The Kings of Carz kept the lead three weeks running and cycling and walking and whatever else they can do to burn off bundles of calories.
"This year we're trying to make sure we eat right and exercise more," Carz captain Tino Merlo said. "We're doing almost all cardio - bike, treadmill, elliptical, those are the main ones."
The team hasn't trailed in the 10th annual Tribune Chronicle-St. Elizabeth / St. Joseph Centers Fitness Challenge community weight loss competition to benefit charity.
Jet Fuel is, from left, T.C. Guarnieri, Mike Guarnieri, Brian McConnell and Jacob Connell. Not pictured is Ken Flanigan.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Raymond L. Smith
The PsyCare Shake Weight Shedders remain in second, to the relief of team captain Janelle Buckler, who saw her mom and dad's team, the Believers Bulge Busters, closing the gap faster than zipping up skinny jeans that fit again.
There are seven weeks to go and 61 teams of five losers each trying to get svelter so the bank account of their favorite service organizations can get fatter.
"This isn't a sprint. This is a marathon," Merlo said. "We're not taking anything for granted. We're not calling anybody out. We know the lead can change (quickly)."
The Kings are five guys from Toyota Volvo Jaguar of Warren who finished third last year. Merlo and teammate Pete Luongo had no intention of being back. But something happened girthwise during December and January that left them thinking it would be wise to give it another go.
"We found three other heavy-hitters, and they're really helping us out," he said. "We're definitely motivated. This is definitely my last year. We're committed to get into the best shape."
Bulge Buster Bruce Buckler said it's the first year for he and his wife, team captain Janice. They're taking cues from daughter Janelle, who was in the Challenge a year ago and who eats at their table where they can sabotage her - and they thought the Bulge Busters had powered past the Shake Weight Shedders this week.
"We might have to request a ruling from the judge," Buckler said. "We're within striking distance. We'll take them."
They've been walking a couple miles a couple times a day and switched to a mainly vegetarian diet with more raw and unprocessed foods.
It's working. Buckler himself said he's rid of little more than 23 of his 237.5 pounds already.
"They're dragging me along reluctantly," Buckler groused. "My grandson is the only one in the house allowed to eat normal. He's only 7, but I think he sneaks into the car and drives to McDonald's for a Happy Meal."
Several teams made huge leaps in the standings this week, led by Wii Fat, which catapulted from 41st to 26th place, up 15 spots.
Other teams floating like butterflies were:
l Class of '66 (Niles), 42nd to 29th, up 13 places;
l Winners that Lose, 44th to 32nd, up 12;
l Lose 2 Win, 57th to 46th, up 11;
l Farmers Bank Fit Five, 22nd to 12th, up 10.
The team making the biggest move percentagewise was Farmers Bank Fit Five, which recorded a one-week loss of 1.91 percent of their starting weight. That puts them at 5.16 percent loss over the first three weeks of competition.
Note: To qualify for Team of the Week honors, the team that records the greatest one-week loss percentagewise, all five members of the team have to weigh in for both the current week and preceding week. Otherwise, it becomes a multiple-week loss.
Each Fitness Challenge team selected a nonprofit organization for which it is playing. Each group will receive at least $225, and the top 10 teams earn more for their charity - up to a minimum $1,350 for first place.
The service group spotlight this week falls on the Rich Center for Autism, selected by two teams, Jet Fuel and the Rich Center Pals.
The Rich Center for Autism was established in 1995 at Youngstown State University for the "creation, use and enhancement of innovative educational programs specifically designed to enhance the individuals' opportunities to achieve their full potentials."
Jet Fuel captain Brian McConnell said, "My son has attended the school for the past four years. The school has made a tremendous impact on my Jared's life.
"My son has been taught basic living needs. He can dress himself, brush his own teeth and do the everyday. These are items that seem simple, but they are difficult for autistic children," McConnell said.
"They also follow a daily schedule which really helps them stay on task.
"I do not know what I and my wife would do with Jared if this school did not exist. We are very grateful that we have such a great school in the Mahoning Valley and the people who work there are very special people.
"Autism is growing so rapidly in our society, which we have no answers for, so we need to help these children as much as possible, and the Rich Center for Autism is a place that is doing this."
As promised, Terri Grimmett, registered nurse and manager of the New Start Treatment Center and Humility of Mary Health Partners Regional Tobacco Treatment Center, returns for more discussion on how to retrain habits from not so great to healthier choices.
Remember the acronym SMART, she says.
"S - specific. Be specific in what you want to accomplish with any goal. Do not generalize what you want to accomplish," she said. "For example, quitting smoking, not cutting back.
"M - measurable. Whatever the goal is you want to achieve, make sure it can be measured in order to understand what steps you need to make," she said. "For example, not just dieting in a random fashion. Choose to eat 1,500 calories a day, or whatever calorie is suitable for you, instead of the idea of just reducing calories.
"A - attainable. Only choose goals that can be attained rather than a lofty idea or something that is beyond your reach.
"R - realistic/relevant. Again, don't choose goals that cannot be met. Don't allow others to make your goals for you. You must think about what is relevant to you, not what is a 'cookie cutter' goal designed to fit just some people. Thoughts to consider here may be price or time allowed to work on goals.
"T - time bound. When making a goal, make sure you have framed it in time to achieve it," she said.
Grimmett will return in the coming weeks with more tips on goal-setting.
Where did they come up with those team names?
"We're in this challenge particularly because, as the norm, we added weight over the holidays and want to get back to feeling good and healthy," said Chris Heltzel, captain of Right to Bare Arms.
"The name just comes from a play on words, from the U.S. Constitution - exercising the right to bear (bare) arms."
For this week's smack talk, we go back to Believers Bulge Buster Bruce Buckler (say that three times fast!) calling out his daughter Janelle's PsyCare Shake Weight Shedders and current leaders Kings of Carz:
"(Janelle) thought we'd gone ahead of them (already). She threw a fit. We're going to take PsyCare this week. Then we're going for those Kings. This is America. There should be no kings."
Got smack? Send it to Burton Cole at the e-mail address below: