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Henry relishes her chance to share the benefits of a healthy lifestyle

Everywhere she looks, Bonnie Henry sees opportunities to learn and grow.  

Whether it’s pursuing a master’s degree in nutrition, in the group exercise classes she teaches, or among family and friends, she can’t help but notice it.

It’s a sensibility she brings to her job as the Vicksburg YMCA’s wellness coordinator, and one she’s trying to share with the world. Henry is constantly trying to conjure up new and innovative programs and methods to make her community healthier and happier.

“I think people get into a box and it’s our job to get them into a world of possibilities of what they can do,” Henry said. “I always know I’ve done my job if I see somebody doing a modification that I haven’t necessarily taught them, but they figured out their bodies and what works for them.”

Henry’s role at the YMCA has grown since she started working there in 2017. She started out teaching a few group exercise classes and then became a coordinator for the program. Over time she has had a hand in a number of other projects including the expansion of the Purks YMCA and the organization’s nutrition and wellness programs.

Her job coordinating the YMCA’s group exercise program, she said, has been the most meaningful. Working with people and forming relationships helps her get a better sense of how to reach them on a personal level. That, in turn, helps both of them develop plans to achieve better health and fitness.

“You have an opportunity to form relationships with people and share their ups and downs. Health is a big hurdle for a lot of people,” she said. “It’s being able to meet everyone where they are. What we really try to do is for everyone to do the best they can in spirit, mind and body.”

One of the more successful YMCA programs in recent years, Henry said, was the Daniel Plan. It is a faith-based wellness program that started in 2017 that aims to get to the root causes of certain health-related issues. It includes both exercise and nutrition classes to work for and teach a better path moving forward.

“It brought a lot of people to their ‘why’ — why do they want to be healthy?” Henry said. “If you look at things from that element, it makes it a lifelong thing.”

Enthusiasm for healthy living — not just exercise — has been a lifelong thing for Henry, as well. The graduate of Vicksburg High and Ole Miss had an epiphany when she was younger that there isn’t one ideal model for fitness.

Both healthy and unhealthy living can take many forms, she said, and both can have negative effects on mental and physical health. Obsessing over being too healthy can cause stress that leads to as many problems as poor dietary habits.

“I knew how much fitness and health resonated for me. When you’re that age you want to make sure you look a certain way, and I reached a point where I said, ‘This is not healthy,’” she said. “Being super healthy is sometimes not healthy. You can have skinny people who aren’t healthy and people who aren’t skinny who are in perfect health. It’s about, are we taking care of our body and doing things to enjoy our lives?”

Henry certainly seems to be enjoying hers. The 35-year-old has three young children with her husband Justin, a former professional baseball player and her high school sweetheart, and is always striving to better herself. She’s currently working toward several professional certifications, as well as her master’s degree in nutrition. At the same time, exercise and healthy living are a big part of their family’s lives.

“Being active has been a big part of my life. That’s always been part of what we do,” she said. “Working out is something we do for fun and something we’re trying to instill in our children.”

Constantly learning, constantly striving to better herself, Henry added, will help her pass along that same knowledge to others and make Vicksburg a healthier and happier place.

“The continued learning is something I’m very passionate about. There’s always something new and different coming out that we wouldn’t have thought about,” Henry said. “So much of what we’re dealing with is preventable. People don’t really know it’s preventable. They think it’s inevitable.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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