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H-E-B invites customers to join its Slim Down Showdown

Pam LeBlanc, Fit City

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Need to lose weight? Head to the grocery store.

Grocery chain H-E-B is inviting customers to apply for its Slim Down Showdown, a free 16-week weight-loss challenge.

Twenty-five people will be chosen for the contest, which will award a $10,000 grand prize to the winner.

"We're looking for someone with a compelling story who is ready to embrace this," H-E-B spokeswoman Kate Rogers said.

Applications, available at HEB.com, are due Wednesday. Contestants will be announced in May, and the competition will begin in June, when participants report for a 3½-day intervention program in San Antonio. They'll work with experts from Methodist Healthcare and Cooper Aerobics before they head home, where they'll get weekly telephone coaching, cooking lessons, wellness lectures, tips on grocery shopping and eating out, and fitness training. They'll blog about their progress along the way.

Winners will be revealed in October.

The contest is part of a broader Healthy at H-E-B initiative.

The store's not whisking the Twinkies off the shelf just yet, but it's experimenting with ways to encourage customers to buy and eat healthier foods.

Among them? Free store tours to help shoppers make smart food choices, healthy cooking classes and new signage that designates products that are gluten-free, fiber-rich, low in saturated fat and heart healthy. In September, the store will start an eight-week fitness challenge called Ready, Set, Move.

"Everyone has seen the statistics," Rogers said. "We feel like we have a responsibility to do what we can to educate our partners and customers and offer choices and education on how to navigate the store ... We hope to see over time better sales of healthier foods."

Tour de Cure in Austin

After a decade of staging a joint bike ride with cyclists in San Antonio, Austin gets its own Tour de Cure this year.

That means that instead of a two-day ride between San Antonio and Austin, with an overnight in San Marcos, cyclists can choose from loops of 15, 30, 50, 70 or 100 miles that start and finish at the Travis County Expo Center.

The mostly flat routes take cyclists through the Blackland Prairie land and barbecue country east of Austin.

The ride, the largest fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association, takes place in 43 cities nationwide. The Austin event is scheduled for May 5. Registration is $25, and cyclists must raise at least $200 for the nonprofit association. Money goes to research to find a cure and help people living with diabetes.

The ride is fully supported, with rest stops approximately every 10 miles, medics and support vehicles along the way. A party with live music, food and health vendors is planned for the finish.

Last year, more than 1,700 riders participated. Austin officials are hoping for about 550 cyclists.

Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. Nationally, about 8.3 percent of Americans have it. The rates is higher in Central Texas, where nearly 10 percent of the population has diabetes, according to Jane Koble, executive director of the association's Central Texas chapter. The disease affects African Americans and Hispanics more frequently than non-Hispanic whites.

People can reduce their risk of the most common form of the disease, Type 2 diabetes, through a healthy diet and exercise. That's where the bike ride comes in.

"Our message is to come out and get active and start biking if you don't already," said Mary Werner, a spokeswoman for the Austin ride.

People with diabetes are encouraged to participate as part of the Red Riders team.

If you're considering doing one of the longer rides, you'd be wise to start training now.

"There's no sub for miles in the saddle," said Preston Tyree, education director of the Austin Cycling Association and logistics coordinator for the Tour de Cure.

Drop by REI Gateway between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday for a free bike inspection and Tour de Cure registration. A Tour de Cure meetup is planned for 5:30 p.m. March 14 at Zed's Restaurant, 501 W. Canyon Ridge Drive.

For more information or to register for the ride, go to diabetes.org/austintourdecure.

pleblanc@statesman.com; 445-3994