For the first time in her adult life, Kim Smith bought a size 2 dress and she couldn’t be happier. “It’s blue with pink polka-dots,” says the 34-year-old school counselor, smiling confidently.

Two years ago, Smith began a journey of weight loss. And in less than a year, she shed 76 pounds.

Now on any given Saturday, Smith can be found in the throngs of a high-energy cardio kick-boxing class at the BKM Fitness Boot Camp in Jamestown Mall, where her transformation began.

Hundreds of air-punches and leg- lifts later, Smith is ready to take off in a city-wide fitness challenge May 19, launched by BKM and her church, the Christ Deliverance Ministry [CDM] – which is on a mission to alert St. Louis about the benefits of losing weight, eating healthy, and living your best life.

“Disease due to obesity is so prevalent,” says Co-Pastor of CDM, Cynthia Ringo. “It’s a problem in my congregation and across St. Louis. But through exercise and healthy eating, we are seeing a change. People are coming off their blood pressure medication and decreasing their insulin pills.”

Already, more than 100 people have registered for the day-long fitness challenge which begins with a $500-cash-prize 3K race, then dives into a live boot camp session with the highly-sought-after Briant K. Mitchell, founder of BKM.

“You’ve never seen a boot camp like this before,” says Mitchell, who combines cardio with nutrition counseling and weight training. “There will be so much energy. It’s going to be great.”

After the race and boot camp, Shawn Stevenson, author of The Key to Quantum Health, will lead an information-packed seminar on healthy eating and living.

“What helps move people into a long-term health experience is to make pleasure the guiding factor,” Stevenson says. “Making something fun and doable is important. A lot of people want to improve their health and fitness, but they don’t know how to enter or where to start, so they’ll hop on the next craze. I give people that entry point. I give them the tools.”

Today, 17 women of CDM who attend the BKM Fitness Boot Camp, have collectively lost more than 680 pounds.

As a result, Pastor Ringo was convinced to replicate their success across the city and launch this city-wide challenge and awareness event which she says will grow bigger and bigger.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 30 percent of Missourians are obese, and this costs the state millions in medical expenses. Sadly, obesity is on the rise across the nation, leaving millions of people at increased risk of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer of the kidney, prostate, breast, and colon.

Ringo has made health a priority in her church and continues to openly probe the science of healthy eating. “Food is your medicine,” Ringo says. In fact, one of the powerful lectures she shares concerns the question, “What would Jesus eat?”

Ringo reports: “Because the Bible has clear examples. Jesus would eat fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, baked fish -- not fried, and beef only on special occasions. And he’d drink plenty of water.”

In the past two years, it has been this combination of frank talks about eating, group exercise, and spirited support that has helped many women of the church radically transform their lives.

Now Kim Smith and her mother Helen Smith, who also attends CDM and has lost 60 pounds, have broken the cycle of obesity in their family known for exquisite soul food cooking.

“I remember my mom before she passed away in 2005,” says Helen Smith. “She was on bags and bags of medication for obesity-related illnesses. Some of it helped and some of it hurt her.”

When Helen Smith saw her daughter’s transformation, she committed to exercise and cooking healthier meals. “Now, I don’t just buy food,” says Smith. “I read the labels and see what’s in the food.”

This Saturday, the mother-and-daughter team will partake in the city-wide fitness challenge and Kim Smith is all set to dominate the 3K race.

“I remember the time when I couldn’t run. I didn’t know how,” Kim Smith says. “Now I run all the time. I’ve done a five mile race in under an hour.”

To Register for ‘The CDM presents Mind and Body 2012’, a city-wide health challenge and awareness event May 19 at Cardinal Ritter College Prep, 701 North Spring Avenue -- visit www.CDMmindandbody.org/

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JEngdahlJ

What is the economic burden of diabetes? Proper management and control could save 49,000 lives and $196 million annually. http://www.healthcaretownhall.com/?p=2699

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