encouraged to continue, knowing that the grassroots efforts helping Huntington to shape up are going on elsewhere across the nation.
For scoffers who say that people can’t change, the city once dubbed “America’s fattest” has seen a decrease of nearly 10 percent in obesity rates since 2008. Local businesses sponsor weight-loss competitions and an increasing number of schools are teaching healthy living as part of their curriculum. A natural foods market opened here recently, with a staff composed of volunteers—which I hope to soon join.
Recently on his web site, Oliver remarked, “Pastor Steve’s passion and energy is phenomenal. His results over the last year or so speak for themselves. He’s a one-man food revolution and I salute him. I loved the community in Huntington when I was there and the whole town, for me, is an inspiration.”
Sometimes, great things come in small packages.
Great blog! I happened to read “Winning the Food Fight,” and it is a book that needs to be in the hands of every person struggling to live a balanced and healthy life, both in the physical and spiritual sense. I’m excited to see how Steve Willis has taken his vision for his community a step further, as to take the theoretical and put it into practice with these Boot Camps in 2013. Awesome!
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