York City firefighter Allen Fuentes shows his weight the day before the final weigh-in during the city firefighters weight loss challenge at the Vigilant
York City firefighter Allen Fuentes shows his weight the day before the final weigh-in during the city firefighters weight loss challenge at the Vigilant Fire Station in York City on Saturday. Fuentes led all firefighters by losing 35 pounds during the six-month long challenge. Co-worker Tim Golden, right, lost 20-pounds. (Bill Kalina photo)

Allen Fuentes needs a day off to visit the mall.

After six months of dieting and regular exercise, the York City firefighter is 35 pounds lighter but struggling to find clothes in his closet that fit. A new uniform is quickly becoming a necessity.

But that's the only downside Fuentes mentioned Monday, a few days after the scale declared him the winner of the fire department's self-imposed weight-loss contest.

Of 13 firefighters who accepted the challenge, Fuentes lost the most weight since their Jan. 2 weigh-in.

How'd he do it?

"I ate a lot of salad and chicken. A lot of salad and chicken," Fuentes, 54, said.

He also visited the gym regularly, putting in an hour of fast-paced walking and ab work every other day. He cut out fried, fatty foods and ate smaller portions.

Fuentes also credited his wife, Nancy, with helping him stay on track. She embraced the lifestyle change and jumped on board, he said.

The contest is officially over, but don't expect to see Fuentes slurping soda and munching on doughnuts any

time soon.

"I'm still dieting because I want to reach a goal of 40," he said.

Reflecting on his six-months-ago self, Fuentes said, he used to huff and puff at fire scenes. A few days ago, at a garage fire, Fuentes said he noticed a big difference.

How it started: It was that kind of self-awareness that inspired the contest in the first place.

In December, someone posed the idea at an annual meeting. Many of the city's firefighters are middle-aged guys, some of whom had packed on some extra pounds over the years. Meanwhile, with staffing and budget cuts, the job is more demanding.

So they proposed a change.

Altogether, 13 firefighters lost more than 100 pounds, Fuentes said.

The exact total isn't known because a few of the guys got intimidated after Fuentes stepped on the scale. But the scale showed that many of the guys had lost 10, 15 or 20 pounds, Fuentes said.

Those success stories are having a positive impact on other firefighters, he said.

"There's still guys that want to lose weight," Fuentes said. "You have to make the time for it."

-- Erin James may also be reached at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.