NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleans minister, who has spent lifetime saving souls, now has a new mission, saving people's lives through better health.
But first, he had to save his own so he lost half his body size all on his own.
At her House of Faith Non-denominational ministry, Prophetess Christiana Ford feeds the homeless every Monday.
“I'm feeding these people soul food. They say it's the best red beans and fried chicken in the city,” said Prophetess Christiana Ford of House of Faith.
After losing his church in Hurricane Katrina, Reverend Raymond Brown is there to help her. There's food to cook, donated clothing to hand out, and souls like Steve's to be saved.
“I was running the streets real hard. Young brothers, I want y'all to put them guns down and pick the bibles up, for number one y'all is our future,” said Steve Sawyer, who was at the church to get a meal.
“So we just say Father God in the name of Jesus, we just thank you right now for this,” Reverend Raymond Brown prays in a prayer circle of the men and women who have come to House of Faith for a meal.
And while Reverend Brown is there to help, he won't be eating the food he prepares.
“I don't eat soul food anymore. I don't eat sweets no more. I don't eat candy no more. I don't drink cold drinks no more. I just drink water. I haven't drunk, I don't even drink orange juice,” said Reverend Brown.
Not long ago Reverend Brown weighed 400 pounds. His waist was 58 inches.
“It's just the culture of the community, the food culture. They don't teach you nutritious foods, so I ate the chicken, the Popeye’s, McDonald's. It was destroying my insides and it was going to catch up with me,” he said.
And it caught up with him in a dangerous way. Type 2 diabetes was destroying his kidneys.
“Well, they asked me to go on dialysis. Yeah, my doctor asked me to go on dialysis, and I decided that you know what I can't go on dialysis,” Brown said about the diagnosis scaring him.
So five years ago he shed 65 pounds by cutting out the type of food that sends a diabetic's insulin soaring, causing extra fat storage in the midsection.
“I stopped eating pastry completely. No donuts,” he remembers.
Then by a chance meeting one day in 2017, Reverend Brown saw WWLTV's Meg Farris in a park and made a promise that one day he'd be on Weight Loss Wednesday.
“You was the epitome of health, and when I saw you, all I could see is a woman controlling her weight. You looked so good and I say, ‘Wow, I'd love to be like that,’” I respond with a laugh, “ Well, sometimes. We all struggle.”
But that promise was really a commitment to his health, future, and life.
“I was so big I used to just like, I can be walking and pass out, and wake up. That's how the weight was so much.”
Financial constraints meant that he had to lose weight on his own. He used “Dr. Google” and books to learn about nutrition.
“Avocado mayo is good for your health, OK? There's no eggs in here, so cholesterol is not here, OK? Yellow egg in mayonnaise is bad for your health,” he explained.
He cut out seafood, meat, salt, sugary foods and drinks, white bread, and starches. He eats egg whites and almond butter for protein. He eats vegetables and good fats in olive oil and avocadoes. He eats oatmeal, and cinnamon, and limits fruit.
“It takes sacrifice and dedication. This is how I eat. You got to get used to eating it because it don't have it, it don't taste like no po'boy sandwich,” laments Brown.
For exercise, Reverend Brown started walking around City Park, gradually speeding up to what he calls a trot. Around 180 pounds came off. His blood sugar is better controlled.
“My doctor says, ‘Wow, you amazing,’” remembers Brown.
“It's amazing. It's amazing. It inspired me to lose weight, because I was wearing a 22. I got off mostly meat, and now I am, believe it or not, I am in a 14. Yes, it works. His recipe works,” said Ford.
LSU Health weight and exercise expert Dr. Melinda Sothern says people are successful in weight loss when they have an internal motivation, which was Reverend Brown's kidney health. And his external motivation was Weight Loss Wednesday.
“Setting a goal like that and being accountable to another person is a great way to get yourself started on a weight loss program,” noted Dr. Melinda Sothern, Professor Emerita at LSU Health Sciences Center.
Training his muscles and cutting sugar and starches out of his diet, helps his metabolism and makes him not feel deprived.
“You're not going to be as hungry if you're eating the right kind of diet. When you're putting added sugar in your diet, remember it triggers hunger,” explained Dr. Sothern.
When asked how has his life changed since he lost all of that weight, Brown replied, “Well people don't recognize me. They say, ‘That's you? Brown, you don't look the same at all!’ I was that 400 pounds, where everybody looked at and wrote me off. Look at me now,” he said with pride.
Reverend Brown still has 30 to 40 pounds to lose to get to his goal weight. He wants to help other people lose weight too, and asks for anyone who needs help to contact him on Facebook.