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March 6, 2008

Tales From the Scales: Lori's Losers

Lori’s Losers, the team formed by University Senate office mates Lori Molinaro and Cindy Brendel, weren’t quite sure what to expect as they faced the scales midway through the weight race.

At the end of week 4, the team was No. 88 out of 222 on the Pittsburgh campus.

What was certain is that they were anxious to see how the official weigh-in aligned with their weekly self-reporting. Although teammates disagreed, Molinaro and Brendel are convinced that the official scale registers five pounds high.

Brendel, who’s had a weight-related research study and her son’s upcoming wedding as extra motivators, said she’s on track — halfway to her goal at the halfway point. Teammates Heather Defazio and Sharon Bindas, staffers from the Katz Graduate School of Business, figured they were a bit behind — maybe only a quarter of the way to the goal, but raring to finish strong in the second half.

“I think I lost one pound,” said UCIS faculty member Melissa Reed, who admitted that she’d been waylaid by sick children, a tough month at work and a host of other delays that kept her from her goal of walking to work from Squirrel Hill regularly.

“I’m not with the program,” she said. “But I aspire,” she added with a smile.

She met with encouragement rather than criticism from her teammates. Bindas said visualizing the lost weight as the equivalent of something the size of a pound of butter — or five pounds lost as the size of a bag of sugar — demonstrates that’s significant.

Others have had their ups and downs in the race, too. Bindas was losing a steady two pounds a week until her home treadmill broke, slowing her progress.

Family can complicate matters too. The women with kids at home fight the familiar battle of eating sensibly while feeding growing children who can’t survive on salads. One trick they’ve gleaned from Weight Watchers is Cool Whip. Spread between graham crackers and frozen, the lower-calorie treat is a tasty substitute for ice cream sandwiches. Bindas breaks one out when she scoops ice cream cones for her kids so she doesn’t feel deprived. Defazio swears by them, too, even without small kids to scoop for.

Brendel is expecting that her son’s wedding this week — with its requisite cookies, rehearsal dinner and reception food — will make it tough to eat sensibly. “I’ll buckle down next week,” she promised.

The women are sold on the value of teamwork. “It’s really encouraging,” Bindas said. Beyond the team, Defazio has the aid of three sisters who all are weight-conscious. One insists when she dines out with Defazio that they split an entrée. “They’re very supportive,” she said.

Brendel said the competition makes her conscious of what she’s eating and how much she’s exercising. “Plus, Lori’s competitive,” she said.

While the others work in larger offices, Brendel and Molinaro have the luxury of being their own two-woman staff. When one makes popcorn, it’s half a bag apiece, not a whole one for each. When they want to exercise at lunch, they don their workout clothes in the privacy of a back office, move Molinaro’s office furniture aside and pop an exercise tape into the video player. Locked doors keep them from being surprised by visitors who might interrupt their routine.

Their goal is to work out together four days a week. They also work out at night on their own.

They’ve even developed a strategy to resist the temptation of the trays of cookies that are served at Faculty Assembly and Senate Council meetings. They split a Special K bar ahead of time so they don’t feel deprived.

“This ‘pal’ thing works,” Brendel said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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