Lighten up, Iowa. That’s the name of a program that’s become an annual event as teams of Iowans sign up to lose weight and get fit by a deadline they’ll all reach together. Organizer Jim Hallihan says signups are already underway in cities around the state. They have held kickoff events in Keokuk and Newton, with another in Ankeny next week. He admits it’s hard to keep track of all 36 city weigh-ins. Hallihan says Lighten Up, Iowa works better than the normal New Years Resolution because it’s done with a team. Not only do you not want to let down your teammates, Hallihan says there’s a captain with the job of keeping the team motivated. And there’s support from the “Lighten Up Iowa” program to back them up. Every week the Lighten Up Iowa program generates three suggestions for the teams — advice and tips about general health, activity and nutrition composed with help from the state Department of Health and ISU Extension. The week’s advice is sent by e-mail to each team captain. They’re also posted to the Lighten Up, Iowa website, “in case some captain fell asleep that week,” he says. Hallihan says the program’s success is in having people be part of a team within their community or workplace. Last year 19,000 people took part in Lighten Up, Iowa and he hopes they changed their lifestyles permanently — eating more sensibly and exercising regularly. Surf to the group’s website — www.ligthenupiowa.org — to see if there’s a group signing up near you.
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