Do you hear that sound? If you put an ear to the ground anywhere in Trumbull County, you may recognize the faint pounding of feet, muffled scrapes of a spinning treadmill and the thudding slam of cookie jar lids.
That's right, the 13th annual Tribune Chronicle / St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth Fitness Challenge is under way, and we're off to a roaring start ... not unlike the rumble of a hungry stomach.
OK, I'll even admit that is one too many bad puns (and a double-negative for good measure).
Patricia Cleary-Talstein of Niles, left, member of the Just Weight team, closes her eyes as Nakia Lowery of Warren, employee of the Trumbull County YMCA, records her weight.
After one week, the competition is fierce and three teams separated themselves at the top of the board.
Leading the pack this week is Team Mocha House / Warren Strong, which burned off 52 pounds, nearly 4.95 percent of their team starting weight. These caffeinated cohorts are playing for Chios Society, a national organization for those whose heritage is from the island of Chios, Greece.
They narrowly edged the Wellness Warriors, who stand in second place with 51 pounds shed, a decrease of 4.92 percent of their starting weight. This veteran quintet has chosen the Niles Relay For Life as the beneficiary of their winnings.
In third place, Fatagins recorded the most total weight lost with 63 pounds dropped, which came to 4.90 percent lost, just a smidge behind the top two weekly performers. Fatagins are working hard for Paramount at BCF.
The only other team losing 4 percent or better of their starting weight was Just Weight, with a loss of 52 pounds in week one.
The Fitness Challenge works like this:
Teams are comprised of five individuals who select their favorite service organization for which they are participating.
After an initial weigh-in to gauge starting points, the team who loses the highest percentage of weight over the 10-week competition wins at least $1,400 for their chosen charity.
Runner-up receives $900; third, $550; fourth, $400; fifth to seventh, $325 each; eighth to 10th, $275 each; all others, $225.
Additionally, the team that loses the highest percentage of weight each week will receive a $10 bonus award. This week, that team is Mocha House / Warren Strong.
After the initial weigh-in, which occurred Jan. 16, 10 weekly weigh-ins will be held at various locations around Trumbull County.
The final weight check will be held March 27 and the contest winners announced April 6.
Just so we're clear, yes, a group that specializes in the selling of pies and cookies stands at the top of a weight-loss competition.
The irony is not lost on Mocha House team member Brian Phillips.
"No California cheesecake for a while," Phillips commented while standing behind a delectable smattering of desserts at the High Street location in Warren.
Phillips is the newcomer on the team, which features longtime participants Nick Liakaris and Bill Axiotis.
While Phillips was not subjected to any rookie hazing, he acknowledged that teaming up with veterans has been an eye-opening experience.
"We're serious about it," he said. "Every day, we talk about where we stand and pump each other up. We have each others' back and we can encourage each other."
One thing is certain - not much time was spent on the name of these waistband pinching professionals.
Team Mocha House? Really?
"We were talking about it, saying we have to come up with something good," Phillips said. "Then, it got to be too late."
Coming into this week's weigh-in, Mocha House team members had a feeling the results were going to be good. In leading the way with 52 pounds lost, each member dropped an average of 10 pounds.
For Phillips, the early success has come with a fairly obvious method.
"Diet and exercise is the key," Phillips said. "It also helps that we all work together. We plan on staying on top, too."
Pass the salt ...
Mocha House flexed its muscles on the scales in week one.
Now, they're taking the opportunity to play a few mind games with the competition.
With the spotlight firmly on the group, Axiotis unhatched a devious bit of sports psychology on any unsuspecting adversary.
"If anyone from the other team can eat a whole cheesecake in front of us, we'll give them our secret to weight loss," Axiotis said.
It remains unsaid whether or not the cake would be gifted free of charge, but Axiotis' motives may or may not be nefarious. You be the judge.
He followed it up with a direct challenge to the rest of the field.
"We're not planning on relinquishing the No. 1 spot any time soon," Axiotis boasted.
These guys and gals mean business.
What's in a name?
In this section, we'll highlight an interesting or unique team name.
On the docket this week, Saints A Losin'.
This group is comprised of five churchgoers, so the name came naturally.
"It was the last few hours of sign-ups and since we were all from the same church and we needed to lose weight, I thought that our name was fitting," team captain Paula Hall explained.
The Saints did admirably in the first week, losing a combined 21.5 pounds for a decrease of 1.79 percent.
Hall, who just turned 60 this past summer, came to the competition with her grandkids in mind.
"I have seven grandbabies and I need to stay fit and healthy to be able to play with them," Hall said. "I just don't want to be heavy and sickly in my older years."
Fun with numbers
The 50 five-member teams participating in the "lose-off" initially weighed in at a combined total of 51,393 pounds.
In the first week of pound-dropping action, that number is already down to 50,071 pounds, meaning participants shed an astounding 1,323 pounds in a week.
For the math geeks out there, that comes out to roughly 5.3 pounds per participant.
With well over a half of one ton in the rearview mirror, the competition really starts to heat up next week.