Twenty-five years ago my husband, Paul, died. And my older son, Eric, died nine months later. I love my fiancé, George, but on Paul’s birthday every January, I relive it all — and I was feeling particularly emotional this year. My younger son, Anthony, has multiple sclerosis and is disabled and I help care for him. With the stress of the pandemic, I gained weight and was up to 240 pounds. I was eating hamburgers, fries, and steak. Rocky road ice cream became a nightly ritual. Long story short: I felt depressed. 

In a Zoom meeting at work, I heard Arianna Huffington talking about the Thrive Challenge. 

She talked about taking small steps to make changes, and I decided to start because I realized that at 62, my story is not over. I learned not to grab my phone when I wake up, but to stop and breathe instead. I’m doing breathing exercises and I listen to guided visual meditations. Focusing on flowers and butterflies and scenes from nature helps me relax and takes my fears away. 

I’m enjoying doing virtual boxing classes. 

I’d never boxed before and it’s amazing. I work up a sweat and I now have the energy to box for 20 minutes. I also love going for walks with George. We live in the country so it’s peaceful and beautiful. My son often joins us which helps him too, because he’s often alone. 

I’m growing my own veggies and I’ve started juicing. 

My favorite is “mean green juice” with spinach, cucumber, apples, and lemon. We invested in a smoker and an air fryer. I cook salmon and halibut; we make stir-fries and delicious salads. One of our favorites is avocado, tomato, and corn salad with cilantro. 

I have occasional treats so I don’t feel I am on a punishing diet. 

But if I really want ice cream, I’ll have it during the afternoon, never in the evening. If you came to my house before the Thrive Challenge, you’d find chips and cookies. If you come to my house now, you’ll find tangerines and apples.

Gratitude is a big part of my life. 

It took me a long time to find George. He is a rock and I’m so thankful for him. I’m also grateful for my two grandchildren and George’s two girls, whom I love dearly. One of them has a baby on the way, which is wonderful.

My 4-year-old granddaughter, Sam, is the light of my life. 

I used to be too exhausted to play with her; now we take our dogs out and go for long walks. Sam loves to run up the hillside, and she’s happy because Nana has energy for her now. 

I’ve lost 26 pounds and the Thrive Challenge has changed my life.  

My life hasn’t been easy but by digging deep inside me, I’ve become a better version of myself. I’m kinder to myself, I’m more positive, and I feel more alive.

—Anna Masse, David Glass Technology Building; Bentonville, AR; $5K Winner

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