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Taking the first step

Lloyd and Naomi Fite, from left, and Charles Smith.
Lloyd and Naomi Fite, from left, and Charles Smith. CELESTE SMITH

When Lloyd Fite first walked into Northlake Mall, he was so out of shape he could barely make it in the door. Monifa Drayton, manager of community investment at LiveWell Carolinas!, remembers that day. “He had to stop at the rocking chairs (near the entrance). He didn’t even make it in our doors at first,” says Drayton. “And he only wore overalls everyday, because that’s all he could wear.” During the Christmas season of 2009, Fite says he weighed 318 pounds. The only clothing he had that could fit were his overalls – wearing jeans with a shirt tucked in was out of the question. “I decided it was time to get a little bit of the weight off,” says Fite, who is 77. Fite started out by cutting back on his eating. He lost a few pounds, but the process was slow. Then in February, he decided to ramp things up by taking his first steps at Northlake Mall. That first day he spent maybe 15 minutes in the mall, most of it catching his breath. These days, Fite spends about an hour and 10 minutes walking almost daily, and even occasionally breaks into a slow jog. He walks four times around the mall, approximately 2.56 miles. As of December, Fite weighed 240 – a loss of 78 pounds.“I still cut back my eating,” Fite says. “I can’t just walk and lose.” Fite walks everyday but Sunday. His wife, Naomi, who is 74, joins him on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. She’s lost 52 pounds. The Fites admit the idea to start mall walking came from their cousin, Charles Smith. Smith would meet the Fites for breakfast each morning. “He’d come to Hardee’s and everyday he’d say, ‘Let’s go walk. Let’s go walk.’ And finally one day, it sunk in,” says Lloyd. Smith, who is 77, has been walking for 38 years. He had a heart attack in 1972, and started walking outside as part of his treatment. Smith began mall walking in Freedom Mall on Charlotte’s westside. When Northlake was built, Smith moved his walking routine there.“I live on a street with a couple hills,” says Smith, who had a defibrillator put in his chest six years ago. “Mall walking is flat and safer. Plus, I’ve made a lot of friends.” Smith walks seven days a week, for 30 minutes. “I’ve maintained a healthy weight all of these years,” he said. Today, Drayton looks at the Fites and Smith as mall-walking success stories. “It’s been so fun to watch the program grow, and watch the impact it had on people’s lives,” Drayton says. “It’s so inspiring to see someone [Lloyd’s] age totally change his lifestyle.”