HUNTERSVILLE – This year has already been one of change for Sgt. Tom Seifert.

The longtime Huntersville policeman and member of the Healthy Huntersville committee is one of the first residents to try the Healthy-Me Challenge.

Seifert, in three weeks, gave up drinking soft drinks, began attending yoga classes, and already saw benefits from the town’s new health program, which encourages residents to be more fit.

Fellow policeman Sgt. Andrew Dempski is also in the program, which Mayor Jill Swain started more than a year ago. Dempski is enrolled in a Crossfit program.

Seifert said the changes in his diet have begun to take effect. He was never much of a breakfast eater, but some fruit in the morning, a salad for lunch and a high-protein dinner, coupled with yoga classes, makes a difference.

“Carrying around a 25-pound gun belt for 30 years definitely affects your spine and back,” Seifert said. “I figured this would improve my flexibility, and maybe help my golf game.”

The program’s goal, according to Swain, is to promote a healthy and fit lifestyle for all of Huntersville’s residents.

“When we were looking at (starting) it,” Seifert said, “the primary function was going to be helping the community. It’s gotten people to notice that you don’t have to do P90X to get fit or lead a healthier lifestyle. Some people in the program are walking a lot with their families. Others are biking. There are a lot of ways you can do this, and all of them help you.”

Seifert and Dempski, HPD’s two representatives in the program, opted to cut out the barbecue lunches and go to Jason’s Deli more frequently. Also getting help from Ballas Chiropractic, one of Healthy Huntersville’s partners, has paid dividends.

“Just from what we do for a career, our backs are probably going to suffer some long-term damage,” Seifert said. “With this, it can kind of minimize that damage.”

Even more than giving up soft drinks – which Seifert said lead to “fewer highs and lows throughout a day” – going on a “cleanse” diet for three weeks, starting on Feb. 6, will be a challenge.

Participants are allowed to only consume things from the ground, like fruits and vegetables. Seifert said it’ll be a challenge for people who like to put cream or milk in their morning coffee, because they’ll have to go without it for 21 days.

The program’s first wave, which ends on April 6, should lead to more residents joining for the second wave.

Seifert’s 5 a.m. yoga workouts and diet changes, he said, are evidence that the town’s participants are actively engaged in promoting healthier lifestyles. Swain, in the Jan. 6 introductory meeting, challenged those taking part to hold one another accountable throughout the program.

A series of Facebook posts on residents’ progress shows that it’s been an early success.

“I think it’s been great,” Seifert said. “It’s pretty much been smooth sailing since it started. We’ve had great communication, and everyone’s been very active in doing this and being a part of it. It should grow from here.”