What a year it's been for the Fit City Challenge. Not only did thousands of East Texans come together to lose weight in the first Lighten Up East Texas Challenge, many others made a commitment to get moving and feed their bodies healthier food.

In this week's Fit City, a look back at what we've accomplished one step, one bite, one health-conscious decision at time.

In two short weeks, a new Lighten Up East Texas Challenge kicks off. This year, the goal is big. The Fit City Coalition's magic number this year is to lose 5,210 pounds or have that many people sign up. Last year, more than 3,000 people took that challenge, making 2013 a healthier year.

One in three Texans is considered obese. The Fit City Coalition decided something needed to be done to lower that number.

East Texans weighed-in on their own and in teams for the Lighten Up East Texas Challenge. The goal: to lose 5 percent of their body weight.

Kay Potts took the challenge.

"It's been great support, encouragement and great incentive to win something and if I don't win anything, I have kind of gotten back my health, and energy, and I get to buy a new wardrobe, so that's a good thing," she said.

By the way, Ms. Potts lost more than 70 pounds during the challenge and 122 total. Overall East Texans lightened up more than 4,300 pounds.

East Texans also learned getting fit isn't just about losing weight, it's important to be BodyStrong.

"Your mind is going to determine your success in this program. I teach people that you have to believe in yourself," Emily Click, trainer, said. "I believe everybody that comes in here."

Ms. Click created a program that can be tailored to any fitness level and you're done in 45 minutes flat, with a flatter stomach to follow. Ms. Click even uses social media to share her BodyStrong client's success stories.

Adults aren't the only ones upping their fitness game. So are children in East Texas.

"Because we want healthy adults. If they don't have a good base it is really hard to be active," Judy Stanley said.

This is the Patriot Academy for Physical Activity at The University of Texas at Tyler. One of many programs in East Texas teaching students, like Berean Matthews how to be active.

"Well first I had to do it (jump rope) like this, but now I can do it with my shoulders like this," Berean said.

"Every day, she pulled the jump rope out. Every day she could get one or two, then she put four together and five," said her mom, Tonya said.

P.E. teachers say all learning passes through pathways that we first learned through movement, which is another reason exercise is important early on in our development.

Exercise may be good for the soul, but so is laughter. East Texas Medical Center brought in a laughter yoga specialist to teach its breast cancer survivors at the Pink Ribbon Getaway this summer.

"Laughter helps you open yourself up. Let their blood flow, let their breath flow, let their energy flow. They begin to feel a natural type of high," Shaka Stephen said.

The ladies learned what research shows: A good 10-minute belly laugh equals 20 minutes on a rowing machine.

A local gym also decided to take on a monumental challenge of its own. XTC started its Changing 100 Lives in 100 Days in September.

"It's a competition between all of us trainers to help all of these people basically get free training, help them get on the right path with nutrition and their workouts and help them lose as much weight as we can possibly get in 100 days," Sam Brown, trainer, said.

The contest comes to an end Dec. 31, but the Fit City coalition's mission to end obesity in East Texas continues.

Mark your calendars for Jan. 10 and 11. That's when the next weigh-ins get underway at Broadway Square Mall for the 2014 Lighten Up East Texas Challenge.

You can go Jan 10 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Broadway Square Mall or Jan 11 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Scales will be placed in several locations around the mall.



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