Did the holidays get in the way of losing weight? Are you feeling the shame of too much eggnog and cookies? Don't wait for Santa Claus to tell you those leftovers aren't tantalizing any more. It's time to shake those sugar plums dancing in your head and focus on self-control.
This year's resolution could be a life changing one - perhaps one of both quantity and quality. The 13th annual Tribune Chronicle / St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth Fitness Challenge has arrived to save you from yourself.
Photo of Fitness Challenge, Feb. 2013
While your team is busy counting calories and trimming waistlines, the charity of your choice has a chance to fatten up.
As five-member teams across the Mahoning Valley compete for 10 weeks - exercising, monitoring food intake and strengthening health consciousness - the members develop team spirit and a competitive mentality, but for charity, of course.
Yes, dieting and exercising can be time-consuming, even stressful, but think about the outcome.
WHAT: 13th annual Tribune Chronicle / St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth Fitness Challenge
THE GAME: Five-member teams designated a nonprofit organization or charity. The team that loses the great percentage of its starting weight gains the greatest share of the prize money for its charity.
PRIZES: First, $1,400 to team's designated charity; second, $900; third, $550; fourth, $400; fifth to seventh, $325 each; eighth to tenth, $275 each; all others, $225. Plus, weekly $10 Team of the Week bonus awarded.
REGISTER: By Jan. 10. Entry forms will run in the newspaper until then, or visit the Tribune Chronicle, 240 Franklin St. S.E., Warren. The team's name and charity are also due.
FEE: $250 a team. The first $50 (nonrefundable) is due with registration; the balance is due by the end of February.
WEIGH-INS: Initial weigh-in to establish baseline, Jan. 16, then 10 weekly weigh-ins every Thursday through March 27. Weigh-ins must be done with shoes and coats off, with pockets empty.
WEIGH-IN SITES: So far, St. Joe's at the Mall and Kent State University at Trumbull. Other sites may be added.
WEEKLY UPDATES: Stories, photos and standings chart published Tuesdays. (Only team weights, not individual weights published.)
The winner of the fitness challenge is the team that loses the largest percentage of weight overall, not pounds.
In a shortened competition last year, the 2013 champions In It to Win It shed 18.4 percent of its starting weight over eight weeks, winning $1,400 for the Rich Center for Autism. Team captain Jeff Tate said insane workouts and dieting were responsible for the team's victory.
Though it's not definite if In It to Win Its members are returning to defend their title, Tate offered some words of advice for newcomers.
"Watch what you eat and exercise. Drink a lot of water. And no fried foods," he said.
Though it's the fundamentals of weight loss, he and other participants agreed sometimes "restraint" can be a dirty word.
Scott MacMillan, team captain of last year's runner-up, The Wellness Warriors with a 15.1 percent weight loss, said an important tip to remember isn't just balancing food and exercise during the challenge, but continuing the routine after the winner is crowned.
"Don't eat too much after it's over. You don't want to gain that weight back," he warned.
The Wellness Warriors finished in second place three years in a row, and different members make up the team each year for a chance to win money for American Cancer Society's Relay for Life in Niles.
MacMillan said all the self-deprivation doesn't have to necessarily be just that. The weight-loss challenge isn't just about slimming down, but adapting to a new lifestyle.
"It's grueling, but a lot of fun," he said. "I want to encourage as many people as I see to join. Those who have never been involved before, they can change their way of life."
As the director of the Wellness Center, MacMillan said any contestants in the Fitness Challenge can visit the center to walk the track or attend nutrition classes.
He also said those solely invested in raising money for charity, rather than just winning, make the challenge worth it.
"If you're in it just for the life-changing experience, start immediately," he said. "If the team is in for the charity, don't stress too much until the initial weigh-in."
MacMillan said he is well aware the holiday feasts can be tempting, but afterward, everybody wants to get back on track for the new year.
Sue Shafer, Tribune Chronicle community events coordinator, said the Fitness Challenge is a way to maintain focus and think about health for a good cause.
"We know that many people need motivation to begin eating healthy," she said. "Working to raise money for their charities adds incentive."
Shafer said the Fitness Challenge is an option to lose weight in a healthy manner because the competitors learn how to develop better eating habits and work out at their own pace.
She said it's not about dieting, but people improving their quality of life through moderation and activity and committing to it.
"That way they are more successful and can keep the weight off for a long time," she said.
Since a team is only as strong as its members, everyone has to pull their own weight. So before you dive into another pint of ice cream or crack open a can of beverage, consider the benefits of reinventing yourself as well as a nonprofit organization depending on you.