A wedding. A baby. A high school reunion.
These were the catalysts of a few of the contestants competing for the title of Fittest Loser, a Daily Herald sponsored weight-loss event now in its 10th year.
All told, the five contestants lost a collective 215 pounds in 12 weeks, with Mount Prospect qaXCresident Chad Lowry, 44, winning the title after losing 22.1 percent (54 pounds) of his starting body weight.
"He worked out relentlessly ... His mindset was clear and the results showed," Lowry's Push Fitness trainer Mick Viken said.
But the story can't end there -- for Lowry, the other contestants or anyone who needs to kick-start a healthy life by eating right and exercising more.
As Dr. Anthony Auriemma, medical director of Amita Health's Bariatric and Weight Loss Center told the group assembled Tuesday night, an estimated 38 percent of U.S. adults are considered obese, and a combined 71 percent are either obese or overweight. And that number is higher than when the Fittest Loser was started in 2009.
He called it an epidemic. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And the estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who have obesity were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight, also according to the CDC.
"The good news is ... There is hope," Auriemma said. "There are things we can do. But it typically takes a partner. It's very difficult to tackle this all on your own."
Loved ones, especially, can be the impetus to help someone lose weight, whether they are part of the goal or standing with you in the gym.
"He was definitely a big part of it," contestant Kim Rosewall, 30, of Roselle said of her fiance, Kyle. "He pushed me to work, he would help prep my food in the morning, he would fix dinner and go grocery shopping." She lost 28 pounds and he lost 15 and they expect to lose more before their wedding in the fall.
As many know but others need to learn, losing weight not only helps with physical health but also mental health. By setting and reaching goals, those working to get to a healthy weight and remain there can take pride in their efforts and build confidence in their lives.
"I'm physically stronger. I have more energy," said contestant Nicole Mueller, 42, of Schaumburg, who lost 33 pounds. "Emotionally, I have this inner strength burning inside of me."
Isn't that what we all need to get through the ups and downs, the highlights and challenges, of daily life?