Fittest Loser contestants reflect on their journeys ahead of 2019 contest

Fittest Loser contestants reflect on their journeys ahead of 2019 contest

 
By N.A. House
Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted12/16/2018 7:30 AM
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  • The contestants in the 2018 Fittest Loser Challenge remain friends. Above, Chad Lowry, Shelly Daley, Nicole Mueller and Kirsten Binder get together over the summer.

    The contestants in the 2018 Fittest Loser Challenge remain friends. Above, Chad Lowry, Shelly Daley, Nicole Mueller and Kirsten Binder get together over the summer. Courtesy of Nicole Mueller

  • Contestants Chad Lowry, from left back, Nicole Mueller, and Shelly Daley; writer Melynda Findlay, front left, and Kirsten Binder.

    Contestants Chad Lowry, from left back, Nicole Mueller, and Shelly Daley; writer Melynda Findlay, front left, and Kirsten Binder. Courtesy of Nicole Mueller

  • Kirsten Binder has focused on maintaining her weight since the contest ended.

    Kirsten Binder has focused on maintaining her weight since the contest ended. Courtesy of Kirsten Binder

  • Kim (Rosewell) Spires was able to lose weight and look and feel the way she wanted on her wedding day.

    Kim (Rosewell) Spires was able to lose weight and look and feel the way she wanted on her wedding day. Courtesy of Kim Spires

  • Chad Lowry continues to run 5 miles three times a week.

    Chad Lowry continues to run 5 miles three times a week. Courtesy of Chad Lowry

  • Kim (Rosewell) Spires had plenty of energy during her honeymoon in Italy with husband, Kyle.

    Kim (Rosewell) Spires had plenty of energy during her honeymoon in Italy with husband, Kyle. Courtesy of Kim Spires

  • Since the contest ended, Nicole Mueller has continued to train with Patrick Stille and attend group classes at Push Fitness.

    Since the contest ended, Nicole Mueller has continued to train with Patrick Stille and attend group classes at Push Fitness. Courtesy of Nicole Mueller

  • Kirsten Binder said she follows the diet Push created about 75 percent of the time.

    Kirsten Binder said she follows the diet Push created about 75 percent of the time. Courtesy of Kirsten Binder

  • Shelly Daley was thrilled she was able to get pregnant after the contest.

    Shelly Daley was thrilled she was able to get pregnant after the contest. Courtesy of Shelly Daley

Life is good for the 2018 Fittest Loser contestants.

A pregnancy, a wedding, business success, completing a half-marathon, and increased muscle definition are among the things the contestants have to celebrate since the contest.

Shelly Daley

Shelly Daley of Arlington Heights is thrilled to be preparing for the arrival of her third child in June of 2019. Daley applied to Fittest Loser because she had struggled with fertility in the past and was told that at her pre-Fittest Loser weight, the in vitro fertilization process she hoped to undergo would likely not work.

Determined to drop the weight, Daley worked with her trainer, Michelle Jeeninga, and followed the nutrition routine developed by Push Fitness. She lost 60 pounds over the 12-week challenge, placed second in the contest, and is about to become a mom for the third time.

"Everything I wanted to do with losing weight and getting pregnant happened," said Daley.

Daley admits the first few months post-Fittest Loser were difficult for her. Without the scheduled workouts and trainer accountability, Daley said it was harder to focus and stay on track.

However, she took advantage of exercising outside during warmer months by walking her daughter to school and back a, 3-mile round-trip journey, and spent many days with her kids playing, not sitting on a bench, in the park, which was another one of her goals. She also enjoyed a family trip to Disney World.

"We walked 20,000-22,000 steps each day and I could do everything with my kids on vacation," Daley said. "I felt so good about myself. I didn't feel self-conscious, or have anxiety, and I wasn't winded and didn't need to take breaks while walking around."

Although school schedules and life's responsibilities have recently made working out consistently a challenge for Daley, she is committed to staying fit and gaining only necessary weight throughout her pregnancy. For the next few months she plans to eat healthy and hit the gym a few times a week.

Chad Lowry

Fellow contestant Chad Lowry of Mount Prospect was crowned the Fittest Loser last May.

Lowry and his trainer, Mick Viken, attacked the last week of the competition with gusto to help Lowry drop the final pounds that ultimately won him the title. While the intense diet and exercise routine he followed the last week of the challenge was not sustainable long-term, Lowry is still adhering to the routine he developed during the Fittest Loser Challenge.

Lowry continues to train with Viken weekly and attends three boot camp classes at Push Fitness every week.

Running is still a large part of Lowry's training, as it was during the contest. Lowry said he does a 5-mile maintenance run three days per week on the treadmill in his house.

Since the Fittest Loser ended he has completed several 5Ks and a half-marathon earlier this year.

In addition to staying committed to exercising regularly, Lowry continues to follow the diet developed for him by Push Fitness. Six days per week he eats four small meals a day that balance protein, fat, and starch. One day a week, he'll indulge in a dinner out or a food that's not on his regular menu.

Now, instead of pizza several times a week, Lowry has a salad with tuna or salmon for lunch and a breakfast of eggs, cheese and vegetables.

"I don't miss the foods I had before," he said.

Today, Lowry fluctuates between 195-200 pounds. Staying below the 200-pound mark is what fuels his commitment to his nutrition and exercise routine. Although he's diligently stuck to the routine since the contest ended, Lowry admits maintaining the commitment can be tough.

"Every day is a challenge and some days are easier than others," said Lowry.

To cap off his Fittest Loser experience, Lowry and his wife have an Alaskan cruise planned for next summer, which they booked using the package he received from Starship Travel as part of his winnings.

Lowry encourages anyone interested in participating in Fittest Loser to apply. He said he never dreamed the Daily Herald would choose his application, but they did.

"Don't sell yourself short," said Lowry.

Nicole Mueller

Nicole Mueller, of Schaumburg, lost a total of 33 pounds and six inches off her waist by the end of the 2018 contest and currently weighs 160 pounds. Since the finale event, Mueller has continued to train with Patrick Stille and attend group classes at Push Fitness.

Throughout the summer she worked out six days per week. Once school schedules resumed in the fall, she reduced her workouts to two to three times per week and a once weekly training session with Stille. The reason Mueller continues to train at Push is simple -- she sees results.

"When you see results, you just want to keep going," said Mueller, who has seen increased definition in her shoulders and arms.

Mueller's family supported her throughout the challenge and continue to do so today. Her daughters are interested in working out and the family enjoys exercising together when possible. Mueller is grateful to have been a part of Fittest Loser and to have the support of her family and trainers at Push.

What was difficult at the beginning of the contest is no longer a struggle. The nutrition, exercise habits, and mental toughness she developed during Fittest Loser are still with her as she continues on her lifelong health journey.

"The thing I've carried with me is that no matter what, you can do it," said Mueller. "It's mind over matter."

Kim (Rosewell) Spires

Kim (Rosewell) Spires, of Roselle, has also continued to see results since the end of Fittest Loser.

Through continuing to exercise and combining nutrition advice from her trainer, Nicole Steinbach, with the Weight Watchers program, Spires lost another 30 pounds for her Oct. 5 wedding.

Losing weight for this momentous occasion had been her goal from the start and she was thrilled to look and feel the way she'd hoped to on her big day.

"I could feel it in my energy levels. I felt better about myself," said Spires.

After their wedding, the couple honeymooned in Italy and visited Rome, Venice, Florence, and Sorento.

Since her honeymoon, Spires said she isn't following as strict of a routine, but is still working out three times per week. She said her support system of family and friends and her husband, Kyle, who is always willing to cook and eat healthy alongside her have helped her lose 75 pounds since the start of the contest and motivate her to stick with her routine.

"It's really a mindset," said Spires. "It's really about changing your lifestyle."

Kirsten Binder

For Kirsten Binder of Schaumburg, the months since Fittest Loser ended have been about maintenance. She's fluctuated up or down five pounds, but for the most part has remained at her finale weight of 173 pounds.

Binder keeps in touch with her trainer Steve Amsden and still works out regularly. She weight trains, continues to do HIIT workouts, and bought a pair of boxing gloves so she can continue to box.

Nutrition-wise, Binder said she follows the diet Push created about 75 percent of the time. She'll enjoy the occasional coffee drink or split a bottle of wine with her husband, but less frequently than before.

"I'm cognizant of reducing sugar and keeping my vegetable intake high. Bread is rarely on my plate," Binder said.

For Binder, it's been easy to maintain her routine, The tough part has been balancing feeling good about and comfortable with the weight she's at with creating new fitness goals for herself. If Binder ever feels like she is slipping off track she reminds herself that she can do anything for a limited period.

"I re-establish short-term goals, like working out two times per week," she said.

Binder carries many lessons from Fittest Loser with her and enjoys sharing what she learned with others. Over the summer she presented "10 Things I Learned from the Fittest Loser" through the Schaumburg Business Association.

"Of all the things I gained from the contest, the weight loss doesn't even crack the top 10," Binder said.

Advice from contestants

The 2018 contestants remain close. They continue to check in with and support one another through group texts and emails.

Three months after the Fittest Loser wrapped, the group and their trainers dined together at Cooper's Hawk to reconnect and reflect on the challenge. They said the contest isn't easy, but the friendships made and the results are worth it.

The former contestants advise those selected for 2019 to give it everything they've got during the workouts, to candidly share their experience with others throughout the challenge, and to be willing to make a commitment not only to the contest, but to permanently change their lifestyle.

"You have to think not in terms of how can I win the contest, but am I willing to make the commitment to make lifelong changes," said Lowry said.

The Daily Herald is accepting applications now for the 2019 Fittest Loser Challenge. The deadline to apply is Jan. 11, 2019, with finalists being selected the week of Jan. 14. The challenge officially gets underway on Feb. 15 and runs through the final weigh-in on May 11.

For 2019, the Daily Herald's focus for the Fittest Loser Challenge is on the impact that obesity has on health. The newspaper is searching for participants whose health has been seriously impacted by their weight.

Obesity can have a devastating impact on a person's health and contribute to several conditions including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. said Eileen Brown, vice president/director of marketing and strategic innovation at the Daily Herald. The paper wants to give those whose health has been negatively affected a chance to take control of and improve their own well-being, Brown added.

All are encouraged to apply, but Brown and former contestants note that a commitment to following the program developed by Push and the desire to make lifelong changes are keys to completely the challenge successfully.

"This competition is not easy. Every year, we look for applicants who are seriously ready to make changes. It takes a commitment of time and energy," Brown said.

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