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A challenge worth taking

Overweight Kansans can win by losing

By The Mercury

We’ve had our share of issues with Gov. Sam Brownback, but the weight-loss challenge he announced last week has our wholehearted support.

He’s doing more than lecturing or laying guilt trips on overweight Kansans; he’s demonstrating leadership by forming his own team of five administration employees and will compete with any number of other five-member teams of state employees. Prizes will go to the two teams that lose the greatest percentage of weight between Jan. 15 and May 15, 2013. Any state teams that beat the governor’s team will be entered in a drawing for other prizes.

If there’s a downside, it’s that only teams of state employees can qualify for the state prizes. That doesn’t, however, mean cities or chambers of commerce couldn’t sponsor concurrent contests with the same rules and sweeten the competition with some prizes of their own. Certainly, private teams might enjoy beating the governor’s team — or any state team — for the satisfaction as well as the weight loss, but even modest prizes would add an incentive. Heck, cities or groups within cities could issue challenges — based on percentage of weight loss — to other cities.

The benefits to participants could be enormous. As a statement from the governor’s office announcing the Governor’s Weight Loss Challenge pointed out, obesity in Kansas increased from 15 percent to 30.1 percent between 1995 and 2010. In fact, more than two-thirds of adults and almost one-third of children in Kansas (and nationwide) are overweight or obese.

The causes as well as the risks are well known. Culprits are many, but come down to lack of exercise and unhealthful diets. We sit at our desks at work and school, and we spend too much of our free time watching TV or playing video games. Toss in a diet heavy on junk food and other processed foods — and large helpings — and weight gain is almost unavoidable.

The consequences include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure and cancers. They can ruin or end lives and break family budgets. As Dr. Robert Moser, the state health officer, said, “Together, poor nutrition and physical inactivity are now considered the No. 2 preventable cause of death, behind tobacco use.”

Losing weight is difficult, but it can be less difficult, and even fun, when you’re part of a team whose members are striving for the same goal. As for the contest’s timing, it could hardly be better. Lots of us will have gained weight during the Christmas season and want to lose it by summer. Said Gov. Brownback: “It’s not about winning. It’s about getting healthier.” The ultimate goal, he added, is “taking on and maintaining a healthier lifestyle for years to come.”

State and private teams can register for the challenge starting Dec. 17 at http://www.weightloss.ks.gov, which contains a raft of information about the contest.









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