MAGNOLIA — About a year ago, the Rev. Jimmy Melvin made a decision to change his lifestyle when it came to eating habits.
Melvin and members from Mt. Zion AME Church was encouraged by the “Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More,” an initiative created by the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). The purpose is to educate churches on health and making better choices.
“We’re grateful to have this program here,” Melvin said about education on topics such as diabetes and colon cancer.
In Sampson County, the program is led by Lethia Lee, an EFNEP agent from North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Participants recently shared their testimonies after stepping up to the challenge. Some of the changes included making better choices at grocery stores and exercising. After showing a replica of body fat, Lee talked about how the program mixes faith and health lessons to have a positive influence on people.
“The biblical part plays a big part in what we want to do,” Lee said. “Once you hear what God wants you to do, you’re going to do it.”
Melvin said he’s doing better personally by staying away from meats and sodas. He also attended a cookout where hogs were cooked, but he did not give in to temptation.
“I really didn’t have meats and I didn’t have a desire for it,” he said. “I did really well. They had plenty of vegetables and I didn’t have a desire for it.”
His wife, the Rev. Janet Melvin, also shared some of the same feelings about awareness of portions.
“It gives you insight, especially when I think about that scripture that says “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost,” she said while
quoting Romans 14:17. “Some we can get over indulged in food, but we got to know how to eat to live and not live to eat.”
That includes staying away from what she called sarcastically called”the good stuff,” which may include meals high in fat and cholesterol.
“And like my husband said, it does make you feel so much better,” she said.
Lee said changes the reverend and first lady of the church were examples of embracing a lifestyle and not just fad diets.
“A lot of times we want to make excuses not to do something,” Lee said.
Members showed how habits can be adjusted at any age. Ida Skipwith, 83, talked about having a lower salt intake and signing up to a 24/7 gym to improve knee movement. Rosie Peterson discussed how a doctor took her off one of her medication prescriptions after getting rid of 60 pounds. She also cut back on eating sweets.
“If I get a piece of cake, I can eat on that slice of cake three times,” Peterson said.
After making a lifestyle change through Healthy Families and other nutritional programs, Cynthia Johnson said she lost 100 pounds. She’s now able to walk through stores while shopping.
“I’m doing so much more now. If they didn’t have one of those motorized carts, I didn’t attempt to go in the store,” Johnson said. I now grab a cart and shop.”
Ronnie Johnson shared his experience about losing 18 pounds in one month after trying the Daniel Plan, which is motivated by the book of Daniel in the Bible. Peggie Womack added that her blood pressure decreased and how her clothes are little more baggier because of her weight loss. She laughed about how her husband, James Womack, will probably have to take her shopping for new clothes now.
The church was the second congregation in Sampson County to use the program. Cedar Point Disciple Church of Newton Grove was the first. Lee said a third church will probably be added in August.