Weight Loss Contest Spurs Healthy Changes for West Ga.

January 9, 2014

Residents of west Georgia whose New Year's resolutions include losing weight have an innovative local resource to support their decision to get healthy.

More than 1,200 people completed the Get Healthy West Georgia weight loss challenge in 2013 and lost nearly 2,500 pounds.

The 2014 Get Healthy West Georgia Weight Loss Challenge is a free, 12-week program in which teams and individuals compete to lose weight, increase exercise and improve nutrition. The program, led by Tanner Health System, will begin Jan. 19. Anyone who lives or works in Carroll, Haralson or Heard counties can participate. 

“People are excited about this unique opportunity to change their lives,” said Denise Taylor, senior vice president and chief community health, strategy and brand officer for Tanner Health System. “Last year more than 1,200 people joined the weight loss challenge. Together, they lost more than 2,500 pounds through a shared commitment to eating healthy, getting active and staying accountable for their progress.”

Funded by a CDC grant, Get Healthy West Georgia includes a suite of evidence-based tools to support healthy lifestyle changes. The program's website, www.GetHealthyWestGeorgia.org, offers a free online fitness and nutrition tracker and group exercise calendar. Healthy for Life classes, group fitness activities and convenient weigh-ins will provide community encouragement and help participants track their progress in the weight loss challenge.

Zachary Williams, a graduate student at University of West Georgia, was the winner of 2013’s weight loss challenge, shedding 30 pounds. After years as a soccer and cross country athlete in high school, Williams started gaining weight when he got to college. He went from a very active lifestyle with intense workouts to a much more sedentary schedule, spending hours sitting for studying, writing papers or listening to lectures. And he relied more on fast food.

“I started realizing all the things I had done that were causing me to gain weight,” Williams said. “I was an athlete, and I never really had to think about what I was eating, but that really changed.”

Through the Get Healthy West Georgia Weight Loss Challenge, he learned a lot about nutrition, calories and healthier eating. He made some major changes to his diet, including cutting way back on fast food. He started reading food labels and using MyFitnessPal, an online diet and exercise tracker, to track his daily calories. He walks three to four times a week for exercise.

Those healthy changes made a big difference in Williams’ weight and overall health. Today he said he feels great and has kept almost all of the weight off. 

“Even a modest amount of weight loss can result in a marked improvement in people’s health and self-esteem," Taylor said. "We’re eager to give as many people as possible the chance to join this program and do something good for themselves, their families and their health.”

There is a significant need for improvement in obesity levels and overall physical fitness in west Georgia. In Carroll County, 31.4 percent of adults were obese, as were 28.9 percent of adults in Heard County and 31.6 percent in Haralson County, according to CDC data from 2010. By comparison, the state’s obesity average was 29.1 percent. 

The counties also have higher rates of diabetes than the 9.8 percent reported for the state. The disease affects 12.9 percent of Carroll County residents, 11.8 percent of Haralson County and 11.7 percent of Heard County. Nearly 30 percent of residents in each county report regular physical inactivity.

Participants can join the weight loss challenge by logging onto www.GetHealthyWestGeorgia.org. After completing a brief online health assessment, participants must weigh in to become officially entered in the competition. Initial weigh-ins will be conducted during the week of Jan. 19-26 at locations across west Georgia, including area churches, workplaces and public sites during a week-long campaign. Official weights are logged into each participant's personal account to help track their progress during the challenge. Final weigh-ins will be conducted the week of April 20-27. 

Get Healthy West Georgia is a three-year initiative developed to improve nutrition, increase physical activity and reduce obesity in Carroll, Haralson and Heard counties. For more information, visit www.GetHealthyWestGeorgia.org and the program’s Facebook page.

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