It’s been two months since countless San Angeloans swore off their sweets in favor of becoming better versions of themselves in the new year, and so far the hard work has paid off: San Angelo is currently ranked second in the state for healthy activity, logged online as a part of HEB’s annual Community Challenge.
Over 11,000 individual activities and participation from local schools, businesses and organizations have logged the city 129,300 points—Some 375 lost pounds. The efforts are pitting the city behind Pharr and just ahead of Cedar Park (near Austin) in the number two slot in the mid-size range.
The challenge, which began statewide three years ago, was brought to San Angelo in 2014 and ran eight weeks from Sept. 1 through the end of October. The city started off well in the inaugural run last year, but dropped down five spaces to seventh by the challenge's conclusion as motivation dwindled.
This time around, local organizers September Summers of Shannon Medical Center, and Stephanie Riesner, the HEB Health and Wellness Director, are placing more emphasis on awareness and promotion of healthy choices and activities. They are anticipating that the community will remain strong through the April 30 finish.
“I think that this year we’re trying to get more out there, get as much information out there as we can,” Riesner said. “We have more people participating and more people staying with it. This year we’ve had more groups doing it. We’re trying to get more schools involved.”
The challenge includes multiple ways communities can earn points, beginning with a pledge signed by the mayor and a video encouraging the community to participate.
Last year, Mayor Dwain Morrison pledged to lose 40 pounds and launched the San Angelo challenge on Sept. 1, but backslid into his old habits and retained all the weight. This time around he says he’s been more successful, which began with a change in eating habits and the incorporation of a “cheat day” to offset cravings.
“I have seen some improvements,” Morrison said on Friday. “In fact, I know that I have lost 15 pounds since I started this. I’m kind of fluctuating this last week, and it’s starting to work. My britches are getting a little looser. I stopped eating bread and I stopped eating sweets and my desserts are fruit and Jello.”
Once Mayor Morrison entered San Angelo in the race, the community began earning points based on individual and group participation. There are multiple ways to earn points during the challenge, including 50 for each person who signs up, 250 points for group activities, 100 points for healthy selfies of workouts or healthy meals and points earned for schools, businesses and organizations engaging in healthy activities.
Gym photos of individuals and groups have kept San Angelo’s tally high, with a solid backing of workplace pledges and healthy lunches captured around the city.
“I think the idea is to get people out there and get them moving,” Riesner said. “It doesn’t matter if you lose weight, gain weight or your weight stays the same. If you log weight every week, then we get points.”
Throughout the challenge, Riesner and Summers have coordinated to hold health fairs and rallies, beginning with a kickoff in the first week of January, and continuing with the next rally at HEB from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on March 17.
The events are meant to serve as a reminder that the challenge is going on and to motivate people to stay active and participate.
“I think my biggest thing is making healthy the norm in San Angelo,” Riesner said. “I would like to highlight our community as one of the healthiest communities in the state.”
Should San Angelo place first in the challenge, $1,200 will be donated to the school district to be used for the purchase of something healthy, be it equipment, learning materials or something else.
The real goal, Summers said, is to raise awareness about the need to lead healthy lifestyles and encourage commitment.
After the challenge is over, Mayor Morrison expects he’ll keep on the healthy track, and hopes others in the community will follow suit.
“I didn’t start smoking till I was 14, but when I had enough of it at 28, I put it down,” Morrison said. The same went for beer—albeit at a different age range—and now, Morrison says, he thinks keeping the fat, sweet and fried foods out of his diet will be just as easy, even if he doesn't get any points for it post-challenge.
In order to maintain a healthy diet, Riesner suggests sticking to the perimeter of the grocery store, where you'll find the produce, fish and fresh meats. Summers encouraged restaurant diners to visit locales on Shannon's Healthier Choices list, who have opted to provide free or low-cost substitutions on menu items for those wishing to eat healthier.
To register for the HEB Community Challenge or to view San Angelo's standing, follow this link.
For more information on healthy living and eating, check out Shannon's Words of Wellness blog.