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Teachers promoting good health
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Two teachers at Newton High School have been on a successful journey to lose weight and are now working together to form a nonprofit organization that will educate others about living healthy and the dangers of obesity.

Derykka Miller and Ebony Moon recently attended a city of Covington council meeting to discuss obesity and the challenges they have personally seen with being overweight. Miller and Moon have both changed their eating habits, worked out together and started a weight loss and fitness challenge together, Body By Vi. However, they said their biggest goal was to raise awareness of the effects of obesity in Newton County.

Miller, a special education teacher at NHS, said presenting at the council’s meeting was a way to make the community aware of the problem and seek the council’s support. Miller began her weight loss journey last fall at the start of the school year. She said she was concerned not only about her health, but also for the health of her family and students in the schools.

“My mom had some issues with obesity and a lot of people think I don’t look obese, but based on the range I am obese, not just overweight but obese,” Miller said. “I have five kids and [they] are in the Newton County School System, and so we were concerned because of our children being here as well as our students.

“We just had a concern for us being here for our kids. To be able to continue to do our jobs well, we have to be healthy to do that,” Miller said.

Moon, an 11th grade Advanced Placement language and composition teacher, said she wanted to raise attention to obesity to the community because so many people at the high school have seen her transform, as she lost 125 pounds, going from 315 pounds to 190 pounds in a little more than a year. Moon said she met Miller at the beginning of the school year, and they have witnessed each other lose weight with their new healthy habits, which has given her the confidence to share their stories.

“Since I’ve met Derykka and she’s undergone her transformation, it’s made me more comfortable to go on and say well OK, let’s get out there and start helping other people the way we help ourselves,” Moon said.

The pair started non-competitive after-school activities for students at NHS and said they then began to think about keeping other schools in the county active and also wanted to inform the entire community about obesity.

“I [received] my masters in community health education, so I thought it was a good opportunity, since we both had some issues that we were dealing with personally, to be able to incorporate my degree and start using it to educate the community about what we’ve thought was near and dear to us which was obesity and the different diseases,” Miller said.

“This is our home base as far as branching out and reaching out to the children and parents and then to the community at large,” Moon said. “There is a solution for obesity, weight issues, weight diseases and issues that come along with being overweight. There is a solution, we’ve found it and so we are just trying to be that channel of information to the city of Covington,” Moon said.

The ladies said they have visited a number of health fairs in the metro Atlanta area and have researched the negative effects of being overweight and different ways to move toward a healthy lifestyle.

“Eventually our plan would be that we’re the ones who are putting a health fair together, but right now we are finding and attending every health fair that we can to be able to put some information out,” Miller said.

Moon explained that she did not think about how being overweight affected her until she began to have health issues and had to take a visit to the hospital for an internal problem.

“I did not know that my weight was actually damaging me internally. I had to go so far as to have my gall bladder removed. I didn’t know that years and years and years of eating the wrong things… I mean I thought ‘oh you’re fat,’ but that’s an outward effect,” Moon said. “I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who doesn’t know that.”

Though Moon and Miller are in the beginning stages of raising awareness to the community, they said they plan on attending more meetings in the community to raise awareness of obesity and gathering more information to seek grants for their nonprofit. They believe that people become healthy adults if they are first healthy children.

“[Body by Vi] is what we did to fix our problem along with healthy eating and exercise, but our main platform is just informing the community about [obesity] — it is a disease, whether people want to admit it or not,” Moon said. “This is what it is doing to our community and this is what we can do to fix it — healthy eating, exercise and you know just overall healthy living and nutrition.”