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Teamwork is key to health for Dixfield couple
Editor’s Note: Have you been thinking about getting healthy but just don’t know how to get started, or are you in the middle of a weight removal journey and seem to have lost your motivation? Over the next three weeks, we will be running the stories of local people, who, just like you, are on a mission to find a healthier way of living.
In Part 1, please join us in cheering on Gene and Leslie Skibitsky of Dixfield, and possibly finding inspiration in their story for you to get up and get moving.
DIXFIELD- Our everyday food choices and activity level are part of our lifestyle just as much as what vehicle we drive, where we choose to live and even what job we choose to work at. Fortunately, we are able to change the way we eat with much more ease and peace of mind than any other aspect of our lives.
Not a day goes by when we don’t hear something on television, radio or through the computer that promises us rapid weight loss and increased energy in record time. Most of us are smart enough and been around the block a time or two to know that lasting weight removal takes commitment, dedication and a change in the way we think about food and exercise in our lives.
I would like to introduce you to a couple in Dixfield who decided to make a change.
It may be the vision of teamwork now, but for Gene and Leslie Skibitsky, weight removal and the mission of a healthier lifestyle began as a one-woman-sport. Four years ago Leslie decided that she wanted to lose 50 pounds by the time her 54th birthday rolled around.
“I put on weight gradually through the years and when my numbers weren’t looking the greatest I had added motivation to do something.”
Leslie began watching the Biggest Loser and thought to herself, “If they can do it, so can I.”
It didn’t take long for Leslie to be working out three times a day; she would work out to Jillian first thing in the morning, worked in an afternoon walk and in the evenings she would walk up and down the stairs or use her step while watching television.
“I really think I changed my metabolism,” noted Leslie. “I was following the South Beach Diet and the weight started coming off and my numbers began dropping. When it all comes down to it, that was the important part.”
Leslie joined the Wellness Center and even began running. “I did not run to compete,” laughed Leslie. “I do not enjoy running. You know that saying, ‘the best part of running is when you’re finished.’ That is me. The only reason I began to run 5k’s is to impress myself. To show myself that I could do it.”
Leslie reached her goal of 50 pounds before she turned 54 and stated, “Ah, what the heck. Why not go for more.” She removed 54 pounds by the time her birthday rolled around.
Over the last few years Gene stood by his wife and watched her shrink, watched her improve her health, and even found that he enjoyed some of the recipes she began making.
It wasn’t until Gene began experiencing some severe back pain and possible surgery that he realized he needed to change his ways as well.
“When you are massively obese and have back pain, it’s just a miserable place to be. I went as far as having a consult with a doctor for bariatric surgery. It was at that point that I told Leslie I could do it on my own. It was just a scary avenue to go down.”
Gene admitted that he loves his food, he enjoyed smoking his cigars, but at what price?
“It was scary to begin, having to make that commitment, but now I’m finding that I really like a lot of the foods Leslie makes. And, you can really eat anything you want on the plan, but it’s all on a points system.”
Weight Watchers Online was Gene’s method of choice and set a goal to lose 100 pounds by the end of the year. Upon beginning the program in January of 2012, he began riding the recumbent bike each morning and when the weather permitted, golf in the afternoons.
Within the first month, Gene had quit smoking his cigars and was finding he was having less pain in his back and his numbers were beginning to drop as well. He changed his portion size, paid attention to the foods he was eating and he and Leslie would go online before heading out to a restaurant to see what they would order ahead of time to help them keep track of points.
Gene doesn’t deprive himself of anything, but does pay attention to the point value. “If I want a beer, I have a beer. I just have to watch how many points I use up. I find myself constantly reacting to where I am. Sometimes I question whether I’m mentally tough enough, but somehow I make it through.”
With Leslie being the culinary artist in the household, she whips up some different dishes; some of which Gene enjoys, others he would rather not see again. But, the couple agrees, “the best invention ever is Greek yogurt.”
“A lot of days I will just bring that yogurt with the ranch seasoning mixed in and some vegetables for lunch,” noted Gene. “It’s great and my goodness is that delicious.”
When asked how they are able to keep on track, Gene stated, “It’s been a great motivation to have Leslie keeping me on the straight and narrow. We play off each other. When one of us is weak, the other is strong. It’s so good to be in sync with one another.”
Gene stated that it was easy to lose the weight, but trying to maintain it while on vacation was a bit tough. He is a little afraid of what will happen when he reaches his goal and his brain is telling his body that the diet is over.
“We have a good routine going and that’s the biggest part of it. I guess I’ll just have to get to the 100-pound-mark and see what happens. I know I really wanted to change and that’s what it takes. You need to make the decision for yourself to do it and then go for it.”
Gene wants to help inspire other men to lose weight and get healthy. “Weight loss and being healthy is not gender specific. If you want it badly enough. If you really want to change, then do it.”
As for being able to keep the weight off, Leslie noted, “I have a bit of a control issue. I’m proud enough of what I’ve done and my big mouth gets the best of me. I’m not going to let myself slip back.”
To date, Gene as lost 81 pounds and has his mind set on his goal of 100 pounds by the end of this year. Leslie reached her goal four years ago, and in an effort to maintain her lifestyle, she has chosen to work hand-in-hand with her husband to help him succeed, as well.