TUPELO - Shedding those holiday pounds will be more than a personal challenge this coming year; it will be a competition.

Starting Jan. 5, the city will launch a communitywide effort called Trim Down, Tone Up Tupelo that pits teams of weight-loss seekers against each other.

The team with the highest weight-loss percentage at the end of the two-month competition wins.

Anybody can enter the challenge, which requires teams have between three and 10 people. And the only entry requirement is a donation of canned goods, per participant, to benefit a food pantry.

The effort is the second major initiative of the Mayor's Task Force on Health, a group of citizens appointed by Mayor Jack Reed Jr. to improve the health of city residents.

Participants of this competition, though, need not be municipal residents to enter.

"This is one New Year's resolution which is achievable, fun, and will lead to a healthier you," Reed said Monday. "I'm proud of my Mayor's Healthy Tupelo Task Force for coming up with another great idea following on the heels of our Mayor's Marathon, which had 4,000 people participate."

A turnout of several hundred people is expected for the latest effort, although organizers say it's impossible to accurately predict numbers until the weigh-in.

"I hope we have 50 teams to participate," said Hank Boerner, co-chair of the task force. "I'd be real happy with that."

Early response so far has been positive, he said. Not only will several North Mississippi Medical Center employees participate, but so will workers of about a half-dozen area companies.

The first weigh-in will be Jan. 5 on the first floor of City Hall. Teams can go any time between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., and members will step on a cattle scale together for a group total. Individuals will not be weighed.

The final weigh-in is March 9.

In between the two dates will be a series of free, weekly, health-related educational sessions. Each Monday at noon, the roughly 15-minute sessions will be presented at North Mississippi Medical Center's education center. They'll cover topics such as the portion sizes, fad diets, working exercise into a busy schedule, strength training.

"They'll be short and sweet," Boerner said, "so they don't take up anybody's time."

Winners will be announced at the City Council meeting in mid-March, and all teams will be eligible to win door prizes.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Trim Down, Tone Up Tupelo

Join the city's new fitness challenge by forming a team of three to 10 people. The team weighs in together Jan. 5, attends optional weekly educational sessions, and weighs out together March 9. The team with the highest weight loss percentage wins.

For more information, call 377-4143 or 377-3867.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

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