I lost my mother 18 months ago. She had congestive heart failure, and I fell into a depression and turned to food. I’d eat fast food: burritos, burgers, and pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That’s what I’d give my four kids, too. On days off work, I would eat, sleep, and watch T.V. My own health wasn’t good — I was borderline diabetic, on high blood pressure medication, and weighed 260 pounds. I’m a 35-year-old single mom and knew I needed to get healthy. 

One day when I was picking up my kids from school, my chest started hurting.

I felt like I couldn’t breathe and drove to the hospital. The doctors told me I’d had a silent heart attack. I was fine, but that was my breaking point. I said, “I can’t live like this anymore,” and started the Challenge.

My first step was to gradually cut down on soda.

I used to drink Dr. Pepper all day. Now, other than a little sip here and there, I don’t drink it, and I have water with lemon instead. I’m learning how to cook and I google great recipes. I’m making green bean casseroles, baked chicken, salads, and lots of veggies. My 10-year-old daughter, Anaya, loves to cook with me and we both have fun. By not eating out we’re saving at least $150 a month. For snacks, I keep a jar full of low-sugar protein bars. I’ve slipped a few times — my weakness is Whataburger! But I always tell myself, “Tomorrow’s a new day.” And then I get back on track.

My bond with the kids is closer and we’re connecting more than ever.

The first day I went out and practiced soccer with them, they were amazed because they’d never seen me being physically active. Now we walk the local trails and go on bike rides — it’s the best feeling ever.

As a personal shopper, I’m always running all over the store.

And after work I go to the gym and get on the treadmill. I slowly increased my steps and now I’m walking over 12 miles some days. It’s awesome because before the Challenge, I was so overweight I couldn’t run at all. 

My co-workers come to me for advice on getting healthy.

I’ve encouraged over 25 people to take the Challenge! They join me walking the trails and when they say, “I can’t do this, I’m tired,” I say, “Don’t give up, we’re almost there!” It’s inspiring for me to inspire other people.

I went from a size 18 plus size to size 11, and I have more confidence. I want to get dressed in the morning, comb my hair, and put on makeup. It’s an amazing feeling to have pants that actually button up and fit comfortably.

I’ve lost 75 pounds and there are no words to describe how I feel.

My doctor says my heart is in good shape and I’m off blood pressure medicine. I’m beyond happy and grateful.

—Susie Valdez, Supercenter #5389; Waco, TX; $5K Winner

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