"I feel like God is preparing me for something," Schaumburg Realtor Tony Wiszowaty said after his surprise, come-from-behind victory in the Fittest Losers Challenge. "I don't know what that will be but there's something that I've gotten my body ready for."
The 69-year-old Marine Corps veteran jogged up to the podium when he was introduced during the finale reception. After being announced as the winner, he pumped his fists in the air and pointed to the sky, thanking the Lord.
Starting weight: 247
Current weight: 192
Total weight lost: 55 lbs.
Trainer: Michelle Jeeninga
"I'll be retiring soon," he said. "This is the heaviest I've been in my life and I didn't want to be one of those guys who retires and that's it. They have a heart attack."
Just a week before that finale, it looked like rival Russell Page held an insurmountable lead in the weight-loss contest. But Wiszowaty remembered how he and his son kept repeating to each other: "When do you quit? NEVER!"
So he put in a frenetic final week that included a final day of walking or running 19 miles plus swimming and working out. Wiszowaty lost 13 pounds in just that last week, for a total loss of 55 pounds, or 22.3 percent of his original weight.
One thing that drove Wiszowaty to such efforts was the same one that motivated him to join the high school debate and swimming teams, become president of his fraternity and his college student body, and join the toughest armed service, the Marines. When he was in third grade, a teacher told his parents that he was "mentally retarded" and would never amount to much. Ever since, whenever he has accomplished some new goal, he has said to himself, "… up your retarded butt!"
Another thing that motivated him to enter the contest was visiting the family of his daugher, who works in a mission in the mountains of Ecuador. The thin air at the 9,000-foot altitude left him breathless -- and wishing he could play harder with his five grandchildren.
Dr. Anthony Auriemma of Amita Health noted that "within three weeks of starting the challenge, (Wiszowaty) was able to come off of three medications for blood pressure."
Wiszowaty said he will continue to work out at Push Fitness in Schaumburg, where the Fittest Loser contestants trained and got their eating advice.
"I have belonged to clubs in the past but never got this kind of results," he said.
"Having worked so hard to lose weight and get in shape, I am not about to go back to my old ways. My health is one of the most valuable things I have, together with my faith and my family.
"After the challenge, I ate some foods that were off my Push Fitness diet and I didn't like the way I felt afterwards. No more soda, no more fast food, only healthy fresh fruits and veggies and lean protein. No more canned or boxed foods. This was my second chance in life and now I know what to do with it. I will not squander this blessing."
In addition to the fitness and dieting advice, Wiszowaty said he gained knowledge about himself.
"I can't begin to tell you all the lessons I learned and relearned by completing this challenge," he said. "Like whatever you put your mind to you can accomplish. Like the power of believing in yourself, in the system, in the coaching. The power of prayer, the power of visualization. If are working on something that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed, the vision pulls you. These lessons apply to everything we do in life.
"I will be retiring at the end of June. I can't wait to see what challenges I will take on when I retire. I don't know what it will be, but it will be BIG."
With Wiszowaty the oldest contestant at age 69, "that proves it's never too late for anybody," Auriemma said. "And you don't have to be as drastic as these people. You can take baby steps. It can be as simple as eating an apple instead of (drinking) a can of pop."