Three months ago, John Bohanek said he regularly fell victim to "the four B's."
Bacon. Butter. Buffets. Bread.
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On Thursday, the 46-year-old's eyes welled up with tears as he pointed at a photo of his 361-pound self.
His life had changed.
In just 12 weeks, Bohanek lost 87 pounds, or 25 percent of his original body weight -- making him the winner of the Daily Herald's 2014 Fittest Loser Challenge.
"When you have a destination or a goal and you know where you want to go ... it's really about the journey," he told the audience of 350 people during a ceremony at Eaglewood Resort and Spa in Itasca.
The South Elgin man said the four other participants in this year's contest made his journey possible.
"We developed a bond and a friendship over the weeks," he said.
Dr. Anthony Auriemma, medical director of Alexian Brothers Weight Loss Solutions, said three of the five contestants were on the verge of being diabetic when they started the contest.
At the end of the contest, he said, they all had healthy blood work. Together, the contestants lost a total of almost 300 pounds and 42 inches of waistline.
Bohanek didn't reach his goal of hitting his high school weight of 210, but he is determined to keep striving toward it. His trainer, Michelle Amsden, said she had faith Bohanek would succeed.
"In this contest, everyone comes in motivated, but they don't always end with that motivation," she said. "John, he started it with motivation and he ended it with motivation, and I know he'll keep going. I know, for sure, he's going to keep fighting his fight."
Amsden worked with Bohanek at Push Fitness in Schaumburg, which has been a main partner in the Fittest Loser event since its inception six years ago.
Bohanek encouraged guests to offer support to anyone they know who is trying to lose weight.
"Any kind words you can say to them, help them and support them. You don't really know how far that goes," he said, adding that he was regularly approached by people in the grocery store where he works who said they were inspired by his story.
The runner-up was 29-year-old Allie Monroe of Schaumburg, who dropped 70 pounds, from 334 to 264.
Nearly 200 participants from 23 corporate teams and 13 local park district teams were also recognized during the ceremony.
The winning team for the community challenge was from the Wood Dale Park District. A member of that team, Stephanie DiMaso, lost 22.7 percent of her body weight, making her the individual community winner.
New this year to the Fittest Loser contest was a corporate challenge, which was won by a team from Lutheran Life Communities. The individual corporate winner was John Nicholas, a member of a Village of Elk Grove team who lost 17.2 percent of his body weight.
Guests also had a chance at the ceremony to mingle and visit sponsor tables set up around the room, including the Alexian Brothers Health Network, the Roosevelt University School of Pharmacy and Assurance.
M. Eileen Brown, the Daily Herald's assistant vice president and director of strategic marketing and innovation, said the event keeps growing bigger and better each year.
"Before it was like the contestants were good examples. Now it's more of a community event," she said. "It's really a health initiative. You have 200 people that are participating who are healthier after 12 weeks, and it's measurable healthy. So it's a great opportunity for them as well."