How life has changed! The six Fittest Loser contestants have gone from all-they-could-eat at every meal to figuring out exactly what they can eat five times a day under the watchful eyes of their trainers. The start of the competition has brought about a major overhaul in their food shopping, meal planning and cooking regimen. Here's what they have to say about it:
"When I signed up for the Fittest Loser competition, I was completely focused on the physical side of getting back in shape and losing weight," says 44-year-old Brian Corrigan of Carol Stream. "I didn't really give a thought to the nutritional aspect of the competition other than avoiding bad habits like eating out, beer, sweets, etc. After meeting with my trainer, Steve Amsden, it became apparent that food and diet are heavily integrated into this program.
"Now I read the ingredients list on everything. I've had to make tough choices and decide whether I want to compromise my body or spend the extra money for natural foods.
"I'm very lucky to have my wife's support. Wendi has been trying to get the entire family to eat healthier and has been buying great food for some time. Now we simply buy more," Corrigan says.
"My son is going nuts with the changes. The fridge and pantry are packed, but not with anything he wants. Hopefully the results from this contest will serve as an example that he can draw from in the future."
Starting weight: 275
Current weight: 257
Weight lost: 18 pounds, 6.5 percent
"Before starting the Fittest Loser Challenge, I thought the focus would be on building muscle and losing fat by increasing exercise and decreasing the quantity and frequency of stuffing my face. I'm actually eating more, and eating more often," says 64-year-old competitor Tom Hampson of Hoffman Estates.
"Even before our first exercise session, all six of us Fittest Losers heard a presentation from Kimberly Kirchherr, corporate dietitian for Jewel-Osco. She talked about all the junk food we consume that's mostly filled with sugar, salt, gluten and chemicals. Eating too much junk and not getting enough nutrients is why we're fat. And the more junk we eat, the less we like the taste of nutrients.
"Fortunately," Hampson says, "I do not have to remember all the details. As part of the program, we're given a booklet that tells us what we can eat, how much we can eat of each item and when to eat it. If it's not on the list, we can't eat it."
Starting weight: 316
Current weight: 306
Weight lost: 10 pounds, 3.2 percent
"The first week was definitely a challenge with the nutrition program," Matt Kramer says. "A serving of protein with a fat and a vegetable? I'm so happy my trainer, Mark Trapp, provided me with lists of each of these categories.
"I was pleasantly surprised with the variety of foods to choose from although I'm still trying to get used to eating five times a day. I'm never hungry and I'm not having so many highs and lows throughout the day.
"I've learned how important it is to eat every couple of hours in order to keep my body fueled and avoid cravings," says the 47-year-old from Elk Grove Village. "It takes me about three times longer to shop because I'm reading labels and trying to avoid the middle of the store. Did you know that Jewel Food Stores have books in the produce, meat and seafood sections that give you nutrition values and recipes?
"The key to being successful is in the planning. Know what you are going to eat for the week, buy it, prepare it and portion it out."
Starting weight: 372
Current weight: 354
Weight lost: 18 pounds, 4.8 percent
"The past few weeks have given me a totally new outlook on food," says Karen Maranto, 47, of Bloomingdale. "What you put in your body is very important. I now start out with a breakfast that includes both eggs and some oatmeal and a fruit, not to mention Omega 3 and probiotic supplements.
"Every item I put in my mouth is logged in my Bodyminder Journal. All the foods I have eaten so far have been home cooked and prepared by me! It's not hard to do if you have the correct foods ready for you. Our trip to the Schaumburg Jewel Food Store with nutritionist Kim Kirchherr was a great help and directed me toward healthier food choices.
"I admit, I really miss french fries, pizza and ice cream. However, the time I spend in the gym makes me not want to put those things in my body. It's just not worth it."
Starting weight: 288
Current weight: 278 pounds
Weight lost: 10 pounds, 3.5 percent
"Just today I looked at my husband and asked, 'Are you losing weight?' He said he honestly had no idea, but I can't help but think he is because we aren't eating fast food, dining out or eating late at night," says 32-year-old Katie Przyszlak of Schaumburg.
As for menu choices, Przyszlak is all about fowl these days. "Chicken … I think I'm starting to grow feathers! I never thought I'd eat so much chicken in my life. I'm really hoping I can find some recipes to make the chicken taste better. The best recipe I've made with chicken so far is crockpot chicken and salsa. It's super easy, and I can eat it often. Two ingredients … chicken and salsa.
"My day basically starts at 5:30 a.m., 4:30 if I'm working out at the beginning of the day. I get up, shower, feed my daughter and get ready for work. I try to eat within 30 minutes of waking up. On the way to work, I drop my daughter off at day care. School starts, and I try to have a snack before the kids get in. I have a snack with them in the morning, then eat lunch around 12:30 p.m. I have a snack after work and eat dinner around 6:30."
Has the 32-year-old wife, mom and teacher had a meltdown? "Yes, more than one," Katie admits. "However, they haven't been food-related. They've been more stress-related. I'm in the process of learning how to manage my time better.
"As the weeks go by, I know I'll continue to miss my favorite foods. I really miss pizza and chocolate! But I'm hoping that as I start to feel better, look better and wear smaller clothes ... get out of those stretchy maternity pants ... I will know that it's all worth it in the long run."
Starting weight: 266
Current weight: 251
Weight lost: 15 pounds, 5.6 percent
"I find the statement, 'my body is a temple' echoing over and over in my head these days," says Fittest Loser competitor Michael White of West Dundee. "There are certain things you would not bring into a temple because it's sacred. When referring to my body in this same light, it's easy for me to disregard the harmful and negative things I had been eating in the past.
"My diet has changed completely. There was neither rhyme nor reason for what I ate prior to this competition. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Now I eat breakfast every morning and again every three hours after that. I rarely feel hungry and I'm beginning to get used to the smaller portions.
"My shopping trips have become much easier than they had been prior to the competition. I now know what I'm going there to get before I walk into the store," says the 25-year-old White. "Grocery shopping used to consist of going aisle by aisle and picking up whatever I wanted. It's no longer about what I want; it's about what I need. I may want certain foods, but they are definitely not what I need.
"My food palette has grown the last couple of weeks along with my skills in the kitchen. I grilled and ate salmon for the first time. It was good but may take some getting used to. I also had a sweet potato for the first time. It was pretty good and especially good mashed up and mixed with filet mignon.
"Fortunately, I love chicken. It's such a blessing that one of my favorite foods didn't get the ax when designing my meal plan. Although it may not be prepared the same ways I used to eat it, it's still good.
"I was surprised to learn that whole wheat pasta was not a good option for me," White says. "My wife has been working out and dieting far longer than me. When she started, our shopping trips were all about whole wheat. Whole wheat may be a good alternative for somebody who is physically fit, but for someone of my stature, it's definitely a no-go."
Starting weight: 320
Current weight: 298
Weight lost: 22 pounds, 6.8 percent