Linda Fondren is one of 11 children born into poverty to a single mother in the “poorest and fattest” state in America. Her past, with all its blemishes and complications, helped pave the way for the path she eventually found with Shape Up Sisters! She is 58 years old, a mother, grandmother and loving wife of 29 years. She and her husband, Jim, reside in Vicksburg and are active in real estate development.
In 2009, Linda initiated Shape Up Vicksburg, a campaign to help residents of Vicksburg, Mississippi, lose weight after Mississippi was deemed the "fattest state in the nation" for the sixth consecutive year. Shape Up Vicksburg is a non-profit organization that provides tools and resources to members of the community who want to change their lives but lack the financial means to do so.
Shape Up Vicksburg has already resulted in the collective weight loss of more than 15,000 pounds among participants. For her efforts, Linda was chosen for a Top Ten CNN Hero of the Year Award for 2010. She, along with distinguished leaders, such as First Lady Michelle Obama, as one of The Grio's 100 History Makers in the Making for her fight against obesity. She was also named 2011 Woman of the Year for the City of Vicksburg.
Shape Up Sisters is a get-healthy prescription for regular people with jobs, budgets and real-life challenges. Linda offers tacticts to incorporate exercise into daily activities, delicious recipes and menus for eating healthfully on a budget and motivation for a major attitude shift.
Linda combines her empowering personal story with uplifting tales of women who have changed their lives by following her simple strategies.
After Linda watched the consequences of obesity rob her sister of a better quality of life, she opened an all-female gym in her hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi. She sought to help other women get healthy and have an opportunity to exercise and socialize in a comfortable environment. Linda named the gym Shape Up Sisters with the motto, "Positively Reshaping Women."
After witnessing how many middle- and low-income Vicksburg residents were brought up short in their fitness and health efforts by limited budgets, time, and access to resources, Fondren responded by striking at the root problem. In 2009, she spearheaded Shape Up Vicksburg, a City Hall–supported program in which she convinced the local hospital to offer free health screenings, restaurants to create healthy low-cal menu options, and Walmart to host weigh-in stations.
Fondren signed up more than 2,500 Vicksburg residents to take charge of their health and nutrition—many of them for the first time. They lost more than 15,000 pounds. For her work in the community, Linda was nominated as a Top Ten CNN Hero of the year for 2010. Linda was selected, along with such distinguished leaders as First Lady Michelle Obama, as one of The Grio’s 100 History Makers in the Making. She was also voted 2011 Woman of the Year for the City of Vicksburg.
In addition to spreading the word about the importance of physical fitness and nutrition through her book, Linda continues to work both in her community and through speaking engagements around the country. The Shape Up Vicksburg Get Healthy Walking Club regularly holds walks all around the city in locations with historical and educational significance. Linda partnered with the Vicksburg National Military Park to create the Shape Up Junior Rangers Program. She also partnered with Alcorn State University to improve the quality of life for people with limited resources through a life-long learning program that includes a community garden. She continues her mission to help battle obesity and inspire people through her work in schools, churches and businesses in her community.
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"Shape Up Sisters!" offers tactics to incorporate exercise into daily activities, delicious recipes and menus for eating healthfully on a budget, and motivation for a major attitude shift. She wraps it all in her empowering personal story and the uplifting tales of women who have changed their lives by following her simple strategies. "Shape Up Sisters!" is both an easy-to-use guide and a bold statement in the greater national narrative about improving health and weight loss across socioeconomic lines.
View Linda Fondren's past speaking engagements below:
Linda Fondren's efforts have been featured in local, regional and national press, from The Vicksburg Post to The Huffington Post, CNN's Anderson Cooper, ABC, MSNBC, CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, NBC Nightly News, Essence Magazine, Glamour Magazine, Mississippi Magazine, Bill Bradley Radio Show and The Tom Joyner Show, among others. View some of the press below.
Click on the videos below to learn more about Linda Fondren's Shape Up Vicksburg campaign: