49 pounds lighter, former Lombard police chief wins Fittest Loser contest

  • Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer is named the Daily Herald 2020 Fittest Loser in a Zoom meeting Tuesday night. He lost 20.1% of his body weight.

      Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer is named the Daily Herald 2020 Fittest Loser in a Zoom meeting Tuesday night. He lost 20.1% of his body weight. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer checks his fitness tracker.

    Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer checks his fitness tracker. Photo courtesy of Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer

  • 2020 Daily Herald Fittest Loser contestant Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer with trainer Michelle Jeeninga at Push Fitness in Schaumburg, when the contest began in mid-February.

      2020 Daily Herald Fittest Loser contestant Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer with trainer Michelle Jeeninga at Push Fitness in Schaumburg, when the contest began in mid-February. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Senior Harsh Thakkar shows Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer how to use the knife properly as Fittest Loser contestants take a cooking class with students from the Food Revolution Club at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. Dillenkoffer won the Daily Herald's 12th annual contest.

      Senior Harsh Thakkar shows Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer how to use the knife properly as Fittest Loser contestants take a cooking class with students from the Food Revolution Club at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. Dillenkoffer won the Daily Herald's 12th annual contest. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer with Push Fitness owner Joshua Steckler at the final weigh-in for Fittest Loser contestants May 9. Dillenkoffer, who won the contest, lost 49 pounds, going from 244 to 195.

      Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer with Push Fitness owner Joshua Steckler at the final weigh-in for Fittest Loser contestants May 9. Dillenkoffer, who won the contest, lost 49 pounds, going from 244 to 195. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer, second from left, top row, is named the Daily Herald 2020 Fittest Loser by M. Eileen Brown, Vice President/Director of Strategic Marketing of the Daily Herald, in a Zoom meeting Tuesday night.

      Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer, second from left, top row, is named the Daily Herald 2020 Fittest Loser by M. Eileen Brown, Vice President/Director of Strategic Marketing of the Daily Herald, in a Zoom meeting Tuesday night. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/17/2020 9:48 AM

Former Lombard police chief Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer has been following the Daily Herald's The Fittest Loser competition for at least five years.

So when given the chance to be a participant this year, he ran with the opportunity. Literally.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Runs around Wheaton, where he logged time and distance with a fitness tracker, helped him lose 49 pounds, and 20.1 percent of his starting weight, to become the 2020 champion.

"This has been just an amazing experience ... it's been a blast," he told the watchers of the online closing ceremony Thursday night.

Dillenkoffer, 70, said he was worried at the outset he would disappoint the trainer assigned to him, thinking, "I hope she doesn't feel the old man can't cut it."

At the February weigh-in, he was at 244 pounds, despite having started several months earlier to modify his diet and exercise more. Twelve weeks later, he was 195 pounds. He lost 7 inches off his waistline.

Normally, contestants would meet with personal trainers at Push Fitness in Schaumburg, individually and in group "boot camps" and other activities, and that's how this year's campaign started. But of course, the COVID-19 closure orders in March laid waste to those plans, and put the kibosh on the usual wrap party for hundreds of community-team participants. Instead, the ceremony was conducted via Zoom and shown on the Daily Herald's Facebook page.

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Push owner Joshua Steckler said the four contestants' weight losses showed that people can adapt and overcome difficulties when trying to improve their fitness, especially if they have support. The Push trainers taught and motivated the contestants with videos, and checked their food journals by text and email, he said.

"I'm just really proud of what everyone was able to accomplish," Steckler said.

Also competing were Neil Madden of Naperville, Barbara Simon of Buffalo Grove and Jennifere Lux of Wheaton.

Community teams

"Silent Assassins" from Elk Grove Village won the Fittest Loser At Work Challenge. Maureen Koziol of the "Fab Friends" of Wood Dale was the women's winner, and Michael Kaveney of "Silent Assassins" won the men's division.

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