Houstonians Challenged To Lose One Million Pounds

Houston routinely ranks among the fattest cities. So local officials are issuing a challenge to area residents to lose one million pounds in 2014.

It's called the Million Pound Challenge and organizers have a catchy slogan to go along with it.

"What do we have to lose!"

The challenge is a joint campaign from Shape Up Houston, the YMCA, HEB and the City of Houston to recruit at least 50,000 people who live or work in Houston to collectively lose one million pounds and track their progress online.

Lan Bentsen, the son of former U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, is the founder of Shape Up Houston.

"Obesity is not about vanity. It is about health and economics. Obesity is the gateway to diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer."

Bentsen says about 2.4 million people in Harris County are overweight or obese.

"And it comes with a price tag. The Texas Comptroller is very concerned about that price tag. She noted in a special report that the direct and indirect cost of obesity in 2000 was a $5 billion impact on the state economy, doubling to $10 billion in 2010. And she says that it will triple to over $32 billion in 2030 if it is unaddressed."

Bentsen says although one million pounds sounds daunting, area residents actually weigh enough to lose 100 million pounds.

One of the highest profile participants in the challenge is Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who says she wants to lose 20 pounds. But she admits this isn't her first attempt at a weight loss challenge.

"As a councilmember, I participated in a City of Houston weight loss initiative. And I'll put it out there, I lost 30 pounds over the course of about a year and a half. And in the course of the subsequent 12 years, gained it all back."

Mayor Parker's experience is a common one for many people.

Dr. Deborah Horn is the Medical Director for the UT Center for Obesity Medicine and Metabolic Performance. She says, for some people, focusing on the numbers on the scale isn't the most effective way to lose weight.

"People come in a lot of different shapes and sizes, and I have a lot of very successful patients who've lost 100 pounds, but they're never going to look like what we perceive as normal on a magazine cover. However, now their body composition is in the right ratio and they're demonstrating a healthy metabolism and healthy blood sugar control and healthy blood pressure control. So looking deeper into those long term health risks is probably the most important message to get across."

Horn says an easy way to start a weight loss plan is to keep a simple log of your daily activity and daily food consumption and make changes based on the trends you detect.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...