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Published: Monday, 10/12/2009

Singing a healthier tune

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

On the second Monday of each month The Blade will feature one of the participants in Lucas County's Million Pound Challenge.

Brian Zattau of Maumee lost 69 pounds in 12 weeks.

How'd he do it? Through willpower and a spirited competition with fellow members of his local barbershop singing group.

As a physical activity, singing burns off 263 calories every 60 minutes, according to caloriesperhour.com.

But for Mr. Zattau, a charter member of the Voices of Harmony, the northwest Ohio chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, it wasn't so much the singing as a group contest last year that led him to the healthier and more active lifestyle.

"A bunch of us were overweight," explained Mr. Zattau, 41, who has been named participant of the month in the Lucas County Million Pound Challenge. "And so one of the guys says, 'we should have a biggest loser contest.'•"

That guy was Justin Miller, a mechanical engineer from Waterville, whose idea called for dividing the chorus into two opposing teams of seven men each.

Mr. Zattau, a math teacher and football and track coach at Gateway Middle School, took the contest as seriously as Mr. Miller, who was on the opposite team and ultimately lost 57 pounds. Mr. Zattau closely followed Mr. Miller's week-to-week losses as he set out to lead his own team to victory.

"I was pushing 300 pounds at the time," said Mr. Zattau, recalling how the results of too much pizza and chicken wings combined with too little exercise was showing on his 6-foot frame.

Mr. Zattau dropped the first dozen pounds or so by following a strict diet of mostly fruits, vegetables, and lean cuts of turkey. Once he added three-mile jogs to his after-school schedule, he was losing as much as eight pounds a week.

"To be honest, I can't tell you how I did it for 12 straight weeks. I think it had to be the competition with the other guy," recalled Mr. Zattau, a married father with two young daughters and a teenage son.

Mr. Miller feels the same way. More a biker than a runner, Mr. Miller recalled how he pushed himself to lace up and go for runs by imagining all the jogging mileage Mr. Zattau was putting in.

"What was going through my mind was, 'If Brian is doing it, you can too,'•" he recalled.

By the final few weeks of the competition, Mr. Miller said he had also stopped driving to work and was instead biking the 26-mile round-trip.

Mr. Zattau ultimately lost the most pounds during the contest, although Mr. Miller (who lost 57 pounds) still won the individual crown because he lost a larger percentage of his starting body weight, which was 234 pounds.

Altogether, the two lost 126 pounds - more weight than all the other chorus members combined, they said.

"If either of us had not had the other pushing them, then neither would have been successful," Mr. Miller said.

Although Mr. Zattau went off the highly restrictive diet once the contest wrapped up, he said he continued to gradually lose more weight by making an effort to stay active and eat smarter in general. However, he gained more than a dozen pounds back last winter when an Achilles tendon injury stopped him from running for several months.

So Mr. Zattau said he joined the county's Million Pound Challenge in February to help get back on track. With his right Achilles now healed, Mr. Zattau is back running and has since lost the 20 or so pounds he gained. Most importantly, he feels that he has struck a healthy and sustainable balance in his diet and exercise regimen. His current weight is 228 pounds.

As the Million Pound Challenge participant of the month, Mr. Zattau will receive a $50 gift certificate to Real Seafood in East Toledo, a year-long Max Membership to the YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo, and a free month of classes at the Mercy Weight Management Center.

Bowling Green State University also has donated four football tickets to its Oct. 24 game against Central Michigan University.

The Blade is cosponsoring the challenge, which was the brainchild of Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop. Enrollees may track their weight in a private journal on The Blade's Web site at toledoblade.com/challenge.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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