Vicksburg, Miss., Goes from Fat to Fit

Linda Fondren Shape Up Vicksburg
Linda Fondren leads an early morning walk for Shape Up Vicksburg.
Mississippi has the dubious distinction of being the fattest state of all --one out of three adults is obese.

But Linda Fondren is on a mission to slim down her entire hometown.

one Saturday a month, just after sunrise in Vicksburg, Miss., Fondren goes for a walk, reports CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella.

And nearly 100 friends, neighbors and perfect strangers tag along.

Shape Up Vicksburg
Shape Up Sisters

"People want to do better, so the challenge for them is to get out there and do it," Fondren said.

Fondren never struggled with her weight, but her sister Mary did. When she died of cancer, Fondren vowed to help others like her sister to lead healthier lives. She began by opening a gym just for women.

Last fall she challenged them and the rest of the community to lose weight together. She began organizing walks and exercise classes.

"You get to come together in an environment where people look like you, have the same problem as you," said Fondren. "You begin to not feel so bad and you think there's hope."

In the past year, the city of Vicksburg has lost a combined 15,000 pounds -- and there's no stopping them.

Angie Wilkinson has dropped nearly 30 pounds. She now walks for her brother who died of heart failure in March.

"The day he died he told me how proud he was because I stuck with it," Wilkinson said, tearing.

For Fondren, the walks are just a warm up. Every Saturday, entrance to her gym is free.

She also leads a nutrition class, complete with a dietician and a field trip to the grocery store.

"We are going to be an example - from the fattest to the fittest!" said Fondren.

And while these residents have already lost thousands of pounds, they have gained so much more in return.