Oprah Challenges Mississippi to Win the Fight

By: Lindsey Brown and Andrea Williams Email
By: Lindsey Brown and Andrea Williams Email

Oprah Winfrey kicked off her Best Life Challenge , a campaign to help Americans lose weight and live healthier lives, in Meridian Friday.

"My state of Mississippi, we are going to get off out fat butts and turn our lives around," said Winfrey. "We are tired of being fat and we are tired about all the excuses we make about being fat."

With that, Oprah began her no-nonsense message to about 4,000 people gathered in downtown Meridian's Dumont Plaza. She said it's time to live a better life and to stop making excuses about being the fattest state in the nation.

"For so many years, I said 'the struggle, the struggle', and I said, I guess not for you," as she jokingly referred to her fit personal trainer, Bob Green. "No more excuses. This is your year. This is your year."

As a Mississippi native, she picked Meridian for the kickoff because the city had already started its own "Just Lose It" campaign back in October. And there is no doubt in Oprah's mind that Mississippi can change.

"Once they do this, everyone else will jump on board," said Winfrey.

As for what's on the line for Mississippians, Oprah says it's a chance to turn the negative statistics around.

"For three years in a row the great state of Mississippi has been the big state and it really is symbolic. It doesn't matter if you have the average of being the most people per capita who are obese or whether or not it's just a decision to make life better for yourself," Oprah said.

Oprah's trainer said the challenge isn't a crash course diet that people so often fail.

"It's about your lifestyle more than anything," said Green. "We know people who weave these changes in their life are successful, not the crash dieters."

Oprah ended the event by saying when rest of the nation sees what Meridian can do, the city will be a shining example for the rest of the country.
People came from throughout the region, some gathering as early as 4 a.m.

"There was just no stopping us," said Jennifer Ladner of Mandeville, La. "We had to come see Oprah!"

"But we just found out that she was coming yesterday," said Julie Kochanski of the Navy and Marine Corps Wives Club. "Military wives can get anything done."

"We have two students from every grade. The teachers chose the two best students," said Karen Rhodes of Northeast Lauderdale Elementary School.

When it comes to losing weight, one teen in attendance said this type motivation is not only important but imperative.

"Because you go to friends' houses to the parties and they always have the junk food, but I kind of stay away from the junk food," said
Aaron Avera, who has lost 75 pounds.

Oprah's trainer even had some advice for one of WTOK's former fitness participants.

"In order to eat honey buns, I've got to keep my buns moving," said
Tyrone "Honey Buns" White, of the "Get Fit Don't Quit" Initiative.

Following the visit that's what many in attendance say they are now going to do.

"It gave me inspiration to go on that diet and do what I've got to do," said Mary Brown.

"Fifty pounds. I'm going for 80 pounds. I'm going to lose 100 pounds," said Melissa McDyer, who has already lost 110 pounds.

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