This week, reality took back its scales. In the first week of 12th annual Tribune Chronicle-St. Elizabeth / St. Joseph Health Centers Fitness Challenge, players shed a hefty average of five pounds a person.
This week, it tumbled to two.
But the five guys known as In It to Win It still expanded their lead in the weight loss competition to benefit charity.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael SempleEllen Malacky of Warren, left, member of “Flab to Fab,” steps on the scale at the Q-Club in Howland as Kate Hamilton of Howland, Q-Club employee, records the weight.
''I knew we wouldn't (do as well),'' Win It captain Jeff Tate said. ''We still did OK.''
In It to Win It leads the pack of pound losers with 8.4 percent of starting weight already gone over the first two weeks.
The Wellness Warriors jumped from forth into the second place with 6.1 percent lost, and Just Weight leaped from ninth place into third at 5.7 percent of starting weight lost.
No other team has reached the 5 percent mark.
In all, the 255 players on the 51 teams shed 504 pounds. Added to the 1,268 lost last week, and the bevy of bigger people is 1,772 pounds not as big.
Six weeks remain.
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.
It's familiar territory. The Wellness Warriors are in second place.
''(We finished in) second place two years ago and third place last year, and we are not satisfied till we get it right,'' team captain Scott MacMillan said.
''The Wellness Warriors are coming back for one last drive to win.''
The Warriors, with two returning members and three newbies, are based out of the Mayor Ralph A. Infante Wellness Center in Niles.
"We're trying to do everything healthy, the right way," MacMillan said.
''We've been working out as a team, having diet meetings and walking the track together. We're trying to encourage each other, but we're probably doing more heckling than encouraging," he said.
He paused to consider the team's strong showing. "Good. I won't have to get on them as much this week."
Unless that other hard-charging team, Just Weight, takes over.
It's familiar territory.
Last year, Just Weight began modestly, slowly worked its way up the rankings, and in the final week, slipped past the Wellness Warriors and were less than a single pound away from dethroning champion Believers Bulge Busters.
Just Weight, which works out at the YMCA of Warren, also wants another crack at the championship.
"We just stuck to our diets, our clean eating," Iacozili said. "Eating healthy and exercising and drinking lots of water.
"Everybody's happy. We're all sore from the exercise, but we're happy."
The team puts in a lot of time on cardio exercise, particularly spinning, and lifts light weights.
"We hope to keep moving on up. We're going to keep plunking away," Iacozili said. "Everybody has a big weight loss the first week. So did we. We're just going to keep going steady."
Not too far off the trail, the PsyCare Chunky Monkeys, in 12th place after the first week, scampered up the standings to fourth this week.
''There are different reasons why each of us joined, but mainly it was to get healthier through eating well, regular exercising - Fizek is a wonderful atmosphere - and support of each other,'' team captain Carolyn Reese said.
''I love being on this team. Everyone is trying so hard. It has bonded us and it makes us challenge each other to do better, keep going,'' Reese said.
The team with the best one-week performance for the second week was In It to Win It. For Team of the Week, Win It gains another $10 bonus that will be added to whatever prize money the team earns for its charity, The Rich Center for Autism.
Any team can win the bonus cash with a great week. The only caveat is that all five members have to weigh in at the beginning and end of that week so that it is truly a single-week performance.
Tips and Tasty Tidbits
Yes, it's a weight loss competition, but losing weight too quickly is neither smart nor long-lasting. Losing too fast can set a person up for failure, Fitness Challenge physician Dr. Yun Xia said.
''It is recommended to lose one to two pounds per week, which is about 3,500 calories less intake per week,'' Xia said.
''When you lose weight too fast, you are mostly losing more water and muscle mass rather than fat. Losing weight too fast may lead to dangerous electrolyte imbalance and can make you feel tired, irritable, sluggish, and sick, which can result in overeating.''
And overreating, of course, runs opposite of the goal - a slimmer, healthier lifestyle.
''Permanent weight loss can't be achieved with a crashing diet,'' she said. ''Various programs may help to quickly fix your weight, but only permanent changes in your lifestyle will maintain your weight in the long term.''
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
Five for Fighting Fat chose at its charity Stop One Place Help is Available - SOPHIA.
''Their mission statement is to provide residents of Trumbull County relief to the poor, the distressed or the underprivileged who apply to SOPHIA with, one, guidance and direction for immediate needs, and two, emergency monetary assistance to selected individuals, depending on the availability of funds,'' Fighting Fat captain Terri Dean said.
SOPHIA operates out of First Presbyterian Church, 256 Mahoning Ave. N.W., Warren. The all-volunteer group runs on donations. The office is not manned on a regular basis, but messages can be left at 330-393-0519.
''We maintain a list of where help is available for needs such as utility shut-offs, medical needs, food, free clothing, and more,'' according to the organization's website.
''Our employment counselors can assist you in locating job openings and applying online if you don't have access to a computer. We have a limited amount of direct assistance for utility shut-offs or other needs and can package assistance from other agencies if you meet our criteria.''
One of the regular hours is the office is open for interviews the second Tuesday of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with last sign-in taken at 12:45 p.m.
Two of the 51 teams gained weight this week, but all teams are lighter overall after two weeks.
The heaviest team out the gate this year was Smoke Detectors Save Lives, weighing in at 1,424.25 pounds. The Detectors so far shed 21.25 pounds, and in 48th place.
The lightest team was Drop It Like It's Hot, checking in at 717.5 pounds, almost a full 100 pounds less than second-lightest team the Bagel Buddies. Drop It already took off another 26.75 pounds and moved up to 19th place.
Friends of the Fitness Challenge offer several side dishes this year.
McMillan, director of operations at the Wellness Center, 213 Sharkey Drive, Niles, has invited any players weighing in there to stay and walk the indoor track.
''It's free. Come on in out of the weather,'' he said. ''Walk it alone or bring someone with you.''
Oh yeah, ''I will give a six-month membership to the Well to the winning team,'' he said.
The YMCA of Trumbull County, 210 High St. N.W., Warren, offers free day-pass - that can be used at any time during the competition - to participants every time they come for their official weigh-in, according to JaLisa Elkins, membership coordinator.
''The Trumbull County YMCA wants to play a part in helping members of our community achieve the positive outcomes that can come from diet and exercise,'' Elkins said.
The World of Fitness, 14 Youngstown Warren Road in Pinetree Plaza, Niles, is offering a free class to participants on weigh-in day.
At the beginning of the competition, Fizek, Suite 730 at the Eastwood Mall, Niles, offered an eight-week Fitness Challenge membership for $10.65, including tax, which includes classes.