After 20 years of smoking, I knew it wasn’t a good lifestyle, especially as the mom of three daughters. I became a single mom about four years ago, and a year later, I decided to quit smoking. Each time I had tried to quit in the past, I put on 30 pounds. But on November 1 of 2017, I quit smoking, started going to the gym, and I ended up losing 30 pounds. 

Believing in myself had to be the first step. 

Before the Challenge, I had been doing great for some time with dieting and going to the gym, but it slowly started to slip away. I found out one of my co-workers won $5,000 from the Challenge, and I thought to myself, “I’m already trying to improve my life and this will help keep me on track.”

I started with small changes.

I’m a Team Lead, so I work days and nights, and grabbing something quick like fast food is the easiest option. But I’ve learned to ask for no bun with my hamburger or to order a salad instead. I also buy smaller plates now so that I only eat what’s on that plate and don’t go back for seconds. I still love desserts, but I limit them. You can’t completely do away with all the good things in life. Treating myself occasionally helps me avoid getting discouraged. 

It’s brought me closer with my family.

We’re definitely doing more fun things together now. My daughters are amazing. They go to the gym with me all the time and we love to go on bike rides together. I now have more energy for those things. 

There have been setbacks along the way, but the Challenge has helped keep me on track.

There have been stressful times at work where I’ve gone back to my old habits and almost started smoking again, but the Challenge encouraged me to stay on the right track. The virus definitely played a role, too. The gym closed and I got discouraged. I did home workout videos on YouTube, but it wasn’t the same. My diet also got a little poor during that time. We tried to stay on track, but being stuck indoors affects you. 

Today, I’m still setting goals for myself. 

Being a smoker took a toll on my lungs, and I’ve been trying to improve my running. My current goal is to hit a 10-minute mile. This morning I got it down to 11 minutes, and I found myself in tears realizing I was getting closer to my goal. I also set a new money Challenge for myself. I opened up a savings account in a different town than my own, so I’m further away and can’t touch it. Now there’s $25 taken out of my check every month that goes into my savings. I’ve even been going to church regularly again. My faith has opened my eyes to a lot of gratitude and has made me a kinder and happier person. I definitely thank God for everything I can do today and how far I’ve come, and the Challenge has kept me on track to make better choices in my life.

—Amanda Simmons, Neighborhood Market #2909; Corry, PA; $5K Winner

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