CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) - There is a new push to get residents healthy in Calcasieu Parish, where the obesity rate is 37 percent. It is not happening in traditional fitness centers - the exercise and nutrition program is being brought inside area churches.
At Throne of Grace Fellowship in Lake Charles, a group is gathered in the fellowship hall, not for a prayer meeting or Sunday service - it's a weekly health session with friends connecting through the K.I.S.S. Project, to transform their eating habits and fitness routines.
"Now we have men, children, and women, so we're touching the whole family now instead of just one particular person," said program director, Sharmita Rideau.
Rideau has been in charge of the K.I.S.S. Project since its inception in 2013. Then, it was called, "Keep It Simple Sisters." We have covered the progress of dozens of women over these three years as part of the Dare to Be Healthy Initiative.
Now, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury has taken over funding this program and changed the target audience, while still keeping it free for area residents.
"We decided to go ahead and go to our churches in our community and so now we call it 'Keep It Simple Saints,'" said Rideau.
Pastor Wilton Red at Throne of Grace Fellowship said bringing a fitness program into his church seemed like a natural fit. He made a charge to his congregation six years ago to lose 1,000 pounds - which they did - as part of the "Kingdom Challenge."
Dr. Red said the concept is pretty simple: In order for his church members to serve the community, they need to be healthy.
"We can't do what we are called to do and are purposed to do unless we have a strong physical body to do it in," he said.
The K.I.S.S. Project lasts for 10 weeks, with group exercises two days a week and nutrition classes with LSU Ag Center dietitian, Shatonia McCarty, once a week.
"We go over fats, sugar, salt," said McCarty, "We learn to read nutrition labels. Balancing their meal, eating in moderation foods that they love, eat those in moderation. Also, making sure that they portion control their foods."
That total approach is what organizers said leads to long-lasting results.
"They can keep going and keep sustaining their weight loss if they had any or even push themselves more," said Rideau, "Our main focus and goal is just to keep you healthy."