After three months of hard work, the Daily Herald's five Fittest Loser Challenge contestants get to show off their slimmed-down and toned-up physiques tonight before finding out who will be the winner.
A party will be held at the Eaglewood Resort and Spa in Itasca to announce the winner of this year's suburban weight loss and fitness competition, as well as the winners among the 13 community teams and 26 corporate teams who joined the challenge.
Now in its sixth year, the Daily Herald Fittest Loser Challenge had its biggest group of participants ever, said M. Eileen Brown, Daily Herald assistant vice president/director of strategic marketing and innovation.
"This year's Fittest Loser has really turned into a communitywide health and fitness program," Brown said.
The prizes are the biggest, too. The winner -- the person with the greatest percentage of weight loss in the past 12 weeks -- will receive a slew of gifts, including a $1,600 vacation. Dozens of other prizes will be given out in other categories, including resort stays, massages and personal training sessions. A raffle for the Fit Kids charity will feature items such as a hockey stick signed by all the Chicago Blackhawks.
It all began three months ago, when five Fittest Loser Challenge contestants were chosen from a pool of more than 160 applicants -- Tim Lange of Algonquin, Allie Monroe of Schaumburg, John Bohanek of South Elgin, Cheryl Seibert of Joliet and Chris Kalamatas of Lake in the Hills.
All overweight and out of shape, they began working out with trainers, learning how to cook and eat healthy foods, and taking on the mental obstacles that come with a major lifestyle change. Their weekly victories and struggles were documented in Daily Herald stories, on social media and in blogs.
Suddenly, they were making cauliflower-crusted pizzas and spinach smoothies, running 5Ks, doing 6 a.m. workouts on the weekends and fitting into clothes they hadn't worn in years.
"It's never too late to make lifestyle changes that will improve your quality of life," Kalamatas said in a recent interview. "I haven't felt this good in many, many years."
Tickets are still available for tonight's event, which begins at 6:30 p.m. It's open to anyone who wants inspiration or to cheer on the contestants.
For information, see http://events.dailyherald.com/Daily_Herald_Events/fittest-loser.html.