Community drives Fittest Loser contestants to achieve their goals
Behind every success story is hours of hard work, dedication, and commitment to a dream.
While it takes an incredible amount of individual drive to achieve a sought-after goal, no one goes it alone.
The Daily Herald Fittest Loser contestants are no exception. Several have said from the beginning that the competition is a team effort, not only involving the other challengers and their trainers, but friends, family, co-workers, and in some cases, even those who find them through social media.
The extensive support from the community is meaningful to contestants Nicole Mueller, Shelly Daley, Kirsten Binder, Kim Rosewell, and Chad Lowry.
While their support networks are wide, their greatest source of support is their families.
Mueller said her husband, Tim, a firefighter, is her primary source of support.
When he's not on duty, he helps with the kids, which allows her to attend her sessions with trainer Patrick Stille.
When Tim is on duty, Mueller's oldest daughters, Briana and Chiara, step up and help out. Tim feels the challenge has had a positive impact on the whole family.
"Not only has our family learned what to eat and not to eat, but also about how much to eat and when certain foods are more beneficial at certain times of the day," Tim said.
"With the exercise regimens Nicole has learned, she has taught me -- who always thought lifting heavy weights was the only way to get strong -- that are many exercises you can do at home that can have very positive results," he added.
Family and friends send Mueller words of encouragement daily and Stille's support has been instrumental in her making it this far.
"This weight-loss journey is not an individual thing. I would not be having the success I am without the love and support from my husband, family and friends," Mueller said.
For Kim Rosewell, the challenge is also a family affair.
In the beginning, Rosewell wasn't losing weight, despite following the diet and exercise plan. Her parents and fiancé, Kyle, encouraged her to stick with it, with her parents offering to let her use the treadmill in their house and cook healthy meals.
"Kyle helps food prep, cook meals, and purchases our groceries. He also joins me for workouts outside of Push Fitness," said Rosewell said.
Contestant Shelly Daley echoes the belief that without the support of each member of her team -- her husband, Cullen, her parents, her trainer Michelle Jeeninga, and her friends, she would not have lost the over 40 pounds she has so far.
"My dad, Don Peterson, is the sole reason I'm able to work out in the mornings with my trainer. He has committed to baby-sitting my two young children so I can be part of this competition," said Daley.
"My husband, Cullen, is my rock. He loves prepping food for the week for me and he's the first to tell me to put myself first and get a workout in," she added.
In addition, Daley said her mom, Carol Peterson, is her biggest cheerleader and sends her encouraging texts several times per day.
Peterson said it's been great to see her daughter happier, enjoying physical activities with her kids, and getting back to her "old self."
Watching Daley go through the competition has inspired Peterson to adopt more healthy habits as well. She said she's even lost a few pounds by following nutrition tips Daley has shared with her.
"I'm in awe at what she has accomplished these past few weeks," Peterson said. "I forgot about how determined she can be when she sets her mind on a goal! It's great to watch her face her challenges and meet her goals."
But Daley's team has done far more than help her eat right and get her workouts out in.
"They have made me believe in myself again, made me feel beautiful again, made me realize that I can do anything that I set my mind to," Daley said. "I'm forever grateful to everyone … I'm finally getting my life back!"
In 2018, you can't underestimate the support derived from sharing experiences on social media.
As soon as Chad Lowry knew he'd been selected to compete, he went public with it on social networks.
In addition to his wife, friends, and family, Lowry considers his network on Instagram and Facebook as part of his support team.
He shares his Fittest Loser story on these platforms and posts updates when he hits fitness milestones.
He said seeing all the "likes" or small comments on his posts makes him feel more accountable for living up to the daily expectations of the contest. Knowing he plans to post an update after a workout or a weigh-in helps motivate him to put in the work necessary to accomplish his goals.
"It would be easy to have a cheat meal or take a day off from the commitment I've made, but I want to continue to make proud those who have also made an emotional investment in me and have shown consistent encouragement and belief in me," Lowry said.
In addition to family, friends and neighbors are also eager to lend a listening ear or offer words of support to the contestants.
Last week, Kirsten Binder said she was pretty discouraged when she found she'd gained back two pounds. While looking at her food journal helped her see where she'd gotten off track, the support she received when she shared her struggle with others might have helped even more.
Shortly after asking for help, one of her neighbors offered to go on a run with her; another friend invited her to attend an interval training session; she's taking a strength training class with a colleague from the Schaumburg Business Association; and has an open invitation to Zumba classes, fitness instruction, and yoga classes from several association members. Binder appreciates the support she has during the good and tough times.
"Kirsten's shown a lot of courage, vulnerability, and strength on this journey, which is pretty much par for the course for her. The energy has been contagious, not just for me, but for many others as well," said Binder's friend, Dr. Michelle Flowers. "Our community has pulled together to support her and bonded in a very positive way."
Binder has also been very open about documenting her journey on social media. She set up a public album on Facebook where she posts Daily Herald articles, weigh-in updates, and her thoughts about the competition.
Her posts are often lighthearted, but sometimes her musings turn serious as well. She said the conversations that happen on social media, as well as phone calls, texts, and in-person conversations, are a huge source of support and motivation.
She's a member of several networking and professional development groups and members have taken it upon themselves to share the Fittest Loser newspaper articles with the group along with their compliments and congratulations.
As a small-business owner running her enterprise from home, Binder finds her connection to the groups and their recognition and support to be a heartwarming part of the challenge.
"The people in these groups aren't just my virtual co-workers. They function like my board of directors," Binder said. "They're my confidants and, when push comes to shove, are people I've trusted to ask the hard questions and demand honest, candid answers."
Supporting each other
When the contestants really need an extra boost, additional motivation to complete that last plank or one more push-up, they know they can always turn to each other.
Mueller said she and Daley have helped keep one another on track, with Daley coordinating workouts for them to do together several times a week to help them meet their goals.
"Having Nicole as my workout buddy is the number one reason I've been so successful. She keeps me accountable to show up and push hard," said Daley of her competitor and now "friend for life."
While each contestant is preparing for a special event in their lives, being healthy for the people they're sharing those moments with is what drives them to succeed.
"I have a lot of drive and willpower, but my resolve isn't infinite," Binder said. "When I'm ready to talk myself out of a run, debating just a taste of dessert, or really craving a glass of wine, all I have to do is think about all of the people who want the best for me."
The outpouring of support has pushed the contestants to new heights and when asked what they'd want to say to their supporters, everyone began their answer with the same simple phrase: Thank you.