Since I lost my mom in 2019, I’ve been depressed and feeling bad about myself. I was a stress eater; I’m not going to lie, sweets and soda were my weaknesses. I want to be healthy for my family: my husband, Robert, and our three kids: 21-year-old MJ, 18-year-old Cristian, and Marissa who is 16. I turned 40, and in January I decided to start the Thrive Challenge.

One Microstep I like is drinking water when I feel tired, and I’ve found that staying hydrated helps me to avoid sweets. I cut down on candy and sodas and eat yogurt and fruit instead. Cooking has always been my passion, but now I’m experimenting with new, healthy recipes. I’ll make meatballs served with zucchini noodles instead of spaghetti. I’ve also been making a delicious chicken and broccoli casserole. I’ll divide the leftovers into portions and put them in containers to take into work for my lunches. My husband grills steak, shrimp, or chicken once or twice a week, which gives me a break. We also love cooking together.

Soon, I started to feel a lot better. I wasn’t bloated and my joints didn’t ache as much. I’ve lost 11 pounds and my clothes aren’t tight anymore. Once I started changing, the whole family was inspired to join in and we’re holding each other accountable. We’ll sit down for dinner together and we’re getting more exercise. We’ll take a walk in the evening with our dogs. Sometimes my niece and nephew will join us and ride their bikes.

We live next door to my father and brother, which is great because we can all support each other. It helps me to know that my dad’s not too lonely without my mom. We’ll grill together, and sit around chatting about when my brother and I were kids. It’s the perfect way to help my heart heal.

We go to the beach whenever we can — it’s my family’s happy place. We love going to Destin, Florida. We’ll walk on the sand or just sit and relax, listening to the waves. It’s nice to leave our worries behind and enjoy each other’s company. I still miss my mom terribly, but she’d want me to be happy. She’d be proud of me for caring for myself, and inspiring the whole family to move forward.

— Amber Lopez, Walmart Supercenter #1254, Bellmead, TX; $5K Winner