A dress made of collard greens. Fighting obesity.

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Photos courtesy Theresa Lou Bowick.

Yes, you read that right. A dress made almost entirely of huge collard green leaves. I couldn't resist when I saw this report.

The dress was designed by Nathaniel Johnson, a Rochester based fashion designer. The greens were hand-picked at the Rochester public market from Wally and Carol Liese's farmstand. All local. Amazing, right?

It turns out the story of the woman who wears the dress, Theresa Lou Bowick, is even more amazing.

Bowick is a registered nurse in Rochester. As she told me via e-mail, she went on "a fat girl's journey from childhood obesity to healthy living", after her mother died of heart disease:

My family's death certificates has propelled me in to activism. We have lost too many to heart disease and cancer. If we don't change our unhealthy habits, the rest of us will suffer the same fate. I desire to cultivate change in my family and community. As a health care provider it just doesn't make sense to springboard your own demise with poor choices.

Bowick has written a book about her ongoing journey and mission, called Collard Green Curves. She's gone far beyond just helping herself and her family eat better and live more healthy lives. She founded a neighborhood bicycling club, Conkey Cruisers.

Bowick says obesity is a multi-faceted disease that requires a multi-faceted cure:

Eat less and exercise more can't be the only acceptable treatment. I love a pretty dress. So, I combined my two passions – health and fashion – and came up with the idea to wear the message. The dress has turned a few heads, and has open the door to many teachable moments. People are amazed that the dress is real collared greens. I will continue to wear the dress to promote healthy living.

Bowick will appear on the Steve Harvey Show in Chicago tomorrow (imagine how difficult it will be to get a fresh dress to Chicago).

Bowick's message has already made its way to the nation's capital. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter formally recognized Bowick in the Congressional Record in 2012:

Just one year ago, Ms. Bowick was out running in her neighborhood when she had two disturbing encounters. First, a young boy called out to her, "Hey, lady! Are you on probation?" He assumed that Ms. Bowick was running from the police, as he apparently had little understanding of any other reason for running in that particular neighborhood. Soon after, an older man accused Ms. Bowick of being an undercover cop, boldly stating, "She is the police, because nobody exercises in this neighborhood!"

These encounters inspired Ms. Bowick to start an exercise program in the ConkeyClifford Neighborhood. The program advocates "Getting fit, one street, one person, one bike at a time." As a registered nurse, Ms. Bowick understands the health benefits of regular exercise, particularly at a time when our nation is experiencing an epidemic of obesity. Her efforts are getting an entire neighborhood up and moving, all the while restoring safety and a sense of home back to the residents.

Congratulations to Theresa Lou Bowick for her determination, creativity, and community spirit.

 

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