Take a Challenge!

Recent research studies show that a bit of peer pressure and small cash incentives help people lose weight.

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (2013) showed that companies that offer employees a monetary award based on a group’s — not an individual’s — weight loss performance may be the most successful at getting people to shed pounds. So a group effort, providing a bit of friendly peer pressure, can really help.

This makes sense. When we go it on our own it’s pretty easy to give up because we are only accountable to ourselves.

There are some people who have a lot of willpower, and are particularly self-motivated. But many of us need social support, encouragement and even some pressure to keep us on track with lifestyle changes.

And the science on behavior change is pretty clear about the effectiveness of rewards when trying to make a change.

The Challenge RGV, started back in 2010 as Brownsville’s Biggest Loser Challenge. This city and now county-wide 13 week weight loss challenge has motivated thousands of local residents to make healthy changes and lose some weight.

The Challenge emphasizes healthy weight loss, recommending simple lifestyle changes, not diets, and no more than 2-3 pounds of loss per week.

The City of Brownsville and the UT School of Public Health are the organizers of The Challenge, and many local businesses, gyms, organizations and even local council members and city leaders support and sponsor the free initiative, offering free classes, events and benefits. Winners in several categories are awarded small cash prizes, up to $1,200 for winning the large group team Challenge and less for small group and individual winners.

Everyone who registers, weighs in and completes The Challenge receives a calendar, t-shirt, motivational text messages, online support, access to free fitness programs and other small incentives throughout’ The Challenge (January to April).

Since the first year, 5, 126 people have joined The Challenge, most from Brownsville but many from all over Cameron County! An average of 4% of weight per person has been lost by participants completing The Challenge, and a total of 10,154.2 pounds. That’s over 5 tons!

So many lives have been changed by The Challenge. It seems like a simple concept, but that team support, friendly competition and incentive to make healthy lifestyle changes can really make the difference. Debbie Cox has participated since the first Challenge, back in 2010.

“The first year I didn’t lose much weight, but it got me thinking about what I was eating. I was a little disappointed in myself but I still went to the final weigh in. The Finale motivated me to keep trying because I saw real people who had made up their minds, changed their lives, habits and improved their health, despite many barriers. Sometimes just being around people who are working on being healthy motivates you to make changes yourself. The third year was a charm. I used the weigh-in information to figure out what I needed to do to set goals. I used a phone app to record what and how much I was eating and it offered healthier alternatives. I had no idea the amount of calories I was consuming on sweets and portion sizes. I actually participated and took advantage of the great programs offered during the challenge and that’s what made me FINALLY break the mental barrier that was my biggest obstacle. Losing 29 pounds improved my health, energy level and the way I felt about myself. Four years later I have kept 25 pounds off of the 29 I lost. I still join The Challenge every year because it keeps me motivated and on track! I recommend everyone participate in this great, free community program!”

So join The Challenge in 2016 and join others in some friendly peer pressure. Who knows, you may even win a prize. But the greatest reward is a healthier, happier year, because Tu Salud ¡Si Cuenta! (Your Health Matters!).

The Challenge is on Facebook The Challenge-RGV, Twitter @TheChallengeRGV and Instagram @TheChallengeRGV. Registration and weigh-in will be Friday January 15th anytime between 5-8 pm at either of two locations, the Southmost Library and the Central Library in Brownsville, or you can come to Linear Park Saturday, January 16th between 9 am and noon.

You must weigh in to be part of The Challenge, be 18 years or older, not be underweight or pregnant, and not have had weight loss surgery in the last year.

Always consult with your doctor before starting a weight loss program. You can pre-register online to save some time at the weigh-in here http://tinyurl.com/prergv2016 but you must be present at weigh at one of the above locations/times to be eligible for prizes.