Last summer, Marita and Eric Okerstrom decided to take a hard look at some ugly patterns that had crept in. Compulsive eating. Too many sweets. A shared bottle of wine every night. The couple, parents of two and married for 25 years, were at a wellness crossroads that had been sidelined by Eric’s seriously ill parents.
“We had two really tough years taking care of his parents,” said Marita, a nurse at Grand Traverse Women’s Clinic. “It was so stressful; we were caring for everybody but us.” Home from college, their daughter Ellie recommended they try the Whole30 program.
Grounded in the paleo (protein/plants only) approach, what attracted the Okerstroms to the plan was its sustainability and focus on wellness, not weight. “We knew we’d lose weight, but we didn’t do it to lose weight,” said Marita, who lost 25 pounds. “Losing weight was just a bonus.” Changing their approach to food was only the beginning, though.
The Okerstroms felt they needed to alter their outlook as well as their environment. Mindless chewing became mindful dining. Classical music replaced TV noise. Annoyances turned into blessings.
“My dad was very much about counting your blessings, but it was being conscious about all the things big and small in your life,” said Eric, a vice president at Hagerty Insurance, who lost 45 pounds. “You don’t have to search very hard. It could be the most simple things: hot shower, the dogs, an interaction with someone.”
Sharing what they were grateful for became a daily interaction, setting the stage for a much deeper, emotional connection between the two as they cooked, hiked, and played together.
“We are having so much fun!” said Marita, whose cooking is buoyed by her husband’s clean up skills. “It’s about finding the sweetness in moving, eating, and just being together.”
As their wellness journey evolves, the Okerstroms plan on expanding their horizons through meditation, a camping trip to Isle Royale, and decluttering their home as a future gift for their children.
One thing they know for sure is whatever they do, it will be hand in hand.
“This has affected our relationship in so many ways. It has strengthened an already very strong bond,” said Eric. “We pay a lot more attention to spending time together because we want to.
“When it comes down to it, at the end of every day I just want to be home with Marita.”