Elgin teacher wins 'Greatest Loser' challenge

 
 
Updated 3/4/2016 5:10 AM
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  • Mariano Mercado of Elgin is the winner of Elgin's "Greatest Loser" challenge at the Centre of Elgin. He lost 22.8 pounds in eight weeks and won a $1,000 gift card to Elgin Fresh Market.

      Mariano Mercado of Elgin is the winner of Elgin's "Greatest Loser" challenge at the Centre of Elgin. He lost 22.8 pounds in eight weeks and won a $1,000 gift card to Elgin Fresh Market. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Mariano Mercado of Elgin weighed 195 pounds when he started the weight-loss challenge Jan. 2.

    Mariano Mercado of Elgin weighed 195 pounds when he started the weight-loss challenge Jan. 2. courtesy of mariano mercado

Mariano Mercado's winning approach to Elgin's "Greatest Loser" challenge was to stay away from refined carbs, limit proteins, eat tons of vegetables and ... run, run, run.

Mercado, 45, this week won the eight-week challenge by logging a 22.8-pound loss, the most among 50 participants at the Centre of Elgin, and claimed the grand prize $1,000 gift card to Elgin Fresh Market.

A teacher at Highland Elementary School in Elgin, Mercado, who is 5 feet, 10 inches and started at 195 pounds, ran for 30 minutes followed by 15 to 20 minutes of cardio workouts every day, and halted his usual weightlifting routine to maximize weight loss, he said.

But while his strategy was all about winning -- he even stopped drinking water a day before the final weigh-in -- his motivation stemmed from getting bad news about his cholesterol levels after a routine checkup in May, he said.

"After losing 20 pounds, I think the numbers should move in the right direction," he said. "Also, when I was heavier, I could feel it in my knees and my back."

Participants Everette Baldwin and Nick Miller took second and third place respectively; both also got gift cards to the store.

The challenge was such a success that "Swing into Spring," a 12-week challenge, will kick off April 1, said Centre fitness supervisor Ron Anderson.

The grand prize will be three personal training sessions with Anderson.

While "Greatest Loser" was based on total pounds lost, the upcoming challenge will be about body weight percentage loss, which will even the playing field, including between men and women, Anderson said. "Doing it in different ways educates people on what that does for their body, and how to lose what they need to lose," he said. "I want to keep that progression on education."

Mercado said he learned a lot about nutrition, such as that vegetables like broccoli and asparagus have good amounts of protein. He plans to stick to a healthy regimen during the week and will allow himself foods like pizza and burgers on weekends, he said.

The long-term effects of participating weight loss challenges are "a mixed bag," Anderson said. "Sometimes the ones that disappear (from the gym) are the ones that need it the most. And the ones that needed the most are the ones with the mindset of, 'I need to do it quickly,' not realizing that it's a marathon, not a 100-yard dash."

If you want more information about "Swing into Spring" call Anderson at (847) 531-7023 or email anderson_r@cityofelgin.org.

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