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updated: 4/21/2014 10:41 AM

Fittest Loser contestants: Support keeps them on target

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  • Chris Kalamatas appreciates the support of his wife, Beth, far right, and looks forward to being fit and healthy to enjoy time with their grandkids Millie Bates, left, Deangelo Kalamatas, Damen Allen and Nadia Bates.

       Chris Kalamatas appreciates the support of his wife, Beth, far right, and looks forward to being fit and healthy to enjoy time with their grandkids Millie Bates, left, Deangelo Kalamatas, Damen Allen and Nadia Bates.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Fittest Loser Allie Monroe works out on the Pilates reformer machine at Prairie Stone Fitness Center in Hoffman Estates where her mom, Glenna Gineris, is a fitness manager.

       Fittest Loser Allie Monroe works out on the Pilates reformer machine at Prairie Stone Fitness Center in Hoffman Estates where her mom, Glenna Gineris, is a fitness manager.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • With his wife and kids on board, Fittest Loser Tim Lange of Algonquin is confident he'll succeed. From left, daughter Julie, 18, Tim, wife Kathy, and sons Tony, 24, and Mike, 26.

       With his wife and kids on board, Fittest Loser Tim Lange of Algonquin is confident he'll succeed. From left, daughter Julie, 18, Tim, wife Kathy, and sons Tony, 24, and Mike, 26.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Cheryl Seibert prepares a salad for co-workers while on duty at the Schaumburg Fire Department.

       Cheryl Seibert prepares a salad for co-workers while on duty at the Schaumburg Fire Department.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • John Bohanek catches up with customer Patrice Dirl of St. Charles while working at Jewel in South Elgin.

       John Bohanek catches up with customer Patrice Dirl of St. Charles while working at Jewel in South Elgin.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
By Lisa Jones Townsel
Daily Herald correspondent

The Fittest Loser Challengers are a strong bunch with an eagle-eye focus on reaching their golden numbers. But they will tell you that accomplishing such a feat is only possible because of their even stronger support systems helping them to stay the course.

Chris Kalamatas

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For Chris Kalamatas of Lake in the Hills, it is Beth, his wife of 35 years and their five adult children that keep him on target.

"My wife, Beth, has been incredibly supportive, encouraging and really involved with my participation," Kalamatas says. "She has always lived a healthy, fit lifestyle as she is in the gym five days a week and has always pushed me to do the same."

Now that he is, his wife couldn't be more proud. "She is so happy for me and can't believe the changes I have made in my nutritional habits and physically how I have lost weight and added muscle, even at my age," he says.

Kalamatas' children also play a pivotal role. "They look at (me) as a man in his early 60s who used to be very active, then got out of shape for a long time and is now doing something to extend his life," says Kalamatas. "From the day I told my family that I had been chosen, all five of them have been extremely supportive and a Saturday morning weigh-in cannot go by without me texting my numbers to them or in some way letting them know how I did that week."

He's glad that they are interested and have held him accountable to succeed for reasons that go well beyond the competition.

"I want to see their kids, my grandkids, grow up to be young men and women too and by improving my quality of life now through this program I am working toward that."

Allie Monroe

Allie Monroe of Schaumburg has a huge support system, she says, that includes family, friends and some people she had lost touch with until recently.

And they've all let her know that they're there for her.

"They all follow my progress and ask me how things are going," she says. "My mom and some friends from the gym meet me to workout. I always have someone checking in with me and celebrating my progress and my successes."

Such support has meant the world to Monroe.

"Having people that are always encouraging me and telling me how well I have been doing has helped me stay on track," she confides. "I have had a lot of people tell me how proud they are and how inspiring I have been to them. Some people have decided to focus on their health and fitness because of my progress, which motivates me and keeps me focused."

No matter how tough the next few weeks are, Monroe is energized from within and without.

"I have more support than I ever imagined," she says, "and I feel super blessed that so many people are pushing for me."

Tim Lange

From the very beginning, Tim Lange of Algonquin says that becoming a contestant in this challenge has meant that his family would be fully immersed as well. And his biggest supporter, by far, he says is his wife, Kathy.

"We have been married now close to 20 years, and we had become very comfortable in our habits in terms of what we ate and did for activities. In other words," he says, "we ate what we wanted and watched a lot of TV -- bad plan."

But that was then.

"When I started this contest, we both agreed that this was going to be a team effort in changing the way we eat and play," says Lange. "Now, I'm very proud to say that we both have begun to see progress from our achievement of eating right and working out. We have been shopping together, cooking and working out together. It's definitely a new direction for the Lange family."

He honors his kids, too, "who hid all the good stuff from me."

Plus, Lange says his trainer Steve Amsden has made a lasting impact.

"I couldn't have done this without Steve, who held that door open for me and would not let me shut it when I was down on myself."

Cheryl Seibert

Cheryl Seibert of Joliet is energized by her support system that motivates her to keep going.

"My support system has been more amazing than I ever would have dreamt," she says. "This truly has been a journey that I could not have gone on without the help of friends and family. "

Her husband has supported her efforts from the very beginning.

"He does most of the cooking, so he learned how to cook foods I like in ways that would keep me on track," she says. "He would cook different things and put them all in four-ounce bags so I didn't have to weigh something every time I needed to eat. Plus, he makes sure that we have fresh veggies in the house at all times and tries to keep a variety so I don't get bored."

And when the competition is as much about the mental as about the physical, she says, he "lifts my spirits and encourages me to focus on the positive results I have seen unrelated to the scale."

Since their schedules require a lot of balancing, Seibert says her parents have been immensely helpful.

"Because my husband is also a firefighter, my parents watch the kids between our shifts and have been baby-sitting even more because I need to meet with my trainer," she says. "They have been putting aside their schedule to make sure I get to do everything I need to do. They are always in my corner, supporting me all the way."

Even friends and co-workers, she says, continue to go the extra mile.

"When I was disappointed with my results, they were there to cheer me on. At work, the guy who usually cooks has gone above and beyond to make meals that I can eat. If he is cooking meals that are not in my plan, he puts some aside for me before adding the things I can't eat. Once, he even came back with a bunch of fresh veggies, cleaned and cut up for me.

Such kindness is humbling.

"I truly feel blessed to be surrounded by people that support and encourage me every step of the way," Seibert says.

John Bohanek

Becoming a Fittest Loser contestant was a dream in itself for John Bohanek of South Elgin.

"When my friends and a neighbor encouraged me to apply, I never thought I would be picked," Bohanek says. "It was sort of a dream when I was called. And as I told friends, family and my extended family at Jewel, everybody was so excited for me."

But since that time, he has become somewhat of a local star in South Elgin, where he has lived for the past 23 years. Even complete strangers approach him to offer congratulations.

"When I was getting gas yesterday, an elderly lady came up to me and said, 'You're a local celebrity. I am following you each week in the paper, and I stop by Jewel to see how you are doing.'"

Such impromptu conversations motivate him to work even harder.

"I think I am giving back to other people," he says. "Week after week, people come up to me and say, 'You motivated me; I have lost 10 pounds since giving up pop,' or 'After reading your story, I know I can do this also.' These are complete strangers."

If his journey is helping others, Bohanek couldn't be more pleased.

"It took me too long (15 years) to make the decision to take back my body, so if I can help strangers it just gives me more motivation," he says.

And co-workers remain his constant supporters, reminding him how thin his face is getting and how it's time to "drop to a smaller pants size."

Even when the news on the scale isn't so good, they have been there for him.

"When I had my bad week, two people, Diane and Amanda, told me not to give up and don't lose focus," he says. "It is just your body adjusting."

Bohanek is glad to have support coming from all angles.

"It truly feels like the whole town of South Elgin is cheering me on," he says, "and I can't let them down."

By the numbers

John Bohanek, 46, South Elgin

Starting weight: 361

Current weight: 301

Weight lost this week: 8 pounds

Total weight loss: 60 pounds, 16.6 percent

Chris Kalamatas, 63, Lake in the Hills

Starting weight: 262

Current weight: 230

Weight lost this week: 4 pounds

Total weight loss: 32 pounds, 12.2 percent

Tim Lange, 57, Algonquin

Starting weight: 236

Current weight: 201

Weight lost this week: 5 pounds

Total weight loss: 35 pounds, 14.8 percent

Allie Monroe, 29, Schaumburg

Starting weight: 334

Current weight: 287

Weight lost this week: 3 pounds

Total weight loss: 47 pounds, 14.1 percent

Cheryl Seibert, 40, Joliet

Starting weight: 263

Current weight: 237

Weight lost this week: 0 pounds

Total weight loss: 26 pounds, 9.9 percent

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