It’s not hard to find active things to do in Austin. Yoga with goats, paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake, and excellent running trails are a few options for the weekend. However, connecting people and communities to a healthy lifestyle is a little more difficult. The Austin based non-profit, It’s Time Texas, is working to make healthy easier for Texans. This year they will impact more than 5 million individuals in over 550 communities through their mission to “empower people to lead healthier lives and build healthier communities.”
Founder and CEO, Baker Harrell’s heartfelt statement on the organization’s website explains his childhood experience with weight loss and family support and his motivation to help Texans to live happier and healthier lives. He stresses the importance of approaching healthy living as a journey and love for yourself and others.
I grew up in small-town Mississippi, a child of the 80’s. I was overweight, and I was bullied for it.
“When I was 11 years old, the summer before 6th grade, I was trying on clothes and realized I had to move up to the “husky” size. I looked at myself and decided at that moment that I was going to change my life. There were few resources at that time and in that place to support a major change, but my mother said she’d help. I started walking two miles every morning and incorporated jogging, so that by mid-summer, I was jogging the full two miles. I cut out processed snack foods and replaced them with fruits and vegetables, and replaced all sodas with water. The family cut back on red meat and increased our consumption of lean meats, especially poultry and fish. I lost 30 pounds over that one summer.”
It’s Time Texas is based in Austin, however their impact is seen statewide. They host four initiatives and events in Texas to promote their mission of healthy living.
The It’s Time Texas Community Challenge is a competition that runs from early January to early March and earns points by making healthy choices. Participants can enroll as individuals, communities, schools, employers, and more. Winning communities receive funds to allocate toward healthy living initiatives. Ways to earn points during the challenge include but are not limited to signing the pledge to work and live healthier, creating free community health events, exercising and taking a “healthy selfie.” The It’s Time Texas site lists community winners and runners up along with inspiring challenge stories and videos from participants.
Designed to benefit public and community health professionals, the Healthier Texas Summit is a two day event takes place in October in Austin and offers five tracks to suit the needs of attendees. The event is a collaboration between It’s Time Texas and The University of Texas System and Continuing Professional Education Credits are offered for some professions.
Healthy Texas Week
Celebrated in May, Healthy Texas Week encourages you to shop, sweat, and share, not necessarily in that order. The goal is to shop healthier and sweat more during this designated week with a goal to continue healthy habits well after your sweaty pics have hit the internet. Participants are entered to win fun healthy prize packs, but the big win is a healthier lifestyle, of course.
This walking fundraiser was held in October last year (no news of a 2018 date yet) and raised over $21,000 with 48,000 Texans walking to support healthy community initiatives. The site provides specific examples for what your donations are supporting like after school programming for kids in low income neighborhoods ($10) or free or low cost corporate wellness programs ($120).
Summits and walks and challenges are a lot, but there’s more. It’s Time Texas also provides a multitude of healthy tools that are free. The Choose Healthier App provides places, activities, and events where you can find healthy things to do. There are also tips posted daily like swapping butter or oil for an avocado the next time you are baking! It’s Time Texas also offers healthy coaching over the phone, tutorial videos, webinars and resources for employers and teachers to implement.
While the mission of It’s Time Texas is to make healthy easier, their work is endless and multi-faceted. Connecting communities to healthy resources, involving local businesses in making lives better, and improving the educational resources and access for everyone is anything but easy. For more information and to join the cause, visit their website.
Featured photo courtesy It’s Time Texas Facebook page.