Mississippians are fattest once again

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS   (WLOX) -  Just about every day, you can find Ben Curtis working out at the Francis Collins Fitness Center in Gulfport.

"Stay healthy.  Live longer. That's it," said Curtis.

The 74 year old Curtis has been exercising since elementary school.  He has some advice for people who are trying to fight the fat.

"They ask you a lot of times 'What do you do to stay in shape?' and you tell them 'Well, you have to lay off the corn bread'.  And they say 'Well, I like corn bread' and I say 'Go ahead and eat then,'" said Curtis with a laugh.

It seems more Mississippians are enjoying too much fatty foods and not exercising enough.   For five straight years now, almost a third of adults in our state are obese.  Health experts point to high poverty and low education levels as other factors linked to obesity.

Patricia Lukas of Biloxi has struggled with her weight after packing on an extra 15 pounds.

"Once I retired and realized how much I weighed, then I had the time to exercise," said Lukas.  "I'm healthy. I'm lucky for that. I'm not spending a lot of money on drugs, or doctor bills or surgeries."

Many south Mississippi seniors are also making an effort to eat more nutritious meals and stay active.  For instance, at the West Side Senior Citizens Center, people over the age of 60 can enjoy a free, hot lunch if they agree to participate in the center's activities.

"We have everything from walking, chair exercise, dancing.  We go into the community and we have four different sites that we have exercise programs," said Robert Locke, Director of Senior Programming for the city of Gulfport.

The senior citizens hope to inspire other adults, as well as their own families.

"Whenever their grand kids will come here, they do talk to them about the benefits of eating right. But the other part of it, the big component is the exercise," Locke said. "It will eventually lead to I think a lifestyle change."

"Two of my sisters are overweight and I preach to them all the time, but it doesn't always do any good," said Curtis.

When asked how long he wants to live, Curtis smiled and said "120."

The obesity ranking, from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, also showed that Mississippi has the highest rate of overweight and obese children.  The leanest state is Colorado.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.