Through the first four weeks of competition in the 13th annual Tribune Chronicle / St. Elizabeth-St. Joseph Health Center Fitness Challenge, two different teams held the top spot on the leaderboard.
As we calculate the results for the fifth week, a new group has ascended to first place - Kingz of Cars.
In what has been a dramatic leap, the Kingz led the field in most weight lost this week by dropping 1.76 percent of their initial weight.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Ashley Newman
Kingz of Carz team mbembers Tino Merlo, left, and Sam Shepard work out daily by “lifting” small sedans in the Toyota of Warren garage. the Kings credit this strenuous routine as the key to helping them shoot up the leaderboard through the first five weeks of the 2014 Tribune Chronicle / St. Elizabeth-St. Joseph Health Center Fitness Challenge.
Led by team captain Tino Merlo, these five car-dealing conquerors now lead the pack with a total of 10.7 percent lost.
For the first time in four weeks, Just Weight has been knocked down to the second spot, coming in just behind the leaders at 10.4 percent lost.
The top two teams would be well advised not to overlook the veteran quintet known as the Wellness Warriors, who hopped from fifth position to third this week with 9.21 percent lost.
Just behind the Warriors sit Fatagins, who occupy the fourth spot midway through the competition, losing 9.12 percent.
Meanwhile, this week's biggest tumble came from 4.5 Full Grown Men. After standing in second place the last two weeks, the Grown Men had a difficult seven days wherein they actually gained back 0.84 percent of their previously dropped weight.
Mike Rossi, team captain, will have to whip his boys back into shape if the Men want to compete for the overall crown.
Mocha House / Warren Strong remains in sixth place for the second consecutive week, dropping 8.52 percent.
We are halfway home, ladies and gentlemen.
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.
This week's top team, Kingz of Carz, operate out of Toyota of Warren where Merlo chose his minions wisely.
The Kingz have participated in the Fitness Challenge for the past five years, but this year Merlo has put together a fivesome of fiercely competitive individuals.
Merlo believes he has dialed in the right combination to come away with the gold in 2014.
"I think there's only two of us left from the original team, me and Bob (Marzullo). The other three are all new, and I think we have the three strongest players we could have picked.
"That's why I think we're going to win it," he boasted.
These five men do not lack confidence, and it is easy to see why.
After beginning the 2014 competition relatively quietly in 15th place after one week, the Kingz have done nothing but move up the board.
"Actually, if you look at our weights, it has been pretty consistent losses," Merlo said. "As a team, we've lost in the 20-pound range every week."
Teammate Sam Shepard believes the key to success is all about "strategy."
"We give each other secrets about how to lose weight and compare notes," Shepard said. "Everybody is doing something a little bit different."
Additionally, the group is able to keep an eye on one another because they share the same workplace.
"We take it pretty seriously, and we're always watching what everyone is eating," Shepard said. "If we see someone carrying something, we ask them how many calories are in it."
Also on the squad are Jose Shesko and Brandon Farr.
Merlo said every year the group pledges this will be the final year they'll partake in the Fitness Challenge, because the weight is supposed to stay off.
This year, he wants them to stick to that mantra.
"We want to keep it off, so we definitely think it will be our last year and we'll never do it again," Merlo said. "So, we're going to make this one count."
The Kingz are playing this year for Children's Rehabilitation Center in Warren.
"Anything to help kids makes a great charity or organization," Merlo said.
Pass the salt ...
Interestingly, with its recent ascension up the leaderboard, the Kingz of Carz received a not-so-cryptic white deli box at their Toyota of Warren location on Thursday.
The "gift" just happened to coincide with the day of last week's weigh-in.
Inside the box was a gourmet cheesecake with a note attached, "Enjoy Kingz of Carz."
The culprit may have gotten away with the calorie-filled dessert had it not been for the label on the box ... Mocha House.
In a striking turn of events, the cheesecake was quickly scarfed down, but the Kingz still managed to jump into first place.
Merlo said the Kingz enjoyed every morsel of the cake, while also taking great satisfaction in foiling the Mocha House / Warren Strong's evil plot.
"Keep sending them to us," Merlo taunted. "We'll keep eating them. We're not worried about it."
As for the team's plan going forward, Merlo claimed the Kingz will keep their opponents interested for a couple more weeks before blowing them away.
"We don't want to jump too far ahead of everybody yet," Merlo said. "We want them to feel like they're still in the game. Right now, we're just eating cheesecake and enjoying life."
Touche Mr. Merlo ... touche.
The doctor is in
The Kingz of Carz bring up an interesting conundrum for many people in the Fitness Challenge and on diets in general.
When you are confronted with a high-calorie dessert, does being on a diet mean having to completely bypass all of those food items?
According to Dr. Kristin Astrom, not only can you partake in the occasional fatty food, fulfilling a strong urge for your favorite food when on a diet can sometimes be the best option.
"Think about those days when all you want is chocolate - but you think that you should not eat chocolate, so you have a handful of nuts," Astrom explained. "But then you are still not satisfied so you have some popcorn. Still not satisfied, you break down and eat your piece of chocolate.
"If you would have had a piece of chocolate when you wanted it, you would have saved your calories by avoiding the additional nuts and popcorn," she continued.
The "everything in moderation" approach to eating is key to staving off urges while still living a healthy lifestyle.
The Kingz of Carz followed this model of dieting by eating cheese cake but still doing well in the weigh-in on Thursday.
"Know that no food is off limits," Astrom said. "This is not to say that you should eat the entire bag of M&M's but a few will not hurt."
Fun with numbers
At the midway point of the 2014 Fitness Challenge, a pattern is beginning to materialize.
Never was that pattern more visible than in the total weight lost between all the teams over the past two weeks.
In both the fourth and fifth week of competition, teams lost an overall total of exactly 334.5 pounds, or 1.4 pounds per person.
We're over the hump and now heading downhill. Get ready for the stretch run.
See you in Week 6.