‘Lighten Up’ champs share secrets of success

The winning team in the ‘Lighten Up Weight Loss Challenge’ sponsored by the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Light is shown with their JCC trainer, Brandon Patek. The women are (from left): Virgina Panzitta, Shawn Duggan, Lori Schuman and Patti Randazzo.

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

It was called “Lighten Up” and that’s exactly what the winners of the eight-week weight loss challenge did in spades. The winning team, “Frasier,” comprised of four women in their forties, lost more than 63 pounds and nearly 10 percent of their total body weight. The individual winner, Robert Kilo, 40, lost 32 pounds and 16 percent of his total body weight.

“I did it primarily by working out at the J, watching what I ate and cutting back on my eating considerably,” said Kilo, who lives in Chesterfield and is the father of two children, ages 6 and 7. “Sometimes I would work out twice a day – in the morning and then again in the evening. My wife, Kathy, also was a great motivator for me.”

Kilo was part of the team named “Mork & Mindy,” which came in third place overall in the challenge, sponsored by the St. Louis Jewish Light and the Jewish Community Center. His team, which included Jeff Silverstone, Fred Valfer and Doug Kolker, lost a total of 78.6 pounds and 8.6 percent of their total body weight.

Frasier, the winning team, was made up of Shawn Duggan, Virgina Panzitta, Patti Randazzo and Lori Schuman. In addition to daily workouts at the J’s Chesterfield location, the four women met twice a week with trainer Brandon Patek, whom they credit with “whipping them into shape.”

“It was really a situation of misery loves company,” said Randazzo, 46, the team instigator who explained that the camaraderie among the group – and their trainer – spurred them on. “Brandon made sure we stepped up our workouts and not only did cardio, but also weight training and muscle-building exercises,” added Panzitta, 45.

Of course cutting back on what they ate – and drank – helped, too. “I went cold turkey on the wine,” joked Schuman, 40, who lost 22 pounds. “I stopped mindless eating and tried not to have anything after 6 or 6:30 at night,” added Randazzo.

Duggan, 41, said the competition led to some good-natured ribbing among the various teams involved in the challenge and that worked out at the J’s Marilyn Fox location in Chesterfield. “When my daughter delivered her Girl Scout cookies to one of the other competitors, we made sure to attach a note that said, ‘Make sure to eat them all,'” joked Duggan.

Patek, the trainer, said when he met the Frasier team, he didn’t expect them to win. “They were telling me all their bad habits, including their love of wine,” he said. But as he worked with them, he began to see that each was determined and willing to make sacrifices to achieve their goals. This included not only winning but also a healthier lifestyle.

“Probably the hardest part was the weekly weigh-ins,” said Schuman. “We forced ourselves to do them because they kept us accountable. But we never told each other any of our weights.”

Like the Frasier team, Kilo said his teammates, along with personal trainer, Elyse Grosz and J staffer Tony Schmaltz, helped him to achieve his goal. “The four of us (his team) really motivated one another, making sure we worked out consistently and pushed ourselves,” said Kilo, who also worked out at the J’s Chesterfield location.

“And Elyse and Tony really steered me along on the contest. They were people I could talk to, who would tell me to eat this, not that, or push me to vary my workouts so that one day I would do the elliptical and another day try the treadmill and another day swim. It really kept me from getting bored.”

In all, 198 people competed on 50 teams during the eight-week exercise and weight loss challenge, which began Monday, Jan. 17 and ended Sunday, March 13. The final total weight lost for the contest amongst all contestants was 1,421.2 pounds.

As individual winner, Kilo received a night’s accommodation at the Westin Hotel with limo service and dinner at a tony downtown restaurant of his choice. He also received a $50 gift card for JCC services and a $50 Sports Authority gift card and three free training sessions.

Each member of the winning Frasier team received a 2011 Cardinals baseball experience, which includes watching batting practice on the field and enjoying the game from box seats. They also received the same JCC and Sports Authority gift cards and three free training sessions. The women of Frasier said they plan to combine the training sessions so that they can continue as a group to workout with Patek.


Champions’ weight-loss tips

Here are five weight-loss tips from the Lighten Up winners:

• Work out daily if possible for an hour, or at least five times a week, doing both cardio exercise and weight training. Vary your workouts as much as possible.

• Cut back on your portions. Remember it doesn’t matter so much what you eat, as it does how much you eat of it.

• Set realistic goals. Healthy weight loss usually occurs slowly and steadily.

• Write down what you eat. Keep a journal. That helps to figure out what, and how many calories, you are consuming a day.

• If possible, diet and exercise with a buddy. That person can hold you accountable and also be there to encourage you. Also, consider hiring a trainer together. Not only is it less expensive but a trainer can devise an exercise program tailored to your needs.