Log on, work out, lose weight

Oct. 15, 2013 @ 06:17 PM

The folks at the N. C. State Fair rolled out their usual mouthwatering, if artery-clogging menu of new fair food to expect when the annual event opens Thursday.

Between then and the fair’s closing Oct. 27, thousands of novel fried-food treats will be consumed. This year’s offerings will include pink-lemonade funnel cakes, fried half-pound Sugar Daddy bars, fried Cow Tales and Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joes.

Nothing in that sounds healthy – but not to worry. The fair is an occasion, the foods are an opportunity to self-indulge in the name of experimentation, and an occasional fried candy bar isn’t going to noticeably shorten your life.

It’s not once-a-year fair pig-outs that are fueling the national obesity wave. It’s what we do those other 51 weeks (maybe excluding Thanksgiving and Halloween, too) that matters.

And even as the fair food was having its pre-showtime close-up moment Monday, Durham city and county officials were kicking off an initiative to get residents to lose weight and improve their quality of life.

It is, put starkly, a matter of life and death.

“We know that for the very first time, children will not live as long as their parents if we don’t get a handle on obesity rates,” Gayle Harris, director of the Durham County Department of Health, said at Monday’s launch. “We want to move the needle on obesity reduction and prevention so that we, too, can be a community of health.”

Officials want to sign up 28,000 residents – roughly one in every 10 of us – for the “A Healthier Durham” campaign. They hope those participants will complete 420,000 hours of activity and shed an average of 10 pounds apiece – for a total of 280,000 pounds.

Broken down, that’s only 15 hours of activity a person – not a daunting goal, and one that should be made easier by the encouragement of thousands of others aiming toward the same goal at the same time.

Participants will record their progress on a website, www.ahealthierdurham.com. There, they can monitor their own weight loss and see how the community as a whole is doing. (As of late Tuesday, 121 people had signed up on the site, exercised a total of 105 hours and already shed 36 pounds.)

The site offers a Health Toolkit that “provides online health tools and printable resources on personal health.” You’ll find links to healthy recipes, to an “ask the expert” portal, a list of “healthy businesses” and help in locating a primary-care health provider. 

Tom Campbell, a former assistant state treasurer whose weekly television show, NC SPIN is a sponsor of the broader statewide “A Healthier NC” praised Durham as the first governmental entity to join the campaign.

“Durham has always been known as first in medicine,” Campbell said Monday. “With this campaign, we’ll also be putting citizens first in their health care.”

So down some tasty but health-questionable treats at the State Fair next week – but then, log on, work out and shed some pounds with A Healthier Durham.