As a veteran, I’ve suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts from my military service. I go to therapy, but battling that was always an issue, and I turned to food for comfort. I ended up reaching 407 pounds.

My wake-up call came in March of 2019.

I went to the hospital to visit my dad after he was diagnosed with heart failure, and seeing him hooked up to all those machines made me realize I would end up just like him if I didn’t do something drastic. I went home and told my fiancée, who is now my wife, that it was time to start making changes. Then, one day I got an email offering a free consultation for surgery, and I saw it as a sign. I went to the doctor, who recommended the gastric sleeve surgery. Three weeks later, I had my surgery — six months before our wedding.

Today, I’ve lost a lot of weight and my whole life has changed. 

After my surgery, I began making small Better Choices. Staying consistent is an everyday battle, but having a routine is important, and so is finding little things that help. For example, I like to use the teacup or the toast plate as my dinner plate, and I use the kids’ old baby fork from when they were little because it helps me with portion control and reminds me to slow down.

We’ve become more connected as a family.

My wife has been my biggest support system. She’s the main reason why I have made it this far and why I continue to do it. We take the kids for bike rides on the weekends, walk the dog together every day when I get home from work, and cook healthy recipes as a family. We’re also trying to have a baby, which is a first for us. All these options and opportunities have opened up.

I’m turning my life around. 

I’ve learned new coping skills to help with those days where I’m feeling down. I remind myself: “It’s OK if I feel a little low today. It’s normal.” For my own well-being, I’ve found that the more I talk about my feelings, the less weight they hold, and the less they bring me down. I’m very thankful that I was able to get that turned around because now I have so much to live for. 

My health is the best it’s ever been and it’s life-changing.

Sharing my story has made me realize that I’m stronger than I thought I was, and I really have done something great to help sustain my life. If that’s all I get out of it — to be around for my wife and kids, and to see them grow up — it’s worth it. To not have high blood pressure anymore, not have sleep apnea anymore, not be on the cusp of diabetes anymore, and to simply be able to wake up and go without any pain — is wonderful. 

Sindy Lehigh, Neighborhood Market #5601, Huntington Beach, CA; $5K Winner

Through the Thrive Challenge, our community is making Better Choices, seeing big results, and winning big.