With six weeks behind them, and six more ahead, the five contestants in the Fittest Loser Challenge are prepared to meet or beat their weight-loss goals.
At this point, they understand their eating plans, they are adjusting to their workouts, and they have slowly made healthy living a part of their daily routines. Moreover, the results of the past six weeks have far exceeded their expectations.
But that is not to say that there have not been challenges.
Weight loss was minimal this week for the group, but everyone was as pumped as ever.
"I think the one thing that surprised me the most is how mentally and emotionally tough this process is," says Allie Monroe, 29, of Schaumburg. "Not only is it a physical struggle but it's also one that affects other areas of your life."
The most difficult adjustment, she says, has been fitting in meals. "For me, the challenge is eating before a workout in the morning and eating so often. Keeping healthy food on hand is not something I'm used to doing," she says, "so it's something I have to keep reminding myself to do."
Yet, she can tell that she is making progress. "The best part is seeing changes in both the way I look and the way I feel," says Monroe, who has lost a total of 33 pounds. "I feel like I can take on anything and there isn't anything that can stop me anymore. My body isn't holding me back from doing anything and I have never felt this way before."
Her resolve, she says, is stronger than ever. "I finally turned a new leaf in this program and now I'm more dedicated than ever. I realized that putting in effort, being positive about my workouts, and looking forward to them will benefit me more than trying to fight against them. I'm ready to work harder than I have ever worked in my life and to stay focused on my end goal."
John Bohanek, 46, of South Elgin can attest to the changes in his life over the past month and a half.
"My prior diet was high in sugar (soda, cakes, cookies, and other sweets), and I thought I would crave them now, but weeks into the competition I don't miss them," he says. "I also have noticed the first 15 minutes of cardio is the hardest but after that my body seems to enjoy being on the treadmill."
Bohanek, who has lost a total of 35 pounds, says that he now understands that meal planning is vital to his success. "I need to make sure that I get my snacks in as there are times I am not hungry and forget, but I need to keep up with the snacks as this maintains my metabolism," he says knowingly.
He can point to many things that have been benefits from the program. Not only is he now off his blood pressure medicine, he says he also sleeps better, he's not winded after climbing stairs, and he enjoys a "not so tight" wardrobe.
"All of my clothes are getting loose and I'm looking to go down another pant size soon," he says.
Tim Lange, 57, of Algonquin celebrated his wedding anniversary recently. While mindful of his nutrition plan, he admits that he may have overdone it a bit.
"I guess the big surprise is that sometimes you need to stay on the program or you just might not be successful when it comes to eating the right foods," says Lange, whose weight remained unchanged from the week before. "Weigh-in this week was a reality check that you need to stay on task. I've found to my surprise that I can really lose weight if I have the right tools provided to me and support by my family and friends."
Lange, who has lost a total of 20 pounds, says he's still having difficulty changing his lunch routine.
"I know that sounds silly, but I have always gone out for lunches with my friends, and now watching them eat their pizza and stuff is a little hard."
But he is embracing a new outlook on life.
"I have found my attitude has changed for the better, so my wife tells me. Every day I wake up, I try to think about what I can do to get me closer to my goals," he says. "My physical changes are unbelievable. When I look in the mirror, I can't seem to locate my belly anymore … well almost."
Cheryl Seibert, 40, of Joliet is down a total of 16 pounds. But she hasn't lost the weight she had hoped that she would by now. And for the most part, it has been a mystery to her.
"I thought working out and eating right would give me amazing results," says Seibert, a firefighter and paramedic with the Schaumburg Fire Department. "I didn't realize how much my health is impacted by a lack of sleep. Being a firefighter, I rarely sleep through the night when I'm at work."
Also being a mom to young children has impacted her sleeping habits.
"At home, my son has had a cough and cold with occasional bouts of croup for the past two weeks, which has meant that I don't get consistent sleep there either. I had heard of shift work disorder, but I did not think I fell into that category. I was having extremely poor results on the scale so I was referred to a doctor. After meeting with him, I learned how much my body is affected by sleep disturbance."
Seibert met with Dr. Paul Mikulski, a certified nutritionist, applied kinesiologist, and chiropractic physician. Joshua Steckler, owner of Push Fitness, said trainers send clients to Mikulski when they need more nutritional and supplemental insight.
Seibert learned that she also has a gluten and dairy intolerance. But, the news hasn't dampened her spirits.
"I am still waiting for blood results to get some details ironed out, but I am hopeful that the hard work and dedication I have been putting in will begin showing up on the scale," says Seibert, adding that the best part has been "how loose my clothes are getting and people noticing the weight loss."
Chris Kalamatas, 63, of Lake in the Hills says he has surprised himself by his allegiance to the program. Kalamatas has lost 25 pounds to date.
"I have started down this path dozens of times in the last 15 to 20 years, but never made it past two or three weeks," he admits. "The best part is I can see and feel physical changes, and with that comes the mental part, the confidence."
Kalamatas says he looks forward to his workout sessions with his Push Fitness trainer, Brodie Medlock. "Even though I don't know what he has in store for me each day, I know it's going to be a challenge, and he will push me beyond my limits."
And Kalamatas has learned to take his trainer's advice seriously. "I think the best advice I've received from my trainer Brodie and Josh (Steckler) is to take it a day at a time, a week at a time, and don't try to measure every day with what I want to be in 12 weeks," he says. "You can drive yourself crazy! Just stay the course and keep learning about nutrition and how good eating habits positively affects our lifestyle."
His adherence has paid off. "I have noticed how my clothes are fitting, especially my jeans," the retired principal says. "I was able to fit into a pair of Calvin Klein's that I haven't worn in 10 years."
By the numbers Week 6
John Bohanek, 46, South Elgin
Starting weight: 361
Current weight: 326
Weight lost this week: 2 pounds
Total weight loss: 35 pounds, 9.7 percent
Chris Kalamatas, 63, Lake in the Hills
Starting weight: 262
Current weight: 237
Weight lost this week: 3 pounds
Total weight loss: 25 pounds, 9.5 percent
Tim Lange, 57, Algonquin
Current weight: 216
Weight loss this week: 0 pounds
Total weight loss: 20 pounds, 8.5 percent
Allie Monroe, 29, Schaumburg
Starting weight: 334
Current weight: 301
Weight lost this week: 1 pound
Total weight loss: 33 pounds, 9.9 percent
Cheryl Seibert, 40, Joliet
Starting weight: 263
Current weight: 247
Weight lost this week: 1 pound
Total weight loss: 16 pounds, 6.1 percent