Winning advice: Tips from former Fittest Loser contestants
Participating in the Fittest Loser Challenge changes lives, not only during the challenge, but after.
As this year's challenge turns toward the halfway mark, former contestants reflected on their experience and offered advice for the 2018 competitors to help motivate them to see it through to the end.
Advice from former participants ranged from how to work out to how to stay mentally tough. While everyone's advice varied slightly, past contestants all took away a few of the same key points.
Trust your trainers
Past contestants expressed the utmost respect for Push Fitness and the trainers there.
Many said the advice trainers gave them during the challenge stayed with them and that they still incorporate the eating plans and exercises routines their trainers led them through in their lives today.
James DeBouver, who placed third in the 2017 challenge, said trusting your trainers is a huge part of the competition. He recommends contestants work with their trainer to find out how far they can push themselves and to remember that while the trainers are there to give guidance, it's up to each participant to follow through on their advice.
"The trainers know what they're doing. They've put together a program that works. All you have to do is figure out how to incorporate it into your new life and follow it," DeBouver said.
Follow the nutrition plan
Former and current contestants have talked about the importance of healthy eating and the nutrition knowledge they're taking away from the competition.
Exercise and the motivation to succeed are important, but contestants pointed to following the nutrition plan to a T as one of the main ingredients for success.
Lisa Notarnicola, who won the Fittest Loser in 2009, suggested contestants keep track of what they're eating and talk about their food choices with their trainer. Nearly 10 years later, she said she still keeps her trainer's advice in mind.
"Steve (Amsden) used to tell me to fuel my body, not pleasure it with food. I still use this today," Notarnicola said.
Several contestants also recommended competitors plan and prep their meals in advance to ensure they're making healthy choices each week and encouraged them to be open to trying new food combinations. As last year's second-place finisher, Russell Page, put it, "a green smoothie can taste better than it looks."
"The diet is incredibly important, not just for losing fat, but for building muscle as well," DeBouver said.
You can do more than you think
Forming new habits is not easy. There are inevitable periods of frustration and times when everyone feels like giving up.
Former contestants encouraged participants to acknowledge those difficult times, but to always keep going -- do an extra push up, run an extra mile, or work out one more day a week than expected.
"Do what the trainer tells you to do and keep pushing yourself to do more. They will push you like you have never been pushed before," Notarnicola said.
Dee Levine, a 2011 contestant, also encouraged contestants to keep going.
"Your body and mind are stronger than you think," Levine said.
Find a secondary motivation
Wanting to lose weight or win the competition are great motivators in the short-term, but many former contestants said that finding a secondary motivation for making life changes was essential to powering through the competition and maintaining new habits after it ended.
Eric Ronzio, who placed second in the first Fittest Loser Challenge, said finding a source of motivation besides the competition could help contestants stay on track in the future.
"Eventually this challenge will end and what will keep you motivated when that happens? For me it was being more active with my family," Ronzio said. "Both of my kids are very involved in basketball, so I want to be in the driveway rebounding those rare misses, not sitting on the stoop just watching them."
Russell Page, who finished second in 2017 looked to friends and family when he needed a motivation boost. He drew motivation from himself as well.
"While the heat of the competition helps, it may not be enough. Look to friends and family for a boost when you need it," Page said. "More importantly, dig into yourselves to find the drive you need. As the pounds started to come off, I found encouragement as I related the new weight achievements to past periods of my life when I weighed less and wore smaller clothes. It is a delightful experience."
The way is forward, not back: Power through
John Novak, who placed second in 2011, said to remember that the contest is a marathon, not a sprint.
Although there may be weeks when contestants feel like there is little progress, it's important to stay motivated and celebrate the little victories that happen along the way.
"It is a roller-coaster ride, and there will be many times that you experience frustration," Novak said. "Keep the end goal in mind, and push through the hard times. Change will come and you will reach your goal."
Tony Wiszowaty said visualizing losing weight, gaining a healthy body, and winning the challenge helped him stay committed to his personal goal of losing five pounds each week and ultimately coming out on top last year.
For him, there was no going back, only taking steps to move toward a different future. He believes if he, or anyone, puts their mind toward a goal and focuses on it, they can achieve it.
"Before the contest started I committed to myself that I was going to win it. I was in it to win it," Wiszowaty said.
DeBouver said it's important for contestants to find a way to understand that now is the time to make a change; that what they've done in the past doesn't work; and to take that mindset into the future to help them maintain healthy habits once the contest is over.
While many contestants gain at least a little weight back when the contest ends, DeBouver bucked this trend -- about seven months after the contest ended, he had lost an additional 37 pounds.
DeBouver said if contestants stick with it, they may find that their biggest successes are still to come.
"Find a way to stick with your new life after the challenge. The biggest thing that sets everyone back who loses weight is falling back into their old habits," DeBouver said. "You didn't lose the weight or improve your physical condition and health by falling back into your old habits. Your old habits are just that: old. Get rid of them. They aren't helping you. You've spent all this time developing new, healthier habits. Cultivate those good habits."
Past competitors reminded this year's participants to have fun!
Yes, it is a competition, and, yes, they need to have their eyes on the prize, but they also encouraged them to take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy the entire experience.
"This is going to be exciting," Wiszowaty said "Take it seriously, but have fun with it. Stay focused on it."