Local couple Glen and Cherisse Whitner are part of a rising movement to get Killeen healthy.
Glen Whitner, a veteran, overhauled his entire family’s lifestyle through functional exercise and nutritional eating, and the changes have been powerful.
Originally, their preteen daughter was developing more rapidly than expected. The nonorganic, hormone-filled meats she was eating were determined to be the cause. “The body isn’t meant to process processed foods,” he said. Once the family switched to healthier meats and fish, her development slowed to a normal pace.
The trend seems to be catching on. “People are becoming more aware that what you eat affects your body,” Glen Whitner said.
He’s a customer of Health Arena, one of a few local independent health food stores.
‘Diet and exercise’
Roni Maldonado, co-owner of Health Arena, has seen the town change shape significantly since she and her husband, Luis, opened their shop in 1994.
“Especially in the last two years, more and more people are coming in,” she said.
Buzz terms like “clean eating,” “gluten-free” and “GMO” are often tossed around.
Still, she said, one thing cannot fix it all. “The basics are important,” Maldonado said, “diet and exercise.”
One of the biggest changes in town is the rise in organic, specialty restaurants.
PureFit Foods is one of the newer locations, offering a menu of prepackaged dishes that are low in sodium and cholesterol and entirely gluten-free.
Since opening in September, 80 percent of customers have been soldiers, co-owner Veronica Lomeli said. Many people come in because of their diet restrictions, whether they are vegetarians, vegans or diabetics.
“You eat wholesome, real food,” she said, “and you feel different.”
Many people don’t realize what they are eating, Lomeli said, but once they do, it is hard to go back to their former lifestyle.
Customer Leyde Molina struggled to lose excess baby weight after giving birth in February.
“It became easier with exercise and healthy eating,” she said. Now she is seeing the results and is glad to see more options since moving here a few months ago.
Luvina Sabree, owner of So Natural Organic Restaurant and Market in Harker Heights, found that people with unique diets are happy to have a place for them. Many of her customers are on the Paleolithic diet, which eschews bread and pasta for meals like our ancestors, consisting of meats, seafood, produce and nuts.
“I began my organic journey in 1997-1998,” Sabree said. Back then, she would drive to Austin twice a week to get healthy foods.
Thankfully, she doesn’t have to do that anymore. Her facility, which opened in August, offers a juice bar, and Sabree hopes locals will learn its benefits.
“The nutrients go right to the blood stream,” she said. “The body doesn’t have to break down fiber, it replaces antioxidants and gets rid of free radicals.” Plus, it’s a simple way to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables daily.
One of her employees, Nicole Diehl, has lost more than 100 pounds through a combination of the paleo diet and CrossFit.
“I still have some (weight) to lose,” she said, “but if you stay on the path and learn how to eat better, it’s possible.”
She enjoys having antibiotic- and hormone-free meat and food options free of genetically modified organisms.
“There’s been a rise in Type 2 diabetes and obesity,” Glen Whitner said. “The body isn’t designed to carry so much weight and then you have joint issues.”
The Whitners believe many health problems do not need to be medicated.
“A lot of health issues would be solved by eating properly, exercising and drinking water,” Charisse Whitner said.
Glen Whitner found that once he changed his regimen, he lost more than 20 pounds. Now, the Whitners are looking to open their own CrossFit gym in Killeen. There are only two in the area, and with more than 50 in Austin, the demand is clear.
“It’s become popular worldwide,” he said. “Everyone needs fitness training.”