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posted: 4/15/2013 6:00 AM

New eating habits now on the menu for contestants

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  • Karen Castillo looks about as happy doing this exercise as she does when she talks about yogurt.

       Karen Castillo looks about as happy doing this exercise as she does when she talks about yogurt.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • If Joe Gundling has to do a squat every time he thinks about junk food, you have to wonder what this is about.

       If Joe Gundling has to do a squat every time he thinks about junk food, you have to wonder what this is about.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Megan McCarthy-Cook has attacked her old eating habits with the same ferocity as this rope.

       Megan McCarthy-Cook has attacked her old eating habits with the same ferocity as this rope.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
By Gerry Alger
galger@dailyherald.com

After just two months, the Fittest Losers' former favorites ... pizza, pasta, pastries, sugary soft drinks and all kinds of junk food ... have been tossed aside in favor of vegetables, fruit, really, really lean beef and all kinds of seafood, even sardines.

"Believe it or not, I've just recently discovered that I like sardines," says Greg Moehrlin.

The 39-year-old science teacher has made significant changes in his eating habits starting with his drive to work.

"Commuting every day between St. Charles and Arlington Heights, before the competition, I'd stop almost daily for snacks on the way to and from work," Moehrlin says. "Since changing my eating habits, I no longer crave drive-through food or the junk food I'd pick up at convenience stores."

Now when he's hungry Moehrlin reaches for an apple with some almond butter or a handful of blueberries and walnuts.

Since his trainer renamed junk food, "squat food," contestant Joe Gundling has developed an aversion to fast food and soda.

"Every time I so much as think of junk food, I have to squat," the 18-year-old says.

Apparently Gundling hates squats more than he loves junk food ... he's down 40 pounds.

No longer does Karen Castillo use food as a feel-good tool. According to the retail manager, food used to be a way to socialize and a mood lifter.

"Things have changed," she says. "I've learned to use food as a source of energy and not abuse it. Sure, I still have cravings, but the positive changes in my body far outweigh the need for a sweet and salty treat. I feel more emotionally healthy and my body feels better overall."

"I love to talk about food," says Marianne Costales Roman. Back before the Fittest Loser she had lots of input if the topic was fast food. "I still talk about food, but now it's focused on healthy choices and how I'm limiting my intake of sugars and starches.

"If anyone told me six months ago that I'd be on a gluten-free diet, I would have said 'No way, not happening.' I didn't think I had the willpower to maintain it," Costales-Roman says.

Before the Fittest Loser Challenge began, Megan McCarthy-Cook never put a thought into what kind of meat she bought. Now she looks at all the labels and chooses only the leanest meats.

One of the contest sponsors, Quarter Circle 7 Ranch, provided the six contestants with a selection of their grass-fed beef products. The difference hasn't been lost on the competitors.

Costales-Roman couldn't imagine that she'd notice any difference, but found out she was wrong.

"I recognized a difference in taste immediately," she says.

For Greg Moehrlin, leaner meat meant less drama at the grill.

"With less fat in the meat, there's less grease, and no flame-ups on my grill," he says.

While, for the most part, the contestants have adapted well to making healthy menu choices, it doesn't mean they like everything about it. There have been some big hits and some misses.

"Two eggs and a banana make an excellent banana pancake," says Gundling.

"The worst thing I eat is yogurt. It's GROSS," says Castillo. "I doctor it up with fruit, but it still feels like I'm on 'Fear Factor' every time I eat it. I eat it because my trainer says it's a good snack for me, but it grosses me out."

"I'd be lying if I didn't say I miss tortillas, baked potatoes and pasta," Costales-Roman admits. "But my healthy version of mashed 'potatoes' made with cauliflower is really good!"

What about every sugar-lovers obsession, candy?

Gundling has that problem solved.

"Any craving for candy is gone with a protein shake or a shot of apple juice."

Karen Castillo, 37, Carpentersville

Starting weight: 206

Current weight: 189

Weight lost this week: 3 pounds

Total weight loss: 17 pounds, 8.2 percent

Marianne Costales-Roman, 37, Carol Stream

Starting weight: 222

Current weight: 183

Weight lost this week: 6 pounds

Total weight loss: 39 pounds, 17.5 percent



Joe Gundling, 18, Hanover Park

Starting weight: 264

Current weight: 224

Weight lost this week: 2 pounds

Total weight loss: 40 pounds, 15.1 percent

Megan McCarthy-Cook, 33, Hoffman Estates

Starting weight: 282

Current weight: 248

Weight lost this week: 1 pound

Total weight loss: 34 pounds, 12 percent

Greg Moehrlin, 39, St. Charles

Starting weight: 245

Current weight: 215

Weight lost this week: 1 pound

Total weight loss: 30 pounds, 12.2 percent

Mike Paulo, 59, Woodridge

Starting weight: 294

Current weight: 262

Weight lost this week: 4 pounds

Total weight loss: 32 pounds, 10.8 percent

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