Sporting a 100-pound lighter frame, “American Idol” veteran Ruben Studdard came with words of encouragement instead of music to the 21st Annual Health and Fitness Expo at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden on Saturday.
While Studdard offered a few bars of “Amazing Grace,” the R&B singer and realty TV star spent most of his time talking about his struggle to lose weight and his new life.
Studdard joined doctors, dentists, and a range of health care providers at the Upper Marlboro church. He along with a nutritionist, physical fitness expert and an energetic cook were on hand to show several thousand people that they can live a healthy lifestyle.
“First, you have to admit that you have a problem,” said Studdard, who compared the decision to go on a diet to becoming a Christian. “In coming to the Lord, first you have to confess your sins. It is the same process, and I am so thankful that I have been able to do that for myself.”
In an interview following his speech, Studdard said there have been many benefits to losing weight, especially when it comes to travel. “Getting on an airplane and not having to ask for a seat belt extension is a blessing,” he said. “I am really thankful for being able to change the way I think about food.”
Deena Green, 50, who attended the conference, was encouraged by Studdard’s story. “His story is my story because the struggle of healthy eating is an issue that is something that has been in my life. Because I am getting older, I don’t want to be in a situation where my eating has impacted my health in a way that I can’t get around,”
Dr. Karyn Willis, an emergency room physician and one of the chairs of the expo, said rock climbing, the moon bounce and other outdoor events at the event were geared toward the youth because, “this is the first generation that will not live past the age of their parents.”
The second floor of First Baptist looked like a wing of a hospital, as teams of dental students waited to give on-site oral evaluations. But the most crowded venue was “Cookercise,” where Keith Johnson, founder of Keith’s Treats and Eats, grilled chicken while kicking up his feet and exercising to a Zumba beat.
“We have to make cooking fun again, “ said Johnson, whose class was filled with women who came to the expo in their exercise tights. “You can cook while you are working out at the same time. You cook and you are tired and it causes you to eat junk foods.”
The Rev. John K. Jenkins, pastor of First Baptist, said,“People need to be healthy so that they can live long and deposit into their children and have the capacity to train them, to mentor to them and to love them. Children need to be affirmed well past their teenage years, and what better person but their fathers.”
On the eve of Father’s Day, Studdard said, “As black men we have a tendency to not take very good care of ourselves and not to go to the doctor but I would implore you to go to the doctor and give yourself a Father’s Day present to see what your health profile is really like.”