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SCHERERVILLE — Joyce Trelinski believes her husband breaking his wrist on Thanksgiving may have helped her win The Times' Lose 16 in '16 weight-loss contest.

With Dennis Trelinski injured, Joyce had to do all their yardwork, shovel snow and set up the tables and chairs for Thanksgiving dinner. All those extra chores around the house contributed to her dropping 14 pounds over the challenge's final month.

The couple, who participated in the contest together, also both came down with the flu recently.

"People said maybe that's a blessing since you have to be on a diet anyhow," said Joyce, 61, a Munster lunchroom and playground supervisor.

Joyce was the overall winner of the contest, losing 21.6 percent of her body weight, or 43.7 pounds (Dennis, 65, came in fourth, shedding 14.8 percent of his weight). All told, the 16 contestants lost a total of 269 pounds, or 7 percent of their starting weights. Nine of the participants met the challenge goal of dropping at least 16 pounds in 2016.

"I lost 20 percent of me," said Ken Benich, 70, a Hobart retiree who shed the most overall weight (51 pounds) and came in second place.

He credits the contest with improving his health considerably, and plans to make the changes to his diet permanent. "I'm always full now, on the good stuff," he said. "It's no more spaghetti and meatballs. It's lean, skinless chicken breasts, broiled or baked."

Mike Berilla, 72, a Crete retiree, said participating in the challenge helped bring his blood sugar levels down; he now uses less insulin.

"I seem to eat better. I don't eat the junk food I used to eat. I eat real food," said Berilla, who lost 18.8 pounds this year. "On the whole, I've changed dramatically as far as how I'm eating."

"I can't believe it's been a year already ... but I'm not stopping now," said Star Crider, 54, a Schererville secretary who shed 36 pounds in 2016. "Sometimes I see food and I don't want it like I used to."

Sandy Jacobs, 62, a Highland accountant, said the accountability of being in the contest and having her picture in The Times, as well as the advice from Community Hospital Fitness Pointe health coach Emily Caldwell, motivated her to lose weight like she never has before.

"I don't feel like I dieted. I feel like I ate right. And I came to the gym," she said. "I've been a good health club quitter. I can tell you 30 health clubs in this area that have opened and closed since 1972 because I've probably tried them all. But I was committed to finishing."

"It's not a diet. It's not a program. It's making a lifestyle change," Caldwell said.

Kevin Bohling, 38, a Merrillville corrections officer, said that after completing the contest he now eats less fast food, drinks more water and has more endurance. He plans to finally join a gym in the new year. Bohling lost 28.3 pounds in 2016.

Joyce Trelinski said she and Dennis benefited from doing the contest together, as they were able to hold each other accountable.

"We worked as a team," she said. "When I wouldn't want to come to the gym he would, and when he wouldn't want to come I would."

Besides the cosmetic changes, the Trelinskis are now able to keep up with their five small grandchildren, a big motivator for getting in shape.

Tonia Schick, a health coach with the Thin & Healthy program at Franciscan Omni Health & Fitness in Schererville who has known the Trelinskis for years, wasn't surprised they did so well in the contest.

"Joyce is definitely a 'let's get it done' person,'" Schick said. "They're each other's support group. They do what they're supposed to do. They don't see working out as a chore."

Joyce said the fact the contest was a year long forced her and Dennis to, rather than just lose weight, start living healthy. They now eat in moderation, skip dessert and go to the gym consistently.

"Everybody for New Year's makes resolutions to lose weight," Joyce said. "This is the first year our resolution isn't to lose weight. It's to maintain our healthy lifestyle."


Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.