Chris and Cristine Skelnik didn’t wait for New Year’s to roll around to start making healthier choices.
The Mansfield couple proved their determination and commitment to health and wellness by adopting a healthier lifestyle before holiday season commenced, when overeating and physical inactivity are especially challenging to avoid.
“We’re in our 50s and we started thinking about eight months ago that if we're going to make a lifestyle change, we need to do it before we're trapped in a lifestyle of medications and so overweight that we’re having to make a giant journey,” Cristine said.
The road to improved health and wellness can be traveled many different ways. The Skelniks found help from Weight Watchers.
“We were just reeducating ourselves on eating healthy and activity. They were real basic things but seemed to make a big difference,” said Cristine, who shared that she previously felt stuck in a cycle of unhealthy habits.
“I was blessed when I was young with a pretty good metabolism, so I didn't really pay much attention to (personal health and wellness) to be honest,” she said.
About 10 years ago, she started experiencing some autoimmune problems and arthritis. As her physical activity slowed down, she began gaining weight, she said.
“It’s a perpetual cycle because the less you move and care for yourself, the less motivated you are to move and care for yourself, but also the more you trigger those aches and pains and negative thinking,” she said.
Chris had fallen into a pattern of habitual eating, like snacking on junk food.
“For me, it was a matter of retraining myself to make better choices when I’m hungry and eating more consistently throughout the day,” he said.
Chris was never much a breakfast eater. He’d typically just drink a cup or two of coffee in the morning. Now he makes sure to eat breakfast, which typically consists of fat-free Greek yogurt with fruit and some Kashi cereal.
“Cristine has always done a great job of making meals, and now we're trying to be more intentional about what those menu choices are,” he said.
“We found different ways to have things taste really good, and we are fortunate because we enjoy being in the kitchen together, even years ago when we dated,” Cristine said. “Now we’re more mindful of finding fun, creative recipes and converting them, like instead of using three different kinds of cheeses in stuffed mushrooms, we're going to modify that.”
They’ve also shifted their mindset about what they’re willing to spend money on. For instance, they found that they previously didn’t have a problem spending $15 on pizza or going out to eat, but would hesitate purchasing $10 fish at the store.
“That was a wake-up call,” Cristine said.
Another thing is that they make sure to enjoy the fellowship that comes with eating a meal together.
“I know a lot of people have the mentality that food is just fuel, but I think there's a fellowship and camaraderie that happens around a meal, too, and so when you're intentional with that, you enjoy that time,” Cristine said.
Chris said they both had tried dieting before, but to no avail.
“We didn’t want to just eat boiled chicken every day,” Cristine said. “We want to eat delicious food that we love and will change our lifestyle, and to be active.
“And when we're feeling sluggish, we look at what we’ve eaten and realize, ‘Oh, that’s because we dieted today. We didn’t eat enough,’” she said.
While they are more mindful of how much food they pile on their plates during mealtime, they also are focused on trading empty-calorie foods for nutritious foods. This swap, coupled with physical exercise, has allowed them to eat better and more frequently over the course of the day without worrying about weight gain.
In fact, since starting these healthy habits, they have lost a combined total of 76 pounds.
But losing weight, albeit a nice perk, wasn’t the main reason for this lifestyle change.
“While we both felt like we had significant weight to lose, we really tried to remind ourselves not to focus on losing weight because then we knew that we would have weeks that we were really discouraged,” Cristine said. “We want to focus on long-term health and vitality.”
They also have their daughter, Cora, in mind as they make these healthier changes.
“Our daughter Cora has special needs and requires a lot of daily assistance,” Chris said. “The healthier we are, the better able we are to provide that care for her.”
To help them stay the course on their health and wellness journey, they have used different tracking apps.
“In the beginning, we used a lot of tracking apps for our activity and for our food,” Cristine said. “I also tracked my emotions the first couple of weeks because I was really surprised that I was angry the first couple weeks. I wanted junk food.”
By tracking her physical activity, she’s realized that it’s not as difficult as she thought it would be to hit one hour of exercise in a day.
“It’s as simple as letting the dog out. The dog enjoys time with me, so I deliberately try to take him on a few walks a day,” she said.
The Skelniks also seek out fun ways to exercise, like kayaking or hiking.
“For me, especially with my arthritis, it was harder to move,” Cristine said. "Now it's much easier to move, so I try to make sure I get at least an hour of exercise five days a week. And I would tell you that if you had said that to me four months ago, I would've said, ‘No, I'm not going to do that.’”
In addition to eased arthritis pain, Cristine said she no longer needs to take her cholesterol medication. Chris also has gone off his blood pressure medication and seen a drastic drop in his cholesterol (about 100 points).
While these benefits have helped them maintain their momentum, it’s also the support they’ve found from each other that’s kept them from calling it quits.
“We’re grateful to have each other’s support,” Cristine said.