By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – If your New Year’s resolutions included losing weight and getting in better shape, you’re in luck! The annual Lighten Up East Texas weight-loss challenge is set to help East Texans reach their fitness goals and take a chance at fattening their wallets in the process.

The program, which is in its sixth year, officially kicked off Saturday, Jan. 6 with a registration event held at the Broadway Square Mall in Tyler.

“It’s kind of a motivation, get-you-moving for the new year type of thing,” explained Mandy Patrick, an agent with the Houston County Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service. “You’re not really required to do any kind of set regimen or anything, although we will have a walking challenge where people can participate on teams just to walk and to get more physically active.”

According to Patrick, participants are encouraged to visit their local weigh-in station to log their starting weight by Wednesday, Feb. 28.

“There’s a weight out period at the end of April, and for every five percent of body weight lost, you’re entered into a drawing for $5,000,” Patrick said. “There’s one $5,000 prize for a male and one for a female.”

Every participant must be registered into Lighten Up East Texas at a designated LUET weighing location within one of these Texas counties: Smith, Gregg, Rusk, Cherokee, Anderson, Henderson, Rains, Van Zandt, Kaufman, Wood, Upshur, Camp, Morris, Titus, Franklin, Hopkins, Delta, Lamar, Red River, Bowie, Cass, Marion, Harrison, Panola, Shelby, Nacogdoches, Angelina, Sabine, San Augustine, Newton, Jasper, Tyler, Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, Houston, Fannin, Hunt, Kaufman, Navarro, Freestone, Leon, Madison and Walker counties.

Following the conclusion of the challenge, another event will be held at the Tyler mall to give participants a chance to celebrate their accomplishments, Patrick said.

“It’s designed to be a slow and steady type process,” explained Patrick. “That’s why they reward the five percent loss.”

According to Patrick, a weight loss of five percent amounts to roughly 10-12 pounds for most people.

“That’s something that can be accomplished over a three-month period, and that’s a nice, steady way to lose weight instead of a crash diet or a fad diet, where it’s really extreme and restrictive,” she said.

Patrick explained that the walking program held in affiliation with Lighten Up East Texas is a program started by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office.

“That’s usually over an eight-week period where folks on a team would chart their mileage they walk,” she said. “The goal is over eight weeks, with eight people on a team, you could walk the entire 800 miles across Texas to El Paso.”

For interested individuals in Houston County, the nearest location to register and weigh in is the AgriLife Extension office in Crockett, which Patrick estimated has been serving as a weigh-in location for the past three or four years.

“You do have to let myself or my secretary see you weigh, but we would be the only ones,” Patrick said, adding that all weights recorded will be kept confidential.

Between the official weigh in and weigh out dates, participants will have the opportunity to return to the office to check their progress as they desire.

“(Scales) do vary all over town – the one at the doctor’s office is different from the one at home, and this one is different, I’m sure, from the doctor’s office,” Patrick pointed out. “But as long as you weigh on the same scale consistently, any loss you see will be consistent.”

For more information, contact Patrick at 936-544-7502 or visit www.luet.org. The Houston County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office is located at 716 Well St. in Crockett.

Sarah Naron may be reached via email at snaron@messenger-news.com.