Last summer, I was feeling depressed and unmotivated. I ate fast food all the time and weighed 255 pounds. McDonald’s was my favorite — I’d have the McChicken, french fries, and milkshakes most days. My heritage is Italian and I’d cook comfort food like lasagna and homemade pizza. I was anti-exercise. I would tell everyone, “You wouldn’t catch me running even if I was escaping from a zombie apocalypse!” I’m 25 with a 9-month-old son, Tavin, and a 3-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Thea, but felt I wasn’t being the mom I wanted to be. My boyfriend, Mitchell, and I used to live paycheck-to-paycheck. If we needed to fix the car, we’d have to borrow money from a family member. 

Mitchell had already started working out. We both work at Walmart, and he inspired me to start the Challenge. He’s my biggest supporter; we go to the gym together, which means a little alone time for Mom and Dad. We both love going for hikes and being out in nature.

We play hide and seek with the kids and we’re constantly running around in circles. 

When you play with a 3-year-old, the rules are not normal! We hide and find each other… but then it turns into a game of tag. It’s such fun. 

I made the switch from white bread to whole grain bread and pasta. 

We bought an air fryer, which is amazing! My favorite recipe is chicken simmered with a light balsamic vinaigrette, and fresh baby spinach. I serve it with rice and everyone loves it. I’m passing on good habits to my children, which feels great. After dinner, we don’t watch T.V. and instead, spend time connecting as a family. 

I make a list before going to the grocery store so I’m not shopping mindlessly. 

I think before spending, “Maybe I don’t need another pair of shoes.” We’ve started a rainy day fund in a change jar and the coins add up. 

Instead of being negative about paying bills, I pay them with pride and joy. 

I can’t tell you how many times we had our electricity shut off when I was growing up, so now I am grateful I can pay for electricity, and for my phone. Gratitude is important and I give as much as I can to a food bank.

We saved $7,500, enough money to put a down payment on our house.

Owning my own house means a lot because I grew up in a trailer that didn’t even have floors. Our new house is gorgeous, in a beautiful neighborhood. I’m friends with my neighbors and all our kids play together. It’s the best feeling in the world.

I’ve lost a lot of weight so far and my life is better than ever.

I’m studying for a science and business administration degree, and at work, I’ve just been promoted to team lead. It’s all really humbling because I’m building a life for me and my family that I never could have imagined.

—Stacy Reed, Supercenter #7009; Richlands, N.C.; $5K Winner

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