There's an old saying that light things come in threes. OK, that's not quite the saying, but consider this:
Three weeks remain in the Tribune Chronicle-St. Elizabeth / St. Joseph Health Centers Fitness Challenge community weight-loss competition to benefit charity.
The top three teams - In It to Win It, the Wellness Warriors and Just Weight - remain the top three.
Bill Axiotis, right, prepares to return the ball as he plays Nick Liakaris in a game of racquetball at the Warren YMCA. Both are on the Mocha House team Four Offensive Lineman and One Hypocrite.
Three teams in this week's Top 10 - the big money slots - moved up in the standings, giving notice that this thing isn't over yet. Not for three more weeks.
The PsyCare Chunky Monkeys swung up two branches into fifth place. Southside Environmental tightened the belt one notch from 10th to ninth place.
But it's the group of educators from Champion Local Schools that could make other teams the most nervous. The Weigh Out of Control 78ers floated up three places, from 11th place into eighth.
They ranked 24th out of 51 teams after the first week of the Fitness Challenge. In the third week, they sat in 20th. Then last week, they flashed into 11th place.
"To be honest, we don't know how we accomplished this, but I know it certainly has lit a fire under us," team captain and Champion High School guidance counselor Noeleen Miller said last week. "We will be moving full steam ahead. Our team's goal is to be in the Top 10."
This week, they are.
If the rule of threes continues, Weigh Out of Control could be in fifth next week, then second, then in the final week
Not, say the top three teams, if they can help it.
--- Main Course
Still strongly entrenched in first place, where they've been since Week 1, are a Niles-based team known as In It to Win It.
After five weeks, the team has lost nearly 12.9 percent of its starting weight, and holds a hefty margin over the second-place Wellness Warriors at 10.2 percent and Just Weight at 9 percent.
"I don't want to cry wolf yet," In It team captain Jeff Tate said. "If we really don't screw it up, we should be OK."
The five team members watch calories and work out like crazy, he said. And avoid temptation.
"You've just got to have willpower. Everybody wants to go out to eat. We will soon," he said. "After it's over, we're going to try to keep it off. I hope for a nice supper, but we'll try to keep it off."
The Wellness Warriors lost ground, letting the gap between first and second widen from less than 2.5 percent to a full 2.7 percent.
"One guy gained weight. I'm not happy," team captain Scott MacMillan said. "He's a councilman (Steve Papalas, Niles). I told him I'll make sure no one votes for him ever again.
"We're still asking for three, three and a half pounds a week from everybody. He owes me about 10."
The group based out of the Mayor Ralph A. Infante Wellness Center in Niles plans to hit it hard from here on out, he said.
''If the weather would break, it would be a lot easier. A lot of us are bike riders," MacMillan said. "Maybe we'll get a tackle football game going. Or maybe play another team in a five-on-five basketball game."
Meanwhile, Just Weight, a team based out of the Warren YMCA, narrowed the gap between second and third, from nearly 1.5 percent to 1.1 percent.
"We're trying to figure out how we're going to catch those guys," team captain Stephanie Iacozili said.
"We're eating healthy, eating clean, and exercising. We're doing longer workouts and trying different cardio exercises just changing things up."
For one, the team is taking a zumba class at the Warren YMCA, where they're based.
"We push each other. We motivate each other," Iacozili said. "We get support from other members from the Y who are encouraging us to do well."
Three top teams, three other teams in the Top 10 moving up and three weeks to go. Only the scales will tell.
While they sit in third, they try harder. Just Weight took Team of the Week honors by have the best one-week performance, losing 1.57 percent over the previous seven days. Closely, closely behind them was In It to Win It, which, rounded off, also scored 1.57 percent for the week, but still lagged fractions behind Just Weight.
The other top three team also was in the top three for Team of the Week - the Wellness Warriors dropped 1.2 percent for the week, despite MacMillan's railing on the Papalas performance.
Team of the Week collects a bonus $10 to be added to whatever prize money it earns for its charity. Any team can win the bonus cash with a great week. But all five team members have to weigh in at both ends of the week so that it's a true one-week effort.
--- Tips and Tasty Tidbits
Last week, official Challenge dietitian Lauren Manusakis of Humility of Mary Health Partners offer four simple lifestyle changes to accomplish lasting weight control. They were use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate, build a healthy plate, watch the number of bites, tastes and licks taken throughout the day, and cut out sugar-loaded drinks.
Keep with our theme of threes, here's the next trio:
* "Just because you don't eat at fast food restaurants does not mean you are eating healthy" when eating out, Manusakis said. "Many sit-down restaurants' foods typically can have higher amount of calories than many foods at the fast food restaurants.
A hamburger at a fast-food place can be about 300 calories, while at a sit-down restaurant, it can climb to 999 calories, she said.
"Check the nutrition information on restaurant websites to assist you in making better choices."
* Choose the least processed foods. "Look for foods with minimal ingredients and ingredients you can pronounce. The more ingredients, the more likely the food product is highly processed."
* Shop the perimeter of the store. "The freshest and healthy food items are not typically found within the aisles of the grocery store but rather the perimeter," she said.
Next week, Manusakis returns with the final three tips. They're big - so you don't have to be.
--- Groups we'd like to take to dinner
Year after year, the most popular charity chosen by Fitness Challenge teams is the American Cancer Society or its various Relay For Life events in Trumbull County. This year, nine teams are losing weight in hopes of sitting on cancer and squashing it flat.
Teams are Wellness Warriors, PsyCare Chunky Monkeys, Weigh Out of Control 78ers, Southside Environmental, TCTC Team 1, Cruisin' for a Losin', Connect 4, Bridge Brats, and the Die Hard Dieters.
MacMillan notes that the Wellness Center hosts the only area indoor Relay For Life, which steps off April 12.
--- Fat Facts
So far, the 255 competitors on the 51 Fitness Challenge teams have recorded losses totaling 2,578.5 pounds, which is nearly 5 percent of the starting weight lost. It comes out to an average 10.1 pounds a player.
--- Food Labels
Where do they come up with those names? This week, we asked The Offensive Line and One Hypocrite to explain theirs.
"We are called The Offensive Line because we are all big guys, and the One Hypocrite is a member of our team that swore they would never do this again, but yet they find themselves in it again," team captain Nick Liakaris said. "I tell everyone that once you do the Challenge, it's addictive and you want to keep doing it again and again.
"There are no secrets here just exercise and eating healthier. We also eat twice a day at the Mocha House."
Did we mention that Liakaris has a bit to do with the iconic eatery in Warren and that the team is based there?
--- Smacking of the Lips
Which brings us to last week's smack talk. Liakaris tossed out a temptation: "Anyone participating in the challenge is more than welcome to come into The Mocha House for 50 percent off any cheesecake slice of their choice, especially some of those folks with the unbelievable weight losses in the first week."
The jab was directed primarily at In It to Win It ("I think the first week results were a little peculiar as some people must have donated vital organs or wore cement socks for the initial weigh in. I mean, some of those results, really?" Liakaris said.)
This week, In It captain Jeff Tate responded: "We have willpower. We won't eat it. But if he wants to make the offer when it's over, we'll take him up on it."