The scales shuddered, creaked and groaned - much like the 330 Fitness Challengers perched atop them after a week jammed with exercise and healthy eating - but it worked. One week in, 1,502 pounds out.
In first place in the community weight loss competition to benefit local charities is last year's Fitness Challenge champions, Believers' Bulge Busters. The five-member team includes Bruce Buckler, who swore that he wouldn't be back to defend the title.
"Yeah, and I told you I wasn't going to get fat again - so I lied," he said.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Lou Stemple, captain of G-Man and the Chunkettes, weighs in at the Q Club in Howland.
All but 4 1/2 pounds found their way back onto his frame after last year's Fitness Challenge ended, he said. So he's back to lose it - the weight - and win it - the competition - again, he said.
"(First place), I'm thankful for that," Buckler said. "The trick is to stay there. It's where we're at after 10 weeks that matters."
A team of even crustier old Fitness Challenge veterans sits in second place. The group known as Refuel finished in fifth last year under the name Jet Fuel.
"This is my fifth or sixth year I've been in it," team captain Brian McConnell said. "This is ridiculous."
Maintaining fitness levels worked fairly well through the summer. Then came the fall football season and all the carbohydrates that come with it, and, well welcome back to the Fitness Challenge.
"We're here to refuel our bodies," McConnell said.
In third is Northwood Top-Reducers, a new team, but it is captained by Steve Ferrebee, a member of last year's champions, the Bulge Busters.
But, as McConnell noted, it's only the first of 10 weeks and no team is counted out yet.
"The first week is always pretty easy," he said. "You can lose nine to 10 pounds of water weight. This week will be tough. You gotta work at it."
---- On the menu
Here's how the Fitness Challenge works: Teams of five designate a service organization for which they are playing. The team that loses the greatest percentage of its starting weight wins at least $1,350 for its charity; second place, $900; third, $540; fourth, $360; fifth to seventh, $315 each; eighth to tenth, $270 each; all others, $225.
Also, the team with the best one-week showing earns a bonus $10 for its charity that week, putting another $100 in play.
---- Tips and tasty tidbits
Challenge dietitian Lauren Manusakis of Humility of Mary Health Partners cautions players against fad diets and crash diets, many of which are unhealthy and don't provide lasting results. Her mantra: "It is better to focus more on eating healthy for a lifetime than dieting to lose weight."
She advises using the "MyPlate Concept" introduced last year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"It focuses on building a healthy plate by filling half your plate with fruits and non-starchy vegetables, the other half divided for a 3 ounce portion of lean protein - meats, fish, poultry, beans - and a serving from the whole grains or starchy vegetables - peas, potatoes, corn," Manusakis said.
"This concept helps you visualize what your plate should look like when planning meals," she said. "The main focus is on eating more fruits and vegetables daily, which are lower in calories and high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
"This is a simplified way of controlling portions and cutting back on calories to promote weight loss if counting calories is too tedious."
Manusakis returns next week and in the coming weeks with more tips from the dietitian's plate, including establishing "no food" zones.
---- Fat facts
Sixty-six five-player teams entered the 2012 Fitness Challenge. The 330 people weighed in at a total 68,801.75 pounds, an average of 208.5 pounds each.
The lightest team in the Challenge is G.I. Janes at a combined starting weight of 736.25 pounds. The heaviest is Big Sexy's, at 1,502 pounds.
Last year's lightest team, The Leftovers, started at 819.75 pounds and shed 49.25 of it for a 6.01 percent loss and a 26th place finish.
Last year's heaviest team, 4.5 Grown Men, piled in at combined 1,539 starting pounds and worked off 176 pounds for an 11.44 percent loss and 10th place.
Last year's champions, Believers' Bulge Busters, began at 889 pounds and melted off 153.25 pounds for a winning 17.24 percent of starting weight lost.
---- Groups we'd like to take to dinner
Teams often have very personal reasons why they play for the groups they do.
"For the second year, we are playing for the Akron Children's Hospital of Mahoning Valley. They saved my oldest son's life last year, and I feel I owe them everything and would do anything I can to help their organization," Mike Platt, captain of the Phat Pharm, said.
"Last year, my son, who had just turned 8, was diagnosed with Guillian Barre syndrome. After being misdiagnosed for three or four days, we took him to Akron Children's, and had we not, he would have passed away in his sleep," Platt said.
"This all happened last January into February. He was partially paralyzed and stuck in a wheelchair for a while but has since made pretty much a full recovery," he said.
Akron Children's Hospital of Mahoning Valley locations include Warren, Youngstown and its main campus in Boardman. The hospital's Foundation states that it raises money so that the health system can keep its pledge to "treat each other the way we'd want to be treated; treat each child as if he was our own; and turn no child away because of a family's inability to pay."
---- Food labels
How do teams come up with those names? Captain Lou Stemple explains hers:
"Our team name, G-Man and the Chunkettes originated with G-Man (Gary Smith) - the only male on the team and his first name starts with G - and the Chunkettes - which does not need any explanation.
"As bad as we hate to admit, the female four of us are 'chunkettes.'" But, of course, not for long.
---- Smacking of the lips
Each week, we give teams a chance to publicly challenge each other. First up, Jason Davis of first-timers Southside Environmental:
"We may be rookies in the weight loss challenge, but we're in it to win it!"
They backed up the talk this week by losing more than 2.5 percent of their starting weight and checking in at No. 25 in the standings. It's worked for teams before - hang back a bit at the beginning, let the rabbits burn themselves out, and shoot right up the rankings with a steady pace. We shall see.