FLOWER MOUND (CBSDFW.COM) – At St. Nicholas Church in Flower Mound, the congregation is getting healthy, but their inspiration is coming from the most unlikely of places, a pig named Avery.

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“Avery! It’s unbelievable the difference in Avery!” church member Jeanie Boren said with excitement.

Fifteen years ago the pig was dumped on the church’s property. She has since become a regular member of the flock.

“Avery is the mascot,” said Rev. Mark Wright, “the be-all and end-all of St. Nicholas Church.”

Because she is a pig, and pigs like to eat, Avery became a rather large part of the church.

“She got extremely obese,” said Dr. Laura Lason, Avery’s veterinarian, “She had rolls of fat that covered her eyes, so she had very limited vision. She’s an old lady, so she has some arthritis, and with extra body weight it’s extra pressure on joints.”

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Because of Avery’s obesity, her church family put her on a diet, and they went on one too.

“She’s the reason why not only my parents have lost so much weight, but why I’ve lost so much weight,” explained 17-year-old Josh Wright, who is down two pant sizes. “And [it’s] why our congregation has decided to get healthy as well.”

Through a diet program called Slimming World, some 15 members of the church have lost nearly 600 pounds, and by monitoring Avery’s food intake, their pet pig has dropped half of her body weight.

“She has lost a lot of weight, since she’s been here, by controlling her diet, ” said church member Debbie Mancino, who has lost 52 pounds, “so she and I have a lot in common!”

Now the congregation is challenging other churches to chuck their bad habits for healthy ones. They’re calling it Avery’s Challenge.

“Not only do we want our community to be healthy,” said Laurel, Rev. Wright’s wife, “but we’d like to see churches all over the area be healthy places to go.”

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