Weighing in for Battle of the Bulge

Times Staff Writer

A man circled a group of 10 trainees at the Orange County Sheriff's Academy, offering the temptation of freshly baked doughnuts.

Another tried to coax seven county firefighters into sampling his ice cream.

But there were no takers Wednesday as both departments kicked off a benefit weight-loss competition.

Each side predicted easy victory.

"For us, losing the necessary pounds will be a piece of cake," Sheriff's Lt. Steve Carroll said.

Fire Department Capt. Ralph Titus countered that his team was not fazed by the tough competition or the temptation of fattening foods.

"The same Orange County firefighters that spit in the face of death . . . won't let a few ice cream bars scare us," he said.

The winners of the event, called the Battle of the Badges, will receive $1,500. The runner-up will receive $500. All winnings, to be announced Oct. 25, will go to a charity of each team's choice.

Results will be based on percentage of weight lost. Weight Watchers, which conducts weight-loss and stress-management programs at 75 county companies, is donating prize money and services for the event.

At a press conference kicking off the competition, representatives of both the Sheriff's Academy and the Fire Department contended that their officers are already in good shape. But shaving off an extra few pounds, they said, always helps.

"You're always looking for peak performance," Fire Department public information officer Kathleen Cha said.

The firefighters entered the program voluntarily, but the Sheriff's Academy plucked its team from among trainees who had the most pounds to lose.

"They did a lineup, and we had the widest profile," said Henry Leber, a deputy sheriff trainee.

Academy trainees, who already go through a rigorous daily exercise program, said the key to losing weight will be changing eating habits--not necessarily what they eat but how much.

Kathleen Peyton Roberto, a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers, said neither doughnuts or ice cream are prohibited.

"Any food is OK, it's just a matter of portion control," she said. "I think they'll be in for a delightful surprise."

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