Run through a fast-food restaurant for a double-meat cheeseburger with mayo and bacon. “Super-size it, please!" No exercise. Too busy. Park close to buildings to minimize walking. Sit behind a desk all day — day after day. The kids start the day with cartoon-character cereal, with flakes coated with frosty goodness. They wash it down with sugary fruit drinks and burrow into the sofa for another video-game marathon. All junk food. No exercise. This is why we're fat.
The extra weight eventually puts stress on hearts, lungs and livers. It creates a nation of diabetics. It causes missed days from school and work among the tired and chronically ill. But a community-wide campaign to promote fitter lifestyles is underway in Tyler and the rest of East Texas, the Fit City Challenge, which the Tyler Morning Telegraph is spearheading with the help of community leaders.
“The idea of the Fit City Challenge is simple,” said Dave Berry, editor of the Tyler Paper. “Through our reporting, we want to educate the community, providing information that highlights programs, tips and tools with which to fight. Through the Fit City Council, a group representing almost 40 medical, educational, governmental, business and charitable groups, we hope to inspire and challenge individuals, families, businesses and communities to take the first of many steps toward healthier lifestyles. If our reporting is good, if the council is able to expand fitness and health-related opportunities, and if more than a few people accept the challenge and adopt healthier lifestyles, then Tyler can truly be a healthier community — a ‘fit city.'”
George Roberts, CEO of the Northeast Texas Public Health District
, bluntly framed the issue: “The Northeast Texas Public Health District views the concurrent epidemic of obesity and sedentary lifestyles as the greatest threat to the health of Tyler. Doctors who care for children are concerned because children being born right now are not expected to live as long as their parents.”
KYTX CBS19, the newspaper's television partner, has joined the Fit City Challenge effort and will air stories on obesity and fitness. In addition, 13 current or recent graduates from The University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism spent three weeks reporting on the topic for the newspaper and television station.
But the news is not all bad. With simple steps — better food choices and more physical activity — weight loss can lead to better health and fitness. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin recently told journalists, “As America's doctor, I want to change the national conversation from one of a negative mess about obesity and illness to a positive conversation about being healthy and fit.”
As the title says, this is a challenge, a call to arms to be fitter and healthier.
Fit City Challenge advisers agree that attention to the obesity issue, sharing ideas and combining resources community-wide can improve the health of adults and children. “Educating the community as a whole to this problem will be a huge first step,” Roberts said. “Second, there is already a great deal of work that is being conducted by many local organizations to address this problem. The synergy that will be created by all of the combined and shared efforts will be tremendous and speed up a number of action steps. Third, I hope that people will begin to look at their own eating and exercise habits and will use the information provided through this initiative to make the appropriate changes in their own lives.”
People who are interested in taking part in the ongoing effort can contact Berry at the newspaper, 903-596-6238.