Spanish town challenges its residents to lose 100,000 kg in two years

Pulpo a feira, typical Galician dish. Image on Flickr by demi, CC BY 2.0

In January 2018, the Spanish municipality of Narón, located in the autonomous community of Galicia, launched a unique challenge to its residents: losing 100,000 kilos collectively in two years.

One year on, the objective seems to be on the way of being completed. By February 2019, the population had lost in total 46,000 kilos.

With a population of 39,000, each resident will have to lose an average of 1.5 kilos by next year if the goal is to be met. The challenge's focus is the 15,000 overweight or obese citizens — or 40 percent of the town's population, according to figures of the Galician Health Service. The campaign's organizers hope this segment will lose at least 10 percent of their weight.

Doctor Carlos Piñero, the local physician who's supervising the project, told newspaper Diario de Ferrol:

Desta forma diminuiríase o índice de mortalidade en Narón en 1,5 puntos co que este concello pasaría a rexistrar a mortalidade máis baixa de Galicia, que se situaría entre as mellores de España.

In this way, mortality rate in Narón would decrease 1.5 units, so this municipality would register the lowest mortality rate in Galicia, and would be among the lowest in Spain.

The campaign called “100.000 Motivos de Peso” [literally translated from Spanish as “100,000 Reasons of Weight”] was launched by mayor Marián Ferreiro along with 14 members of the Narón municipal council on January 25, 2018. The first step of the program was weighing all the municipal officers, who had then a joint weight of 1,174.50 kilos.

During the first months, the campaign promoted healthy eating habits and regular physical activity with the support from the city council, associations, schools, and the medical community.

Doctor Piñeiro says he has observed that sedentary lifestyles and obesity were common in the town. Those are two serious problems in a community where so many are overweight. He says that by August 2018 participants had lost an average of 2.5 kilos per month, although there wasn't official data available at that time. By then, the program had over 6,000 active participants.

Besides the health improvement for individual participants, there is an economic gain too, as healthier communities usually incur in fewer health expenses.

Thanks to this initiative, the community of Narón was awarded the European Prize of Obesity 2018 in the category Best Public Participation Program. Speaking with the press, Doctor Piñero noted that they were awarded for the “public projection of a collective initiative that brings together obesity-fighting, prevention, and solidarity.”

Indeed, the initiative has a solidarity aspect. For each kilo the participants lose, the Center of Solidarity Resources of Narón will receive an amount of non-perishable food or milk, “in order to establish equal health conditions [among the population]”, as the mayor Marián Ferreiro noted.

There are also precocious contributors, as doctor Piñeiro says:

Un grupo de abuelos (…) preguntó qué estaban haciendo en los colegios porque sus nietos se negaban a comer patatas fritas. (…) [Los niños de Narón] son investigadores de su entorno y del tipo de dieta que realiza su familia y de cuánto camina.

A group of grandparents (…) asked us what we were doing in schools because their grandchildren refused to eat french fries. (…) [Children from Narón] are researchers of their surroundings and of the kind of diet their families have and how much they walk.

A focus on weight?

The campaign received some criticism for its focus on weight loss — although doctor Piñeiro has insisted the program is primarily about promoting healthy lifestyles.

For instance, Yolanda Cambra, who specializes in emotional intelligence, says cultivating healthy habits is more important than just losing weight. She wrote on her website:

Pero ¿por qué no llamarla 100.000 motivos de salud? Si centran el interés en adelgazar, están reforzando la idea equivocada que asocia delgadez con salud.

(…) La iniciativa, propuesta por los médicos de los centros de salud, consiste en varios puntos, como:

  • Rutas de caminatas por la naturaleza.
  • Talleres de nutrición.
  • Los hosteleros se suman ofreciendo menús saludables.

Pero esto no es estar a dieta, señores. Comer sano y tener actividad física debería ser el modo de vida de toda la población.

(…) Me parece estupendo que se tomen medidas para que un sobrepeso no llegue a obesidad. Pero utilizar con tanta alegría los términos “kilos” y “dieta para adelgazar” puede conseguir el efecto contrario.

But why not call it 100.000 reasons for health? When they focus on losing weight, they reinforce the wrong idea that associates thinness with health.

(…) The initiative, proposed by physicians in health centers, consists of several points, such as:

  • Walking routes through nature.
  • Nutrition workshops.
  • Hotel managers are promoting healthy menus.

But this is not part of being on a diet, people. Eating healthily and keeping physically active should be the lifestyle for the whole population.(…)

I think it's great to see measures that aims to prevent overweight to turn into obesity. But using so cheerfully the terms “kilos” and “diet for losing weight” can have the opposite of the intended effect.

Meanwhile, Twitter users are also sharing the initiative and its results:

Tweet: #Congress of #patients in @AreaUnoArrixaca. The #inhabitants of 1 #town decide to #lose 100,000 kilos in 2 years. The proposal comes from one #familydoctor in #Narón (#Galicia).

Headline on image: “Residents of a town decide to lose 100,000 kilos in a two-year period”

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