Fittest Loser contestants reveal their 'aha!' moments

  • Jennifere Lux goes on a bike ride on a nice spring day. She has been feeling fitter and stronger.

    Jennifere Lux goes on a bike ride on a nice spring day. She has been feeling fitter and stronger. Courtesy of Jennifere Lux

  • Simon keeps a detailed food and workout journal she sends to her Push Fitness trainer, Patrick Stille, each day.

    Simon keeps a detailed food and workout journal she sends to her Push Fitness trainer, Patrick Stille, each day. Courtesy of Barb Simon

 
By Mike Burke
mburke@dailyherald.com
Updated 4/26/2020 10:39 AM

During any difficult endeavor, you will encounter moments that stick with you for years. You may remember an obstacle you overcame, or falling short of a goal.

Although we are about three-quarters of the way through the 12-week Fittest Loser Challenge, the four competitors have already overcome some heady obstacles. Yet it is the more subtle memories -- a brief look in the mirror, or fit of a new pair of jeans -- that stand out to them. We will call these "aha!" moments.

 

The coronavirus pandemic threw this competition, and life as we know it, into a tailspin. While the competitors were no longer able to meet with their Push Fitness trainers or go to the gym in Schaumburg, their weight-loss journeys continued.

For competitor Jennifere Lux, an "aha!" moment came one morning as she was getting ready for the day, looking in the mirror, putting on makeup and blow-drying her hair.

"I would just stare at my arms," she says. "They were leaner and had definition."

It's one thing to lose weight and feel better, but it's a whole different thing to look and feel stronger, Lux says.

Neil Madden says he's been working out more, up to three hours a day, than at any time in his life.
Neil Madden says he's been working out more, up to three hours a day, than at any time in his life. - Courtesy of Neil Madden
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For Neil Madden, it was the distance he had run that will forever jog his memory.

When the competition began, Madden could not run a mile. Now he runs between two and three miles a day.

"I proved I could work well past what I thought were my physical limits," Madden says.

"I was working out up to three hours per day, which was more than at any time in my 58 years of life."

When competitor Van Dillenkoffer first began to drop a few pounds, he decided he needed new blue jeans. Normally a size 40 waist, he went online and ordered two pairs of size 38s.

When his new jeans arrived days later, Dillenkoffer had an "aha!" moment. He had lost even more weight and these jeans, too, were too big to fit him.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Courtesy of Van DillenkofferContestant Van Dillenkoffer does a chest fly exercise using resistance bands. He recently had an "aha!" moment when purchasing a pair of blue jeans.
Courtesy of Van DillenkofferContestant Van Dillenkoffer does a chest fly exercise using resistance bands. He recently had an "aha!" moment when purchasing a pair of blue jeans.

"I was excited I had lost the inches from my waist," he says, "and decided I'd just wait until I get to my desired weight goal before ordering my next pair of pants."

It was a disappointing look down at the scale that became a turning point for Barb Simon.

"My biggest 'aha!' moment was after week six when I gained a pound. My diet and exercise were not the greatest that week, and I remember feeling so disappointed in myself for gaining that pound," Simon wrote us in an email.

"After I beat myself up for a while, I came to the realization that no one is perfect, and although there are bumps in the road, it's about the final destination -- not just one pothole, so to speak."

The scale tends to produce a lot of "aha!" moments. Lux remembers the excitement of seeing she was down 25 pounds.

"That is still a massive accomplishment," Lux says. "I look at it like this: 25 pounds equals five bags of potatoes!"

Hitting a plateau

Inevitably, there comes another type of "aha!" moment when you realize the pounds are not coming off as quickly as they once were.

After experiencing this plateau in weight loss and maybe even motivation, how did our competitors work through it?

Madden's trainer warned him early on that his weekly weight loss would not match or exceed those of previous weeks.

"I was going to be different, or so I thought," Madden says. "Well, it did happen to me after the first two weeks of the contest, and I became very discouraged."

Madden said he overcame this by setting his expectations a bit lower, and realizing if he lost a little bit of weight, it was still a success.

Simon also experienced a pause in her weight loss.

Fittest Loser Challenge contestant Barb Simon stops for a selfie during a 10K walk and run recently.
Fittest Loser Challenge contestant Barb Simon stops for a selfie during a 10K walk and run recently. - Courtesy of Barb Simon

"My motivation went downhill right around the time all of the gyms closed due to COVID-19," Simon recalls. "I have never been very good with at-home workouts, and my equipment at home was very minimal."

Simon liked the routine she initially had, working out at Push Fitness and meeting her trainer at set times. It took some trial and error to find a new routine that worked for her after the stay-at-home order was issued.

"I would say just finding a routine has helped me stay on track," Simon says. "Weights at lunch and cardio after work has worked for me, because I have that plan ingrained in my head."

Establishing a new routine also worked for Lux after she hit a plateau.

"I switched my workouts from evening (when I would get off work) to mornings. I found myself burned out by the end of the day and 'too tired' to workout. It was easier to unwind by laying on the couch and having a glass of wine," she says.

"Now, I get up early when everyone in the house is still sleeping and get a good workout in."

Now that the weather has been warming up, Jennifere Lux enjoys going on walks with her dog.
Now that the weather has been warming up, Jennifere Lux enjoys going on walks with her dog. - Courtesy of Jennifere Lux
Motivational moments

No matter how big or small, words of encouragement and support from family and friends enable the contestants to pause and reflect on their lifestyle changes.

"My biggest 'aha!' moments are when family, friends and co-workers started making comments about how I looked like I had lost weight," Lux says. "It always feels good to be told positive comments."

Dillenkoffer passed along similar sentiments.

"Several friends I haven't seen in some time have also reached out to me via emails, texts and even on LinkedIn," he says, "to give me positive feedback after reading the Daily Herald articles."

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