East Liberty firefighters begin weight-loss challenge
By Jill King Greenwood
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010,
When Keith Ott stepped on the scale Tuesday in the Engine 8 fire station in East Liberty, the taunting began.
"You're going down, big boy," one fellow firefighter yelled.
"Does the scale have numbers that high?" another yelled.
The teasing was in good fun, as Ott and 17 co-workers embarked on a four-month weight-loss odyssey they're calling the "Biggest Loser Challenge."
"Most line-of-duty deaths for firefighters are cardiac related," said Pittsburgh fire Chief Darryl Jones. "Being physically fit benefits not only the firefighter but is important for public safety."
Firefighter Danny Doyle, who handles chef duties for the "A Line" crew of eight firefighters at the station, said that toward the end of last year, much of the talk around the firehouse was about losing weight.
So Doyle proposed a challenge: Each participant would pay $40 for a chance to lose the highest percentage of body fat by May 12. Gold's Gym in Market Square offered a free six-month membership to the winner, who will get the money.
Jim Skirboll, a Gold's Gym trainer, recorded each firefighter's height, weight and body-fat percentage. Ott had the highest -- 33.1. An athlete's percentage typically is about 12, Skirboll said.
"Whether it's a New Year's resolution or whatever the motivation is, it's important to stay in shape," Skirboll said.
Capt. James Petruzzi, a 21-year veteran of the fire bureau, works out six days a week and frequents the station's gym, which has treadmills, an elliptical machine and weights. He has another name for the men he oversees on the "A Line."
"I call them the 'O Line' because they're pretty round," joked Petruzzi, who is starting the challenge with a body-fat percentage of 22.
The firefighter with the lowest percentage was Rich Boyle of the "B Line" crew, with 13 percent.
Lt. Joe Magliocci, 49, was part of a firefighters' relay team in last year's Pittsburgh Marathon and wants to run a relay leg again, followed by the half-marathon.
"I would already be training for that, but I'm using this challenge as an extra push to get myself focused on getting my body fat to where I need to be," said Magliocci, whose body fat measured 22.5 percent. "I'm not in as good of shape as I used to be or as good as I should be for this job. The more I'm in shape, the better chance I have of avoiding injury."
According to a March 2009 study published in the journal Obesity, researchers reviewed the medical exams of firefighter and ambulance recruits from two Massachusetts clinics between October 2004 and June 2007. Among 370 recruits studied, 22 percent were of normal weight, 43.8 percent were overweight and 33 percent were obese.
Doyle acknowledged that as the house cook, he could skew the results of the Engine 8 challenge by "cooking everything with cheese and bacon while I eat salads."
But yesterday, he whipped up a healthier alternative.
"It's turkey chili today, boys," he announced. "Things are changing around here."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.