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Article updated: 2/18/2013 1:49 PM

Contestants chew over new way to approach food


Shopping, chopping, planning, preparing and eating followed by more shopping, chopping, planning, preparing and eating. So goes the nutritional life of the Fittest Losers.

They've completed their first full week of workouts, both with their trainer and cardio on their own. In between they've been trying to wrap their heads around a completely new way of thinking about food.

Joe Gundling

"No, an energy bar is not a substantial breakfast," trainer Tony Figueroa explained to his contestant, 18-year-old Joe Gundling.

"The eating plan Tony has put me on is completely different from what I'm used to," he says. "The foods I typically eat ... pasta, ground beef and creamy sauces ... are gone."

Gundling was pretty miserable the first few days, between the new diet and quadruple the exercise. "But," he says, "I put my faith in my trainer and I know he wouldn't do something that was bad for me."

Karen Castillo

No pasta, no pizza, no sugary soft drinks. It's been a week of making adjustments for Karen Castillo of Carpentersville.

"I don't eat meat so I find myself drinking a lot of protein shakes to get the right amount of protein at each meal," Castillo says.

Determined to put a disappointing first week on the scale behind her, Castillo is working closely with her trainer to get her food intake sorted out and on track.

Being scolded by her trainer, Michelle Amsden, wasn't easy, but in the end she knows it will be worth it.

"I need to know what the heck I'm doing wrong in order to make this change stick," she says.

Mike Paulo

The ladies in Mike Paulo's life have his back and his meal plan well in hand.

"My wife and I shop once a week at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Casey's in Naperville," Paulo says. "She does most of the cooking with some help from the girls."

His four daughters, he says, are excited about the changes he's making and willing to change the way they eat to support him.

With help from his trainer, Brodie Medlock, Paulo is learning a lot about nutrition.

"He taught me the value of using coconut oil instead of other oils and butter when cooking," he says. "It's become a family staple for all food preparations."

Megan McCarthy-Cook

Swapping an array of not-so-good breakfast choices, like waffles, cereal, doughnuts or nothing at all, for a serving of eggs every morning, is reshaping the way Megan McCarthy-Cook thinks about the first meal of the day.

"The protein is the tricky part for me," she says. "I'm not used to eating protein in the morning. Thank goodness I enjoy eggs!"

The changes are beginning to take hold and McCarthy-Cook is getting portion sizes under control as well.

"At first I thought they (portions) were very small," she says, "but eating five meals a day, I'm finding I'm not hungry.

So, for the most part, it's been a good week. Until Sunday, that is.

"The hardest thing to give up was our weekly Sunday night Lou Malnati's pizza."

Greg Moehrlin

With his wife, Laura, helping plan his meals and preparing healthy meals for the family nearly every night, Greg Moehrlin is finding it fairly easy to stick with the Fittest Loser's nutritional guidelines.

"Eating a balanced diet with small portions five times a day seems to set well with me," he says. "I've noticed that eating this way has reduced my cravings for sugary foods."

And there have been some definite winners in the food department at the Moehrlins.

"Laura made a 'crustless' pizza the other night," he says. "The crust was actually thinly rolled out turkey sausage with red sauce, green peppers and onions."

Even the kids are on board.

"My two daughters helped me shell peanuts, and we made our own peanut butter."

Marianne Costales-Roman

No tortillas, yogurt or bread for Marianne Costales-Roman. She is on a gluten-free diet with no dairy or alcohol prescribed by her trainer, Tony Rinehart.

"These food items lead to swelling from water retention and are an obstacle to weight loss," she says. "All the food I was eating before was processed and contained ingredients I couldn't even pronounce.

"No wonder I was always hungry and sluggish."

Now that Costales-Roman understands the importance of not just eating, but eating the right foods, she's no longer cruising the fast-food drive-through lanes looking for a quick bite.

"I make the time to have a healthy snack whether it's an apple and natural peanut butter or a protein shake," she says.

"With my new way of eating, I feel great!"

Karen Castillo, 36, Carpentersville

Starting weight: 206

Current weight: 206

Weight lost: 0 pounds, 0 percent

Marianne Costales-Roman, 37, Carol Stream

Starting weight: 222

Current weight: 218

Weight lost: 4 pounds, 1.8 percent

Joe Gundling, 18, Hanover Park

Starting weight: 264

Current weight: 254

Weight lost: 10 pounds, 3.7 percent

Megan McCarthy-Cook, 33, Hoffman Estates

Starting weight: 282

Current weight: 272

Weight lost: 10 pounds, 3.5 percent

Greg Moehrlin, 39, St. Charles

Starting weight: 245

Current weight: 239

Weight lost: 6 pounds, 2.4 percent

Mike Paulo, 58, Woodridge

Starting weight: 294

Current weight: 290

Weight lost: 4 pounds, 1.3 percent

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