Contestants find strength from family, friends
Weight loss isn't easy. Exercise takes time. Dieting takes discipline.
Unlike their television counterparts on the "Biggest Loser," the Fittest Losers are not living on a ranch removed from the realities of life. The six Fittest Loser contestants are working every day, taking care of their home and families while at the same time following their trainers' rigorous diet and exercise plan. But they're not doing it alone. Each is surrounded by family and friends who support and encourage them.
"My wife knows how to really push and motivate me," says newlywed Michael White about Lisa, his bride of six months. "She has had a personal trainer for over a year and has been concentrating on being healthier."
Before the Fittest Loser Challenge began, White wasn't quite so interested in joining his wife in her quest for a healthier lifestyle.
"Every suggestion she made to the house chef (me) that was on the healthy side, was met with my typical response ... if it wasn't pizza, burgers, hot dogs or Italian beef, I wouldn't make it. Now when she offers suggestions, I listen. I'm always trying new things in the kitchen and she's my tester."
When it comes to exercise, the couple's puppy, Staley, is doing his share.
"Christmas brought a new addition to our family," White says. "Staley is a black lab/Border collie mix. At the beginning of the competition we were only able to walk around the block, now we're at a jog."
"One of the main reasons I'm doing this competition is for my daughter," says Katie Przyszlak. "Addison is my motivation. All I need is to see her smile, and I'm reminded how fortunate I am to have this opportunity to be a healthier mom for her.
"My entire life I've struggled with my weight, and I fear she'll have the same struggles. So I want her to see from a very young age that fitness and proper nutrition are essential to living a long, healthy life."
Between her roles as wife and mom along with working full time as a sixth-grade teacher, Przyszlak has leaned heavily on family and friends for support.
"I know that I wouldn't be able to get through this competition if I didn't have my family's smiling faces to come home to every day," Przyszlak says. "My husband, Tone, has been so supportive and encouraging of everything I'm doing. He and my mom have helped relieve the stress of my busy work days.
"My mom has rearranged her schedule so she can pick up my daughter on the days I need to work out after work. My husband drops Addison off at day care on the mornings I'm working out before I go to school. When I want to give up, they're there to tell me what a great job I'm doing. My friends have listened to me, motivated me and encouraged me to keep giving it my all."
And Przyszlak has another supporter in her corner, the 2009 winner of the Fittest Loser Challenge, Hoffman Estates police officer Lisa Notarnicola.
"She tells me like it is, even if it's something I don't want to hear," Przyszlak says of Notarnicola. "She reminds me that I'm capable of doing anything I put my mind to and that no matter who the contest 'winner' is, I've still won by losing weight."
Fittest Loser Brian Corrigan has his wife to thank for his participation in the competition.
"Wendi cut the signup ad out of the paper and put it on my place setting at the breakfast table," Corrigan says. "She knows me well enough to know that because it's a competition, I'd be all in."
And she continues to back him up ... from shopping for healthy food to dealing with his sweaty workout clothes.
"She's my greatest support."
Then there are the men in his life who inspire him, including his son, Josh, and brothers, Scott and Bill.
"My son has been working hard since joining his high school football team two years ago," Corrigan says. "He has his own fitness membership and has been losing weight and getting stronger.
"My brothers are both Naval officers with 37 years combined service. Both have jump wings and my younger brother went through SEAL training. I talk to them every week and they've been hyper supportive," says Corrigan, a former Navy man himself. "When I think my trainer Steve is killing me, I just think how it could be worse ... my brothers could be here smashing me."
"I get daily support from my entire family, all my friends and my co-workers," Karen Maranto says. "But my number one cheerleader is my sister Julie. "Even though she lives 125 miles away, she sends me inspirational tips every training day and before boot camp on Saturday mornings. She calls me and sends emails and just always knows the right thing to say. Having just completed her own weight-loss boot camp program, and been very successful at it I may add, she's eager to celebrate with me at the finale on May 3."
The Fittest Loser Challenge is a competition and it's an opportunity to share the experience with others on the same journey.
"Another great support comes from Katie Przyszlak," Maranto says of her fellow competitor. "She's the only other female competing and we've become great friends. I can call Katie anytime and laugh, cry or just scream. No matter what the drama is about, Katie understands because she is living this adventure with me and knows what I'm going through."
And Maranto appreciates the encouragement she gets from her trainer, Tony Figueroa.
"Tony has been an inspiration to me every step of the way," Maranto says. "If I walk in with a smile on my face or tears rolling down my cheeks, Tony gets me to do my best. We're together four times a week and he has helped develop me into the athlete I always knew I could be."
Tom Hampson credits all of his friends and family for their incredible support and encouragement throughout the Fittest Loser Challenge. But there's one person who stands out.
"Hands down my wife, Linda, is my biggest cheerleader," Hampson says. "She's made the greatest sacrifices to help in my effort to lose weight. I think part of that's because over the years I've grown to three times her size. As a couple, we were starting to look like Jabba the Hut and Princess Leia (of 'Star Wars' fame).
"Together Linda and I have celebrated my sustained weight loss, increased fitness and improved health. We're looking forward to resuming the outdoor activities we used to enjoy together."
And recently they had a little fun showing off Hampson's diminishing physique at a family gathering.
"Linda and I can both fit inside my buttoned sport coat," Hampson says. "We modeled it for our family before it gets donated to charity."
The compliments are rolling in for competitor Matt Kramer.
"My mom calls me all the time to see how I'm doing and lets me know how proud she is of me," Kramer says. "My father tells me how much younger I look. My youngest sister can't believe the change ... although she does want to make sure I don't lose my sense of humor along with the weight. All of my nieces and nephews are incredibly supportive. My mother-in-law tells me how much younger I look and jokingly warns my wife to look out.
"My wife, Colleen, and my trainer, Mark, have definitely been there every minute of the day," Kramer says. "And what can I say about my friends? I have the greatest friends that anyone could dream of having, they text me, email me, call me and hang out with me. Their notes of support and encouragement mean the world.
When Kramer needs motivation to get up in the morning and get to gym, he needs only think about the people in his life facing real struggles.
"I have a good friend who has been battling cancer like a champion," Kramer says. "With three children and a devoted husband, she is the most stubborn and driven person that I know. Without a doubt, she'll beat the cancer. Another good friend is a military chaplain, serving in Afghanistan. He and his troops risk their lives every day. Compared to what they're going through, getting my fat @$& to (the) gym is not all that hard."
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