Chad Lowry lost 54 pounds in 12 weeks doing it the old-fashioned way -- by following a healthy eating plan and working out. A lot.
"He worked out relentlessly ... " his trainer Mick Viken said Tuesday. " His mindset was clear and the results showed it."
Lowry, 44, of Mount Prospect was among five contestants in the 2018 Daily Herald Fittest Loser Challenge who lost a combined 215 pounds, gaining a lot self-confidence and a great sense of accomplishment.
The emotion was palpable during the contest finale Tuesday evening at Chandler's Banquets in Schaumburg, as contestants were recognized for their hard work and perseverance by cheering family and friends.
"My life has changed physically, emotionally and mentally," said Nicole Mueller, 42, of Schaumburg, who lost 33 pounds. "I'm physically stronger. I have more energy. Emotionally, I have this inner strength burning inside of me."
Lowry said it's important not to look at the scale every day but only once a week, at most, because there plenty of weeks in which the numbers didn't move much for him. Lowry lost 22.1 percent of his body weight, the most among the five contestants.
"Over a long enough time horizon, you're going to make a significant change in your life," he said.
Among the contestants' biggest supporters were trainers from Push Fitness in Schaumburg, which for the 10th year partnered with Daily Herald to hold the competition. The five contestants were selected among about 60 applicants.
An additional 325 individuals in 59 teams took part in the "at work" challenge, with 207 participants doing the final-weigh in and losing a combined 5,095 pounds.
The winning team was from Elk Grove Park District, whose captain Aileen Tischauser received the team captain award. Vicki Olsen of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago won the "top female" and Bill O'Malley of the Elk Grove Park District was the "top male" at work.
Amita Health nurse Joyce Ancona said she loved helping participants stay the course. "It's wonderful to promote health, because usually we deal with preventive medicine or with treating disease," she said.
With an estimated 38 percent of U.S. adults considered obese, and a combined 71 percent either obese or overweight, this is a serious epidemic, said Dr. Anthony Auriemma, medical director of Amita Health's Bariatric and Weight Loss Center.
"The good news is … There is hope," he said. "There are things we can do. But it typically takes a partner. It's very difficult to tackle this all on your own."
That partner can be a spouse, a trainer or a health care professional. For contestant Kim Rosewell, 30, of Roselle, it was her fiancÚ Kyle Spires, who ended up losing 15 pounds while supporting her.
"He was definitely a big part of it," said Rosewell, who lost 28 pounds. "He pushed me to work, he would help prep my food in the morning, he helped fix dinner and go grocery shopping."
The hardest part is pushing yourself to stick to the plan every single day, said contestant Kirsten Binder, 43, of Schaumburg, who lost 40 pounds. "I think anybody can show up and be their best on any single day," she said, "but I think the hardest part of the program is consistency."
It's also key to swiftly pick yourself up from any slip-ups, said Shelly Daley, 42, of Arlington Heights, who lost 60 pounds.
"I'm never going to say I'm going to way until Monday to start," she said. "I'm going to start now."