When he was asked how they chose the four military-veteran competitors for this year's Fittest Loser Challenge, Push Fitness owner Josh Steckler said he and Daily Herald Media Group Vice President M. Eileen Brown looked first at how committed each applicant was to doing the work and seeing the contest through.

The two also hoped to select one contestant from each of the armed services, though no veteran from the little Coast Guard even applied. Steckler said a third factor he and Brown considered was how much each applicant "deserved" the chance to get this 12 weeks of free training and advice, by taking a look at hardships and special circumstances.

Although Steckler didn't mention any names, James "J.D." DeBouver, a 33-year-old OSHA inspector from Schaumburg, must have ranked at the top of the "deserving" list.

When DeBouver was introduced before the 350 At Work Challenge contestants and spectators at the Fittest Loser finale on May 9, a beaming J.D. held his baby daughter high overhead, tears rolling down his cheeks. He was thinking back to several hardships, including injuring his back twice during the contest, suffering from fibromyalgia and experiencing post-traumatic stress caused by some experiences as an Army convoy guard in Iraq, but most importantly how he and his wife Jennifer had lost their two previous children.

Their first child was stillborn in 2011. About a year later, their son was born with a heart defect and died at the age of 6 weeks. And then their daughter, Nina, was born 6 weeks premature. Yet, after fighting breathing issues, Nina is now a healthy 10-month-old and DeBouver held her skyward for the crowd to see.

He wept as he voiced his thanks for the project that had seen him shrink from a flabby 264 pounds to a muscular 222.

When the back injuries left him unable to do the regular calisthenics at Push Fitness or to run in the Foodie 5K race, DeBouver had begun doing daily Pilates under the tutelage of his mother, who is a professional Pilates instructor.

As late as seven weeks into the 12-week contest, he had lost more pounds than any other contestant.

DeBouver said he lost 6 inches from his waist and "I am still working out five to six times a week. I primarily work out at home on my elliptical and a Total Gym. I also still do Pilates twice a week.

"I am still sticking pretty close to the dietary guidelines associated with the program. The biggest change that I've made is that I have allowed myself to eat brown rice, quinoa and sweet potatoes at dinner time. Next to eating five-plus times a day, the cutting out of those foods at dinner time was the biggest challenge. It really limited my creativity for meal planning and prepping."

"I've struggled with my weight since leaving the Army," he said. "But I have a daughter now so there's no room for excuses anymore."