Like some of my fellow natives, I’ve at times felt a bit of a pull to join our neighbors up north. Austin, it seemed, had the fitness thing wrapped up – their marathons and 10K’s were bigger, their Whole Foods was better, and there never seemed to be a lack of active folks frolicking in and around Town Lake.
But over the years, our city has kept progressing and chugging along, and now has its own unique (though still burgeoning) fitness culture.
It’s great to see health and wellness recognized as one of the key components of SA2020, witness the continued expansion of the River Walk‘s reaches, and discover new places to ride or hike – like the Salado Park Greenway.
It’s also great to meet some of the people in the community working to make San Antonio even leaner and greener, like Suzanne Parker.
This California girl made the move to San Antonio about 15 years ago and brought with her a wealth of experience and credentials. She’s a registered and licensed dietitian with a degree in exercise physiology, and a certified personal trainer who’s done everything from group fitness and corporate wellness, to jiu jitsu and triathlons. She’s also, quite possibly, the nicest most enthusiastic person you’ll ever meet.
And that’s a good thing, since she happens to be the Corporate Health and Wellness coach for H-E-B, and part of a panel of experts helping to steer the company’s health initiatives.
“Our culture is in a bit of a crisis,” says Parker, “and since we care about our partners and our community, we have to be concerned about their health.”
That’s a pretty big job, considering the company employs more than 76,000, with just under a quarter of those folks living and working right here in San Antonio, where about 65% of the population is overweight or obese.
“One of the things we’d like to do is help trend the obesity epidemic in a better direction,” says Parker. “We sell all types of food, but we want to be part of the solution, and we want to make sure our company sets the standard. And what better place to have an impact on the health of a community than a grocery store.”
Aside from developing the Healthy at H-E-B website, a comprehensive site that covers everything from recipes to exercise, and even features a guided shopping tour, the company recently rolled out a new series of tags to help customers make better food choices. The tags appear on product shelves and feature simple, easily identifiable icons designating a products specific attributes, such as low sodium or gluten free.
“We want our people to be able to create balance and make smart decisions,” says Parker. “Our website is one venue, but we’re also working to integrate that into our stores, and the new healthy labeling system is part of that.”
What also helps are programs like the Slim Down Showdown, which was originally conceived as a project to help employees, but in recent years has been opened up to the general public. Parker helped lead the original Showdown in 2010, and still works closely with participants today.
“What we found is that if something works for our partners, it tends to work well for our customers and the community,” she says. “And the Slim Down Showdown is a great example of that.
“It’s a great way for people to connect and share with the contestants through their blogs … And what we know is that if you can develop a social network that fosters those healthy habits, your likelihood of success increases greatly.”
Challenges and food tags aside, I asked her for two quick tips anyone could use to help make their lives just a little healthier.
“I suggest people pick one thing to focus on for fitness, like getting more consistent activity,” says Parker. “And my second tip would probably be to decrease portion sizes and save some calories, because in the end, it all adds up, and calories do count.”
Tom Trevino is a writer, artist and wellness coach based out of San Antonio. His column, “The Feed,” addresses health and fitness issues and dispense practical advice for San Antonians attempting to wade through the often-confusing diet and fitness world. He holds a B.A. from the University of Texas, with training and certification from the Cooper Institute. He has a fondness for dogs, the New York Times, and anything on two wheels. When he’s not writing, training, or cooking, you can find him wandering the aisles of Central Market.
Related Stories on the Rivard Report:
Saveurs 209 To Feed and Delight the Downtown Lunch Crowd February 2013
The Feed: Winners, Losers and Healthy Eats February 2013
The Feed: Secrets of Success February 2013
HEB Slim Down Showdown: Let the Weight Games Begin January 2013
The Feed: Food, Fascism, and Super Bowl Eats January 2013