Did you make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight? Has your doctor said that you need to lose weight? Or are you wanting to lose a few pounds for nothing else but just to live a healthier life?

For the second year, residents of Houston and Anderson counties will have the opportunity to participate in the Lighten Up East Texas regional weight loss challenge, with weigh-in locations in both Crockett and Palestine.

Created by the Fit City Tyler Coalition, the free weight-loss event challenges individuals, teams and communities to have friendly competition while losing weight and improving their health.

Houston County Extension Agent Mandy Patrick said she is excited to bring the program back to Houston County for the second year.

“It is a relatively simple way to help members of our community to be the healthiest they can be,” Patrick said.

Every registered participant of the 2017 Lighten Up East Texas regional weight-loss challenge who loses at least 5 percent of their starting weight by the end of May will become eligible for entries in the grand prize drawings.

“There’s grand prize drawings for some really great prizes including a $5,000 cash prize, for one man and for one woman, as well as gift cards and a makeover package,” Patrick told the Messenger. “It’s a lot of incentives.”

This includes two $1,000 Brookshire’s gift cards and a $1,000 makeover package from Broadway Square Mall in Tyler. Additional grand prizes will be added between now and May. Team prizes also will be presented.

For example, a person who registers at a starting weight of 200 pounds would earn one entry for the grand prize drawings by losing 10 pounds, or 5 percent of their starting weight. A 162-lb. person would need to lose at least 8.1 pounds (or 9 pounds) while a 278-lb. Person would need to lose at least 13.9 (or 14 pounds).

Without using a calculator, there’s an easy way to figure out the 5 percent of weight you would need to lose. Take the first two numbers of your weight (to the left of the decimal point) and divide that number by 2. That is 5 percent of your current weight.

Participants are encouraged to create a goal that is at least one pound more than the 5 percent target.

Additional entries can be earned by losing an additional 5 percent of their starting weight (up to four entries or up to 20 percent of their weight-loss).

Registration into the three-month weight-loss challenge is open now through Tuesday, Feb. 28. A local weigh-in location has been established at the Houston County Extension Office, located at 716 Well St. in Crockett Park. All personal information including weight will remain confidential and will only be shared with program administrators. Weigh-in in Crockett will be from 8 to noon and from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“Our goal for this event is to encourage East Texans to take control of their health, to make smart and healthy choices, to make time for physical activity and to ultimately lose weight in a healthy way,” George Roberts, chief executive officer of North East Texas Health and co-chair of Fit City Tyler said in a news release about the challenge.

In Palestine, the weigh-in locations include Anytime Fitness, located at 2190 S. Loop 256, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; and at the North East Texas Health WIC Clinic, located 305 E. Lacy St., Suite 130, on Fridays only from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

When Fit City Tyler was established in 2010, the mission statement was to make Tyler a fit city “one step, one bite and one health-conscious decision at a time.” But now, it’s been expanded to across East Texas.

“We’ve seen much success by individuals and by groups. Now we are asking the entire East Texas region to join us in adopting healthy behaviors,” Fit City Tyler Co-Chair Dave Berry said.

Once an individual signs up, they will have the option to receive weight-loss tips and recipes from the Lighten Up East Texas program.

“They will email updates and tips, and there’s a Facebook page too that you can participate on and follow on,” Patrick said.

Last year was Houston County’s first time to participate.

“We had about 30 participants last year and we had seven that stuck it out and weighed out. All the people who weighed out lost their 5 percent,” Patrick said. “This year, I would like to at least double what we had last year.”

The sign-up process is simple.

“All they have to do is fill out the registration form and weigh in,” Patrick said, noting that the Lighten Up East Texas program uses MyScale for the initial and final weigh-ins.

Only two weigh-ins are required: the beginning weigh-in and the final weigh-out, which can be done any time in May.

“People are welcome to come in and check their weight on our scales throughout the process, because our scale might be different from the one people have at home or at their doctor’s office,” Patrick said, noting that the scale will be available during business hours, as long as someone was in the county extension office.

Many people want to lose weight but don’t know where to start.

“We can answer their questions. We have resources on healthy living and wellness topics, healthy recipes. We can direct them where to go to start getting exercise, such as the city park’s walking trail. Walking is one of the best exercises and a good place to start,” Patrick said.

Patrick suggests starting out at getting 3,000 to 5,000 steps in a day, building up eventually to 10,000 steps daily.

“You can use a pedometer. Many phones these days have built-in devices that you can use or you can use an app,” Patrick said. “You don’t have to have a gym membership to get in shape. You can park further away from the grocery store, for example. Go walking with your family after dinner. Those extra steps really do make a difference.”

For those who made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight this year, Patrick said Lighten Up East Texas may help.

“It makes it easier to stick to your resolutions if you have to be accountable, plus you could possibly win a prize,” Patrick said.

Eating smaller portions and taking your time when eating also was suggested for losing weight.

“You can cut out sugar-sweetened beverages, not just cokes, but also vitamin waters and other drinks that have sugar in them. That is an excellent way to cut calories,” Patrick said. “Just one 12-ounce cola has almost 200 calories. If it’s a 20-ounce, it’s even more.”

Patrick also has suggestions for those who want to exercise but are limited due to health issues.

“Since our office is housed in the senior here at the senior center, we offer biweekly ‘Sit and Be Fit’ classes for those who can’t walk or can’t have pressure on their joints. ‘Sit and Exercise’ is strength and flexibility exercises that helps them with balance, and helps with the blood flow. There’s always a way. We will find a way that will work for them.”

For those who made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight this year, Patrick said Lighten Up East Texas may help.

“It makes it easier to stick to your resolutions if you have to be accountable, plus you could possibly win a prize,” Patrick said.

Patrick also will be suggesting the Lighten Up East Texas program to participants of the diabetes class she will start next week at Timberlands Hospital in Crockett.

For more information about Lighten Up East Texas, visit www.LightenUpEastTexas.com or call the Houston County Extension Office at 936-544-7502.