I've written about how losing weight and getting fit is rarely a simple journey from Point A to Point B. You know what else? It's also not exactly a solitary pursuit.
I mean, sure. I did the workouts. I planned menus and ate the food. But there's so much more to it than that and, thankfully, I had pretty much an entire army of awesome friends, family, and co-workers -- both past and present -- cheering me on.
Melynda Findlay, 49, Arlington HeightsStarting weight: 226
Current weight: 192
Weight lost this week: 5 pounds
Total weight lost: 34 pounds
Total percentage lost: 15 percent
At the risk of sounding like a rambling Academy Awards speech, there are a few people I have to recognize specifically.
There are my colleagues, including Eileen Brown, the Daily Herald's director of innovation, who has impeccable timing and just happened to email me about doing Fittest Loser again on a day when I was having marshmallows for breakfast (I couldn't exactly be all "Nah, I'm good" when my most important meal of the day is one-third of s'mores).
And, while everybody in the newsroom has been supportive, I'm especially grateful to my fellow night deskers -- Sean, Jana, Kirby, Kathleen, Amanda and Kevin -- for, like, a jillion things. Among them: They encouraged me, let me be complain-y sometimes, traded days off and, perhaps most importantly, kept the Oreos out of sight and didn't eat pizza in front of me.
I particularly have to thank my bosses, Neil and Michelle, for also being super flexible with my schedule, kicking me out early on Fridays so I could be up early Saturdays for boot camp, and for occasionally commiserating about post-exercise soreness and the pain of doing planks.
Of course, none of this would've been possible without my trainer, Push Fitness owner Joshua Steckler. Josh agreed to work with me for a second time (BECAUSE I AM A DELIGHT, OK?) and I will be forever grateful for that. He worked around my achy knees and hip, and the low blood count that made exercise pretty challenging at the beginning. He has a good sense of humor about my dorky jokes -- in person and in my column -- as well as my clumsiness, total lack of athletic ability and the 2013 Grilled Cheese Obsession.
Despite my own doubts, he was sure I could finish a 5K in less than an hour. And I did. He told me he wanted me to be able to dead lift 100 pounds. And I did!
More than anything, though, he inspires me with his passion for fitness and unwavering belief in me and all the Fittest Loser contestants and what we're capable of accomplishing.
And last, but certainly not least, there's my biggest cheerleader of all, my boyfriend, Brian, who has been one of the most important people in my life for nearly 20 years. He and his unflinching optimism have gone a long way toward making my quest for fitness easier and more fun.
Despite his own hectic schedule, he made sure I never had to worry about anything. He did all the cooking and a big chunk of the grocery shopping and always managed to somehow make the healthy food just as appealing as pizza or french fries (he cooks that well, seriously).
I always had clean clothes (Fun fact: Fitness requires SO MUCH LAUNDRY AND SO MANY DISHES). He exercised with me and ate the same diet -- even when I wasn't there and he could've easily had a tub of frosting for dinner (not that he has ever done this; I'm just pointing out his options here). He made sure I got to boot camp on time every Saturday.
When I was super nervous about doing my first 5K, Brian signed up and did it alongside me. And during all the moments of doubt -- whether it was crying over frozen pizza and goldfish crackers at a grocery store back in 2013 or when I was sure I absolutely shouldn't have agreed to do Fittest Loser again in 2018 -- he just lets me vent and tells me, over and over again, how proud he is of me.
There are so many more. I'm humbled, once again, by the amazing amount of love and support I've gotten throughout this challenge.
And it's made all the difference, too -- I've been successful because I always knew I was never in this alone.
• Melynda Findlay is a multiplatform editor at the Daily Herald, where she's worked for 19 years. She also has to give a shout-out to suburban rockers Lucky Boys Confusion. Without their music, there would've been no first column and treadmill workouts would've been pretty boring.