I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life. I’m 38 and married with five daughters, and two years ago, I weighed 340 pounds. I’d grab fast food because it was convenient. I’d been feeling weak and unwell for a while and one day I felt so bad I had to go to urgent care. It turned out I had type 2 diabetes, an upper respiratory infection, and kidney damage. It was scary for us all. My wife Ashley, was eight months pregnant with our youngest daughter Cali, and when I was admitted to hospital, she cried most of the night.

When I got home after a week in hospital, I was determined to change my lifestyle.

I didn’t have a father in my life, and I wanted to be the best dad I could be and set a good example to my kids. A co-worker, Josh Currier, told me about the Thrive Challenge and I was excited to start. I began by cutting down on fast food, ordering a burger without fries or soda.The Thrive app helped me with structure and meal planning. I know that tomorrow I’m going to have grilled chicken and zucchini for lunch. We stopped frying food; dinner might be grilled salmon and broccoli.   

I bought a stationary bike and I exercise before I go to work.

I jog in place while watching motivational speakers, like Eric Thomas. His YouTube videos help me stay motivated. I’ve learned how everything is connected: when I eat well, I think clearly and focus better. I’ve lost 54 pounds.

Ashley and I are making extra money and saving 400 dollars a month,

She designs and sells monogrammed shirts and mugs. I do photography for weddings and birthday parties, which is like therapy for me — I’ve incorporated my passion into my Thrive Challenge. I’ll take a picture of a single cow in a field or a beautiful sunset. I love to capture special moments. 

At work, I smile at every single person I pass by and take time to talk to customers.

And I’m there to support my team. An associate’s son passed away from a drug overdose and I told her to take whatever time off she needed. When a family tragedy happens, I let that person know we’re thinking about them, and give them space to grieve.

I use Thrive Microsteps like putting my phone away when I get home from work.

I’m devoting time to my family instead of sending emails and texts. And I never miss my daughters’ dance classes and tennis practices. Also, we have a family goal of visiting all 41 state parks in North Carolina: we’ve been to five already. We all have cameras and do photo walks and then we’ll have competitions to see who took the best picture. 

I just graduated with a degree and I’m going back to school for my master’s in sociology. 

I feel so accomplished and optimistic  —  life is great.

— Bryon Patterson, Neighborhood Market #7329; Saint Pauls, NC; $5K Winner