Fittest Loser introductions: A food columnist's secrets revealed

  • Fittest Loser contestant Annie Overboe works out with trainer Joshua Steckler.

      Fittest Loser contestant Annie Overboe works out with trainer Joshua Steckler. Bob Chwedyk,

By Annie Overboe
Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted2/28/2016 6:12 AM

Why would a pastry chef and Baking Secrets columnist for the Daily Herald jump at the opportunity to be part of the 2016 Fittest Loser Challenge?

For almost 16 years, I have pulled the curtain back on life as a pastry chef and shared many culinary secrets with our readers. Today, in answer to that question, the curtain pulls back on my personal life.


Four years ago on Valentine's Day, our son and only child died. John's death was sudden and my husband, Michael, and I never saw it coming. This devastating loss, on the heels of my sister's death from cancer and Michael's disability, stopped me hard and fast in my tracks. Everything in the world seemed on fire.

That moment I learned of my son's death, it felt as if I had aged 25 years in the blink of an eye. The shock took my breath away and I felt deep down in every fiber of my being that I had been epically changed; physically, mentally and emotionally. Laying awake that night, I wondered how to live again in this new world.

The next day, Michael and I made a pact to not kick the grief can down the road. On my desk sat the quote, "If you are going through hell, don't stop." We poured liquor down the drain and passed on any prescriptions. But my one crutch was never far way: Dark chocolate. I had it at work, in my home pantry, and, just in case of emergency, a bar stashed in the briefcase.

Writing and meeting readers at events for the Daily Herald has always been my passion, something special just for me. After John died, I held on tightly to this passion, as it became my tether to the world around me. Developing recipes and culinary writing remained the one part of my life still intact and not altered by John's death.

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Looking back on it now, I attribute a large part of my emotional and mental recovery to facing everything head-on without denial or fear. It helped to see that every morning represented a step forward on the path out of hell. But one challenge lay ahead and I put that on the back burner when John died -- that was until November 2015.

While at Parker & Novak for the Baking & Sweets show contest, Daily Herald representatives Andrea Biwer and Eileen Brown approached me about participating in the 2016 Fittest Loser Challenge. I said "Yes!" knowing this offer gave me the chance to rebuild myself physically.

Down deep I wondered if I could turn back my body clock 25 years and feel better than before John's death. The time had come to find out.

All this meant trips to Amita Health and my doctor to face what four years of serious dark chocolate consumption had done to my health and waistline. Part of grief recovery therapy was yoga and walking, and surprisingly, I had dropped 20 pounds since John's death.

Truthfully, emotionally and mentally I feel great. Michael and I stepped out for dinner this Valentine's Day, the first since John's death. I've got grief on the run and now it's taken up residence in my body. I don't want to feel this loss physically anymore, and I know that the secret to success lies in taking ownership and control of my health.


With the green light from the doctors, I took an honest look at my situation. Weight loss goal is 25 pounds along with lowering my blood sugar numbers. Like myself, so many Americans today find themselves in the pre-diabetes danger zone. I can't blame grief for all this as the choices were always mine to decide.

The most important truth I have learned since John's death is that accepting ownership of our decisions and parts we played gives us the power to make the hard changes.

I am taking a giant step forward to rebuild my health and invite you to join me on this challenge!

First day at Push Fitness

For me, the big challenge and leap of faith was the initial meeting at Push Fitness. My late son, John, once lived the high-energy style of bodybuilding and martial arts. How would I feel surrounded by the trappings of his former life? What triggers down deep in my soul would suddenly rise to the surface at this moment? Would I break down and cry? With a deep breath, I opened the Push Fitness Studio door.

What I did know gave me comfort.

Josh Steckler, owner of Push Fitness, would be my trainer and guide through rebuilding my life. And he has years of experience helping people like me get back on track with their fitness and health. Too late for me to back out now!

Any fears I had stepping into Push Fitness eased upon meeting Josh. His place is fresh and inviting with large windows and clean lines. Josh's passion for fitness feels authentic with a strong leadership quality delivered by a kind smile. He's grounded in walking the fitness walk and knows how to bring you on board with a successful program. No doubt, I was in good hands.

After the Amita health screenings, I knew most of my health numbers and current body condition. But that sense of instantaneous aging, that ran through my body on the night John died is never too far from the surface. When Josh showed me that physically I am 10 years older than my actual age, I knew he was spot on with confirming what I have felt. That was the bad news.

On the good news front, Josh explained how I have the opportunity to turn back my body clock. How far on the rewind, would depend entirely upon me. How serious am I with this commitment to rebuild my health? Would I be willing and able to give up dark chocolate, my trusty companion and crutch through grief?

My promise to Josh that Friday -- and to myself -- was to stop relying on dark chocolate to help me feel better. All my dark chocolate has been donated -- even the secret stash in the briefcase! In addition, I have stepped away from creating desserts for this three-month program and will offer nutritional protein shakes and smoothies in my Daily Herald Food column. Armed with their daily nutritional guide, I began changing my life.

Moving through my first workout with Josh, I couldn't help thinking about the five contestants and how they are coping with the changes. Like Josh, I knew their individual trainers were finding muscles to exercise that we never knew existed.

The initial photo shoot at Push Fitness gave me the opportunity to meet and begin to get to know our five contestants: Mel Boldt, Janet Ford, Jiten Patel, Sharon Miller and Kathy Couston. We all brought our individual motivations and A-game to the studio on our first Saturday morning together. They were excited for this opportunity and warmly welcomed me as I shared with them my personal story and goals.

With regular Saturday boot camps now underway, I look forward to sharing their stories along with my personal challenges and progress. This is a great group this year, and while the goal is to be the Fittest Loser, we are all winners.

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