Determination and drive led Marianne Costales-Roman of Carol Stream to not only win the Daily Herald's 2013 Fittest Loser competition Wednesday but also set the weight-loss record for the five-year history of the event.
The 38-year-old wife, mother and high school social worker lost 60 pounds -- 27 percent of her original body weight -- over the course of the 12-week competition. She dropped from 222 to 162 pounds.
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She did this by finding ways to make time for herself in what she previously thought of as an impossibly busy schedule that included looking after two daughters, her disabled mother and autistic brother.
Thanks to the support Costales-Roman received from her family, she said, she learned she could be healthy not just for three months but forever.
"It is sustainable," she said of the often punishing regimen she undertook with her Push Fitness personal trainer Tony Rinehart. "It is something I can do for the rest of my life if I choose to."
A crowd of 400 people applauded Costales-Roman's win at Victoria in the Park banquet hall in Mount Prospect.
Rinehart said that while Costales-Roman wasn't exactly a silent sufferer, he recognized a steely resolve in her that quickly overcame her initial lack of confidence.
"She was one of the hardest workers I ever had or ever dealt with," Rinehart said.
Schaumburg-based Push Fitness provided the personal trainers for all six contestants and has been a co-sponsor of the competition with the Daily Herald for all five years.
Eileen Brown, director of strategic marketing and innovation for the Daily Herald, said each year's six contestants are chosen from among many applicants with diverse stories and backgrounds. One typical element, however, has been strong motivation coupled with previously unsuccessful attempts to lose weight on their own.
All of this year's contestants met or exceeded the 5 percent to 10 percent loss of body weight that can bring about improvements in overall health, said Dr. Anthony Auriemma, medical director of Alexian Brothers Weight Loss Solutions, another co-sponsor of the event.
But for some, that wasn't enough.
Runner-up Joe Gundling of Hanover Park, at 18, was the youngest competitor in five years and lost 56 pounds, or 21.2 percent of his body weight, to end up at 208 pounds. He was less interested in prizes than in the answer to one question, though.
"At the beginning, I decided that the whole reason for this was to look decent for my girlfriend's senior prom, so now that it's all over, Jen, will you go to prom with me?"
Armed with flowers, he got the answer he was looking for.
"You didn't win but you got the girl anyway!" Brown congratulated him.
This year also included a community challenge for 18 park district teams of five members each.
The winning team was Waist Management of the Schaumburg Park District, which lost 15.02 percent of its members' total body weight.
A tie was declared between individual winners Ed Poczatek and Stacey Sosa, both of different Schaumburg teams. Poczatek lost 44.6 pounds and Sosa lost 44.8 pounds.