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Fittest Losers contestants make it to the halfway point
By Kent McDill | Daily Herald Correspondent

Fittest Loser contestant Wendy Kreiser works out personal trainer Michelle Amsden at Push Fitness in Schaumburg.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Fittest Loser contestant Wendy Kreiser works out at Push Fitness in Schaumburg.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Fittest Loser contestant Wendy Kreiser works out personal trainer Michelle Amsden at Push Fitness in Schaumburg.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Frank Valenti of Bartlett works out at Push Fitness in Schaumburg.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Frank Valenti of Bartlett works out at Push Fitness in Schaumburg.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Trainer Joshua Steckler works out with Mark Anderson of Palatine at Push Fitness in Schaumburg.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Trainer Mark Trapp watches as Frank Valenti works out at Push Fitness in Schaumburg.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Mike Anderson of Palatine works out with the ball filled with water as trainer Joshua Steckler looks on at Push Fitness in Schaumburg.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Mike Anderson of Palatine works out at Push Fitness in Schaumburg under the careful eye of trainer Joshua Steckler.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Trainer Mark Trapp looks on as Frank Valenti of Bartlett breaks a sweat at Push Fitness in Schaumburg.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Frank Valenti of Bartlett works out at Push Fitness in Schaumburg.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Mike Anderson of Palatine works out at Push Fitness in Schaumburg as trainer Joshua Steckler looks on with the gaze of a drill sergeant.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Jan Vitullo with trainer Ryan Le Breux of Push Fitness for Fittest Loser competition.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Jan Vitullo with trainer Ryan Le Breux of Push Fitness for Fittest Loser competition.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Jan Vitullo with trainer Ryan Le Breux of Push Fitness for Fittest Loser competition.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Jan Vitullo with trainer Ryan Le Breux of Push Fitness for Fittest Loser competition.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Jan Vitullo with trainer Ryan Le Breux of Push Fitness for Fittest Loser competition.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Deb Mirabelli with trainer Steve Amsden of Push Fitness for Fittest Loser competition.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Deb Mirabelli with trainer Steve Amsden of Push Fitness for Fittest Loser competition.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Deb Mirabelli with trainer Steve Amsden of Push Fitness for Fittest Loser competition.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Deb Mirabelli with trainer Steve Amsden of Push Fitness for Fittest Loser competition.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Deb Mirabelli with trainer Steve Amsden of Push Fitness for Fittest Loser competition.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

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Published: 4/12/2010 12:04 AM

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Weighing in

The Fittest Loser competitors just past the halfway mark of their three-month contest, and the early leader is Jan Vitullo of Lombard.

Jan is down to 209 pounds and has lost 9.9 percent of her original weight. That puts her ahead of Frank Valenti, who is down to 269 pounds and has lost 8.8 percent.

"I am very competitive," Vitullo said. "For me, inasmuch as every person in it is going to be a winner at the end, I am in it to win it."

Here's where they stand.

Jan Vitullo, 50, of Lombard

Current weight: 209 pounds

Weight lost: 23 pounds, 9.9 percent

Frank Valenti, 54, of Bartlett

Current weight: 269 pounds

Weight lost: 26 pounds, 8.8 percent

Mike Anderson, 23, of Palatine

Current weight: 348 pounds

Weight lost: 30 pounds, 7.9 percent

Deb Mirabelli, 44, of Berwyn

Current weight: 219 pounds

Weight lost: 17 pounds, 7.6 percent

Wendy Kreiser, 25, of Streamwood

Current weight: 331 pounds

Weight lost: 16 pounds, 4.6 percent

They have experienced pain in some previously unknown places. They have been sick with minor ailments as well as sick of running the stairs. They have been happy with the results, then unhappy with the results.

The five contestants in the Daily Herald's Fittest Loser competition have made it halfway through their three-month competition to see which one can lose the most weight, by percentage of their original weight. They are being guided through the process by trainers from Push Fitness in Schaumburg, which is sponsoring the competition for a second year.

They've lost a combined 112 pounds and gained energy, a sense of purpose and insight into leading healthier lives.

Wendy Kreiser of Streamwood endured despite illness and injury in her first six weeks.

"I have been sick, and in the fourth week I sprained my rotary joint so I couldn't use my left arm," Kreiser said. "I've been congested and my throat is really sore. Bending over and lifting things makes me dizzy, so it has been interesting for me."

Deb Mirabelli of Berwyn enjoyed a personal "first" when she found herself jogging under the guidance of her trainer, Steve Amsden.

"I jogged a mile for the first time this week," Mirabelli said. "Never in my life have I jogged a mile."

Then there is Jan Vitullo's story. Vitullo, of Lombard, is a lifetime smoker who is in the process of giving that habit up for good. Now down to one cigarette a day, she is enjoying joining the ranks of nonsmokers.

"By Push, there is a smoking section for people in the offices upstairs," Vitullo said. "They were puffing away and I was working out, huffing and puffing and looking for oxygen, knowing there is no way I can smoke like I used to. Most of the people sitting outside were overweight, and now here I was, the person who was huffing and puffing because I was exercising. It was such a good feeling."

Frank Valenti of Bartlett, a retired baker, had to deal with workout precautions because of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. But that didn't stop his trainer, Push Fitness co-owner Mark Trapp, from assigning him sit-ups.

"They were very hard for me at the beginning," Valenti said. "But now I use a (exercise) ball and it is coming easier and easier."

All expressed great joy over the changes in their physical abilities and personal well-being. But they're also competitors and keep an eye on the Daily Herald's weekly weight updates.

"I'm not losing as fast as the other contestants, and it stinks being in last place," Kreiser said. "But I have been doing this for two months extra, because I started working out at the YMCA in January and have lost 34 pounds overall. In the contest I am only down 16, but I am also losing inches off my hips."

"In the beginning, it wasn't coming off like I thought it would," said Mike Anderson of Palatine. "But in the last three weeks I have lost five, six and seven pounds. We switched the diet up, made it more restrictive on what I could eat, and it is working."

Vitullo, too, has been disappointed at times with the weight loss totals.

"Quite honestly, I thought it would have been a little bit faster, a little bit more coming off faster," Vitullo said. "The first couple of weeks it was good, then it tapered off. When you go from doing not a whole lot to working out six times a week, you expect it to just fall off and that didn't happen."

"We usually weigh in on Sundays, but because of Easter I weighed in on Thursday and gained half a pound and I was so upset," Mirabelli said. "You have to remember that muscle weighs more than fat. I know I look so much better."

Valenti has had more success in six weeks than he thought he would have in the entire competition.

"I never thought I would lose 26 pounds in such a short time," Valenti said. "It has been much greater than my expectations."

Having weight loss trials and triumphs chronicled in the newspaper gives an added incentive - and a lot of support, contestants say.

Kreiser said some family members are even following the same workout routine.

"Everyone is always asking me what I am doing so they can do it, too. My sister did it one day and was sore for three days after, so I felt pretty good about that," she said.

"My friends all read the articles, and my friend John calls me every Friday to talk about the results," Anderson said.

"I didn't even tell anybody it was in the paper but the amount of phone calls and hits on Facebook I got have been incredible," Vitullo said.

The nicest aspect of the competition, perhaps, is that while in six weeks there will be one winner, there will be no losers.

"You can find a lot of reasons not to work out, but I do what I need to do because that is what I need to be doing for myself," Anderson said.