Fitness Challenge answers weigh-in procedure dilemma

Chris Gilger, left, of the Heavy Decisions team, weighs in last year at St. Joe's at the Mall in Niles for the 2017  Tribune Chronicle / Mercy Health Fitness Challenge. This year, all initial weigh-ins will be conducted by health care professions at St. Joe's at the Mall.

Chris Gilger, left, of the Heavy Decisions team, weighs in last year at St. Joe's at the Mall in Niles for the 2017 Tribune Chronicle / Mercy Health Fitness Challenge. This year, all initial weigh-ins will be conducted by health care professions at St. Joe's at the Mall.

Seriously, no cheating. Except maybe on your diet once a week or so.

The 17th annual Tribune Chronicle / Mercy Health Fitness Challenge topples the scales Jan. 18, and this year we aim to squelch cries of foul by posting guards of sorts for that all-important initial weigh-in.

The Fitness Challenge is a light-hearted community weight loss competition, but every year, rumors persist that a few not-so-hefty players, uh, “enhance” their starting weights by stepping on the scales while wearing steel-lined boots, their pockets stuffed full of rocks, and possibly with a bowling ball strapped to their backs.

Well, OK, maybe not the bowling ball thing, but c’mon, people, ditching bulky winter coats filled with bricks for the final reckoning is not the kind of weight loss we’re trying to accomplish. Don’t make us frisk you.

So this year, the first weigh-in of the community weight loss competition to benefit local charities must be done at St. Joe’s at the Mall in Niles. Health care professionals will make sure that everyone weighing in does so with shoes off and pockets emptied. We’re only interested in good, old-fashioned fat, thank you.

“We feel this new weigh-in procedure will help us continue to keep the Fitness Challenge a fair competition,” Tribune Chronicle community events coordinator Sue Shafer said.

“This option has been a suggestion several times over the years, and we appreciate St. Joe’s at the Mall and Mercy Health for making it possible this year. The initial weigh-in is very important and this will give everyone an accurate starting point,” Shafer said.

St. Joe’s at the Mall, next to the Sears anchor store, will extend its hours from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 18 to accommodate weigh-ins.

“I’ll be here all day,” Shirley Lisk, St. Joe’s at the Mall manager, said.

After the first trip to the scales, Fitness Challenge competitors may do their weekly weigh-ins at any of the official sites, including the mall site, which will return to its regular Thursday hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Other participating weigh-in sites are Trumbull Family Fitness in Warren; Kent State University at Trumbull in Champion, the Wellness Center in Niles and St. Elizabeth Diagnostic Center in Austintown.

THE CHALLENGE

The Fitness Challenge aims to help kick-start healthier habits with the motivations of camaraderie, competition and charity.

For eight weeks, five-person teams will pay attention to diet and exercise, and generally practice healthier habits. The teams that drop the heftiest percentages of their starting weights gain the bulkiest shares of the prize money for the local charities of their choice.

Last year, the 125 players on the 25 Fitness Challenge teams from around Trumbull County lost 2,232 pounds of excess baggage and fattened the coffers of area service organizations by $8,205.

The entry fee is $250 a team, and all teams are guaranteed to send at least $225 of that money to their chosen service organization. The top 10 teams send more, up to $1,125 for first place. Or more, with weekly bonuses available.

Ted Snyder, general manager of the Tribune Chronicle, said, “The benefits from such a lifestyle change continue long after the Fitness Challenge has ended. And the local charities that the teams are playing for receive much needed donations,” Snyder said. “It truly is a win for everyone involved.”

Dr. James Kravec, chief clinical officer of Mercy Health-Youngstown, said, “By committing to and sustaining healthier habits, we have the real potential to meaningfully improve our overall health. That’s a worthwhile resolution not only as we begin 2018, but throughout the year.”

Registration ends Friday. Forms appear in the daily newspaper and online.

WHO’S PLAYING?

While there are newcomers every year, there are some folks who keep coming back year after weight-gaining year. Among them is Vince Peterson, who brought the idea of the Fitness Challenge to the Tribune Chronicle nearly two decades ago.

“It has been asked on numerous occasions why am I in this every year,” Peterson said. “Simply because I am a team player. I gain weight so others don’t feel bad.”

“Yeah that’s it,” said Peterson, who captains the Howland-based LPJ Lean Machine team. “Then I lose it to help motivate others. So every piece of pie,cake, ham and ribs I ate is to help others. Now my team is going to come out like gangbusters.

“And even though some of my teammates will be law enforcement, they will not be weighing in with their bulletproof vests, holsters or guns on their ankles,” he said. “See y’all at the finish line.”

Another longtime player is Fran Moldovan, a fitness trainer at Global Health and Fitness in Warren.

“Halfway through the holiday season, I started getting text messages from former teammates saying, ‘I’m fat, when does the Fitness Challenge start?'” she said. “So that should tell you how well we all did with keeping our weight down.

“Although a few of us did manage NOT to gain it all back, I also have some ‘newbies’ who want to join in this year,” she said. “I guess they grew jealous of us eating all of those celery sticks and drinking those gallons of water.”

But seriously, folks, joining a team and having built-in cheerleaders toward your health goals is a good thing, Moldovan said.

“People need to join in because it is the best motivator,” she said. “We do it as a group so that we can all support each other. Plus, you get to do it for a good cause also. When you have a group of friends like ours who love to get together every weekend and cook fabulous meals, eat, drink and dance, it’s really a lot of fun. We all try to come up with healthier versions of meals and share our new discoveries.

“See you on the thin side,” she said.

bcole@tribtoday.com

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