Biggest Loser

Written by Teresa Dennard.

It's time for Panola County to get fit!

Of the 232 counties measured to determine the degree of healthy living in the area, Panola County ranks 145. That’s not very good. So what actually determines how a county fares against the others? The Rankings (according to countyhealthrankings.org) look at a variety of measures that affect health such as high school graduation rates, access to healthy foods, rates of smoking, obesity, and teen births. Vickie Lacy, local County Extension Agent, has been working with a committee to plan a “Biggest Loser” Contest that will not only encourage entrants to think about what they eat, but will offer prizes to those who lose the most weight.

Patterned after a successful program in Shelby County, Lacy and committee members began making plans earlier this year to encourage the citizens of Panola County to become a healthier population. According to Lacy, the program is geared to “have fun losing weight while learning how to choose, cook and plan nutritious and healthy meals. Also participants will learn to shop smart and develop weekly meal plans, implement a daily fitness routine and set realistic goals during a 12 week time frame.” Anyone wanting to participate in the 12 week program can sign up January 5-21 at the Courthouse Annex building at 522 W. College Street. Each participant contributes $25 to the competition and the top three “Biggest Losers” will win a portion of the pot. Local residents and businesses have donated prizes for participants as well. Some of these contributors include: Karen Peterson-The Village Salon, Dr. Joel Hill-Hill Chiropractic, Paul Patel-Holiday Inn Express and Baymont Inn, All Hours Fitness, Patricia Smith-Beauty Sense, Jeanette Ray-The Season’s Nursery, Kimberly McGuire-Kimberly’s Kreations, Shelly Wilkerson Powell-Stitch-It-To-Me, Melvin LaGrone-LaGrone Cleaners, Debbie Moore-Copper Falls, Jodie Register, Aesthetician, Sally Dawson, Sharon Ivy and John Solar.

Initial weigh-in for the program, which is kept strictly confidential, is Wednesday, January 21, from 3:30pm-6:00m at the Extension Office on College Street. A fully clothed “before” photo will be taken at the weigh-in with an “after” photo taken at the final weigh-in on April 21. Optional weigh-ins will be held each Wednesday from 4:30pm-6:00pm, but are encouraged in order for participants to chart their progress. Also, special topics will be discussed at the meetings such as setting goals, how to read labels, the benefits of eating breakfast, hydration, weight loss mistakes, healthy snacking, avoiding fad diets, and knowing your numbers--blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. Weekly winners will be determined from the weigh-in and awarded a prize based upon the greatest percentage of weight loss for that particular week. An added bonus for the program is a “Healthy Meal Planning Class.” Meal plans and recipes for the next week will be discussed and tasted. Questions answered about fitness goals and tips for maintaining weight loss will also be shared.

According to research by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, excessive weight and inactivity are consistently linked with increased incidence of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and colon cancer. Twenty-nine percent of American adults are not physically active at all, and 50 percent are not active enough to achieve health benefits. Only 27 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 engage in recommended amounts of moderate-intensity physical activity. A participant from the Shelby County program said, “It’s personal for me. I want and need to make some healthy changes. This program is about leading by personal example. It’s about lifestyle changes—about incorporating healthy eating and active living. It’s not so much about losing pounds as it is about changing lifestyles in a fun way that also allows you to win some prizes.”

Each weekday group leaders will meet at various walking areas in the community. Participants are encouraged to bring a bottle of water, wear tennis shoes and a pedometer and join the fun. Bonus points will be awarded to those that attend the weekly weigh-ins and meal planning classes. The top three individuals with the greatest percentage of body weight lost at the end of 12 weeks will be deemed the winners of the Biggest Loser contest. First place receives 60 percent of entry fees collected, a gym membership, haircut and color, a massage and various gift cards and prizes. Second place receives 30 percent of entry fees collected and various gift cards and prizes. Third place receives 10 percent of entry fees collected and various gift cards and prizes. For additional information about this program, contact Vickie Lacy, Panola County Extension Agent-Family and Consumer Services at 903.693.0380. Let’s get Panola County moving and fit and lower that County ranking to something in the 10s rather than 145!