Has the holiday ham puffed out your jowls? Is the Christmas fudge bursting your beltline? Any spare room left in the spare tire for the New Year's feasting on the way?
Resolve early to sign up for the 11th annual Tribune Chronicle / St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth Fitness Challenge.
The initial weigh-in is Jan. 19. That's nearly a month earlier than last year's kickoff.
Diane Ellsworth of Howland, a member of the St. Joe’s at the Mall 2011 Fitness Challenge team, works out on one of the fitness machines at St. Joe’s at the Mall. It's time to register for the 2012 Fitness Challenge.
''We are starting earlier this year because teams requested that,'' Sue Shafer, Tribune Chronicle community events coordinator, said. ''They want to get started right away in January.''
The Challenge works like this: Five-member teams spend 10 weeks eating well and working out to earn a fat payoff for the area charity of their choice. Teams will weigh in every week through March 29.
The teams that lose the greatest percentages of their starting weights earn the bulk of the prize money for their designated nonprofit agencies.
About the Challenge
WHAT: 11th annual Tribune Chronicle / St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth Fitness Challenge.
REGISTER: By Jan. 10. Entry forms will run in the newspaper until then.
FEE: $250 a team. The first $50 (nonrefundable) is due with registration; the balance is due by Feb. 16
WEIGH-INS: Initial weigh-in to establish baseline, Jan. 19. Weigh-ins weekly on Wednesdays and Thursdays through March 29.
WEEKLY UPDATES: Stories, photos and standings chart published Tuesdays. (Only team weights, not individual weights published.)
WINNER: Team that loses the greatest percentage of its starting weight.
PRIZES: First, $1,350 to team's designated charity; second, $900; third, $540; fourth, $360; fifth to seventh, $315 each; eighth to tenth, $270 each; all others, $225. Plus, weekly $10 Team of the Week bonus awarded.
Teammates provide accountability. Opponents add the spirit of competition. Having a good cause to play for - if tending to one's own health isn't enough - adds incentive.
''We know that many people need motivation to begin eating healthy,'' Shafer said.
''We all need to be more conscious of our health and eating habits. And we are helping out our favorite charities raise much-needed donations in a difficult economy when donations are down,'' she said.
Last year, 61 teams lost a combined 4,114.25 pounds over 10 weeks while raising $16,480 for service organizations.
The 2010 champs were Believers Bulge Busters, five members of Believers Christian Fellowship who lost a total 153.25 pounds - 17.2 percent of their starting weight - to collect $1,380 for the Bella Women's Center in Warren.
In second were The Well Wishers, with 14.6 percent of their starting weight lost ($900, the American Cancer Society Relay for Life in Niles), and third, PB's Pastry Puffs, with 14.5 percent ($540, the Nicholson Center in Warren).
Bulge Buster Donnajean Stowers Deemer said that nearly a year later, she has kept some of that weight off. And since the Bulge Busters don't intend to return to defend their title, she'll share advice to people wishing to enter this year:
''Exercise a least a little bit every day - eat in moderation, drink lots of water, give up soda, and pray, pray, pray!'' she said.
''You should stay away from it if you really enjoying eating junk food and drinking soda and, well, anything yummy and fattening,'' Deemer quipped.
She said she joined the team last year ''out of respect and love'' for team leaders Bruce and Janice Buckler and fell in love with the mission of the Bella Women's Center, a faith-based medical office offering care, resources and information on alternatives to abortion for women facing unplanned pregnancies.
''I ended up losing a good amount of weight,'' she said. ''(But) I can't help think, if I had done this for me, out of my own desire, I may have done even better. I know that sounds selfish, but it is true.
''Do yourself a favor, do it for you and let the wonderful outcome be the winning outcome,'' she said.
Janice Buckler wavers on the question of a return.
"Last week, I would've said a big, fat no, but now I am considering it," Buckler said. A few lost pounds found their way back.
Her advice to newbies: "Pick a charity you believe in. This makes it easier to give your all.
"Plus, you get the benefit of getting healthy and losing pounds," she said.
The Fitness Challenge strives to be a light-hearted competition. The more serious side is that studies have linked a sedentary lifestyle and extra weight to a large variety of life-shortening diseases and conditions, from diabetes to high blood pressure to sleep apnea to some forms of cancer.
Experts say about three months of practicing at something can be enough to form a habit. The Fitness Challenge offers a mixture of accountability and silliness - sending pizzas to competing teams is not against the rules - with the chance to establish better lifestyle habits.
It could reduce your bottom lines while bulking up the bottom line for your favorite do-good organization.