While a large percentage of the country is overweight, many others constantly search for ways to improve their health and become more fit.

What the healthiest people know is that becoming fit and improving one’s health permanently takes more than exercising and eating right. The most lasting changes to a person’s health come as a result of an inside-out approach that factors in the mind, body and soul.

This special section shines a light on people who have embraced healthier lifestyles that include vegetarianism, hot yoga, meditating and running marathons. For each of the people included in this section, maintaining optimal health is not a fad, but a way of life.

Kaylyn James was the first African American Miss Alabama. The beauty queen embraces a healthy lifestyle that she shares with her husband and two young daughters. A former dancer, James manages to include a challenging pilates class in her busy schedule by teaching it herself.

Vivian Delaney and Lucien Boulet turned their love of running into a healthy obsession that includes competing in various races, including 5K, 10K, half-marathons and the big kahuna, marathons, a full 26.2 miles. Delaney completed her first marathon in Arizona earlier this year and is training for her next race, scheduled for November.

For Yvette Harris and Valerie Crawford, “you are what you eat” is more than an innocent mantra. Both women are vegetarians who have shunned meat for many years, each arriving at the decision in different ways. When Harris’ mother died from breast cancer, the local public relations wiz quit eating meat cold turkey, pun intended. Crawford’s venture into eliminating meat from her diet came as a result of a middle school project that exposed slaughterhouse details that the then 13-year old found unacceptable.

The marketing powerhouse behind the increasingly popular Jazz in the Gardens music festival turned to hot yoga at the suggestion of a colleague. Suzan McDowell reluctantly tried the 90 minute session that guides participants through yoga poses in a heated room that leaves them dripping with sweat. The sweaty practice quickly became a habit that she indulges in three times each week.

While each of the people featured in this section leads a busy life, each has found a way to make fitness a part of it. From changing their diets to meditating regularly, each also realizes that becoming healthy and sustaining it must be approached holistically.