One week in and more than a half ton out.
The 12th annual Tribune Chronicle-St. Elizabeth / St. Joseph Health Centers Fitness Challenge rattled and rolled out the starting gate, and the 51 five-member teams shook off a total 1,268 pounds.
That's already an average of 2.36 percent of the starting weight lost in the annual weight loss competition to benefit area do-good groups. The team that loses the greatest percentage of its starting weight wins the greatest share of the prize money - $1,350 for first place - for the charity of its choice.
Carrie Betts of Kinsman, right, member of Getting It In, weighs in at the Q-Club in Howland after the first week of the Fitness Challenge. Kate Hamilton of Howland, an employee at the Q-Club, records the results.
Leading the charge was a group of guys from the Niles area known as In It to Win It, playing for the Rich Center for Autism.
In one week, the guys blasted off 67.25 pounds - nearly 14 pounds each - to set a torrid pace of 5.64 percent of starting weight lost.
They are followed by Five for Fighting Fat, a quintet that dropped 44.5 pounds for 4.19 percent of starting weight lost. The team is losing for Stop One Place Help Is Available (SOPHIA).
Right behind them in third are the Fatagins, which lost a tad more weight - 44.75 pounds - but a tad less percentage, 4.10 percent. The Fatagins are sweating off the pounds for the Bella Women's Center.
The only other team to post a 4 percent or better standing were the Wellness Warriors, playing for the Niles Relay for Life, which lost 43.25 pounds for 4.01 percent.
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 $80 in play.
"We worked pretty hard at it last week," In It to Win It team captain Jeff Tate said. "But the first week is the easiest week."
The main team strategy is hit the cardio workouts hard and pull a major switch on eating habits. ''Lots of baked fish and baked chicken. No pop, no pizza, no fast food, no pasta, no sugars - the stuff that tastes good, you can't eat it. That's the bottom line.''
OK, he admits that maybe good food isn't THAT bad, but it is a major rethinking of stacking the plate.
Tate and teammates know how to win big. Or lose big.
Teammates Pete Mollica, Joe Matig and Tony Cella were part of the 2007 championship team Inlaws/Outlaws. Those three plus Tate won the title again in 2010. They called themselves Never Say Never Again because they had no intention of packing the pounds back on.
Ah, good intentions ...
''I was 288 for the initial weigh-in (in 2010),'' Tate said. ''When it went back to 270, I knew it was time to lose more weight.''
So now they're back, this time with a freshly minted father, Bob Ward, as the newcomer.
''Bobby wanted to lose weight for the new baby, be healthy for the baby,'' Tate said.
Fatagins team captain Rudy Pekarovic Jr. isn't worried about In It to Win It. He said he expects great things.
''We've got a committed team. It's easier (to lose weight) with a team, everybody pushing each other,'' Pekarovic said.
Accountability helps make people stick to their plans, he said.
''I'd like to lose 40 pounds over the eight weeks,'' Pekarovic said. ''It's ambitious. I've done that before - as a younger guy.''
The team with the best one-week performance this week, obviously, was In It to Win It. As the first Team of the Week winner, it gains a $10 bonus that will be added to whatever prize money the team earns for its charity, The Rich Center for Autism.
Tips and tasty tidbits
You know, losing weight isn't all that much fun. Not when attempted alone, anyway. So why bother?
''Healthy habits, including good food choices and physical exercises, will maintain healthy weight and reduce risks of multiple chronic diseases like heart attack, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol,'' said Fitness Challenge physician Dr. Yun Xia.
''Exercises help to maintain and achieve greater flexibility, better bone health and maximal calorie burning,'' Xia said. ''If you keep on top of your health and you will be able to handle stressors better, engage in more activities, and enjoy your life.''
Even if you think you're fit with a bit of belly fat, the excess rolling over your belt can be a bane to good health. Belly fat alone is an risk factor for death from heart disease, according to doctors. Especially with men, belly fat raises the risks of plaque in their arteries, inflammation, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, abnormal cholesterol levels, heart disease and heart failure, according to medical reports.
And you just don't feel like rolling off the couch, which makes accomplishment, great or small, problematic.
''If you remain healthy both physically and mentally, you will be more likely to achieve both personal and professional success,'' Xia said.
Over the coming weeks, Xia and other Humility of Mary Health Partner professionals will guide us on the journey to smarter eating, healthy weight loss and sane exercise.
Groups we'd like to take to dinner
Mission Slim Possible is one of four teams that chose the Warren Family Mission as its charity of choice. Pasta Pals listed the mission as one of two charities, and Beauties and the Beast, and Weapons of Mass Reduction are playing for Hannah's House, which falls under the Mission's umbrella.
Slim Possible captain Karen DeFrancesco said, ''The team members' only criteria in choosing a charity was that it be something centered on children or family, and that it be local.
''With the current economy, I thought that the Warren Family Mission fit the criteria. They give relief to community members who are facing financial difficulties by providing food, clothing, and shelter to those in need.''
The Warren Family Mission began in 1954. According to its website, every month its sites serve 6,000 meals; distribute 900 to 1,100 bags of food; give clothing to more than 700 people; provide 1,000 nights of shelter, 3,000 hours of rehabilitation, education and work training; give 1,500 hours of prayer and counseling; and give out large quantities of furniture and household items.
The Warren Family Mission is spending this year transforming the former Christ Our King Church property on Tod Avenue S.W. in Warren into a larger mission site, which will open in 2014. Plans are to consolidate their four of the mission sites.
A fifth site, Hannah's House will remain in Vienna. It recently added three apartments to provide shelter for women.
Fifty-one five-player teams entered the 2013 Fitness Challenge. The 255 hefties weighed in at a combined starting weight of 53,727.75 pounds.
Curiosity is going to drive you to do the math anyway, so here it is - that's an average 210.7 pounds a player. Yeah, we're big now. So what? Check back in two months.
By comparison, the 330 players on the 65 teams in last year's Fitness Challenge toppled the scales at a total 68,797.75 pounds, an average of 208.5 pounds each. They lost 4,559 pounds over 10 weeks, and finished the Challenge at a slimmer and healthier average 194.6 pounds a player.
This year, we only have eight weeks to get it done. Here's how we started: We shed 1,268 pounds in Week 1, almost a full five pounds a Challenger.
So what did you do last week?
How do teams come up with those names?
''Our team name in a way makes us sound like we're all fat, since we are called the Belt Busters,'' team captain Kelsi March said. ''But, once we win this competition, there will be no more 'belt busting' going on with my teammates and I.''
Smacking of the lips
Each week, we give teams a chance to publicly challenge each other. First up, probation officer Vince Peterson, captain of Gettin' It In, wants to give a shout out - sort of - to across-the-aisle-rivals Trumbull County Sheriff's Office FOP Lodge 137, captained by Deputy Rochelle Dykes.
''Please let Deputy Rochelle know I haven't seen a doughnut I won't eat.'' Even so, Peterson claims, ''as usual, my team will beat hers. Oh, only if she didn't weigh in (initially) in her vest and gun belt.''