My job as a store manager is great, but I didn’t have a good work-life balance. I’m 41, and my wife, Nicole, and I have two daughters, 15-year-old Audriana and 13-year-old Brenna. Brenna was born with a congenital heart defect. She’s healthy now, but she was in and out of the hospital for the first few years of her life, which was very stressful. I was eating a lot of fast food — we’d have pizza three times a week. And I’d drink pop. I was too heavy; I weighed 176 pounds, which is a lot because I’m five foot two.

I was drinking too much alcohol. 

I’d have hard liquor, mostly rum and diet coke. I didn’t think I had a problem until my doctor said, “Your liver’s like a 65-year-old man’s, you need to stop drinking.” I was on medication for type 2 diabetes, and she also put me on high cholesterol medicine. When my daughter, Audriana said, “Why do you drink so much dad?” It was embarrassing — I felt ashamed. I lost my dad at six and my stepdad at 18. I want to be there for my kids and be part of their lives. And I said, “Enough.”

I learned about the Thrive challenge from my friend, Adam Rizzo. 

We’ve known each other since middle school and he really encouraged me to start. I began by pulling out the treadmill that was sitting in the basement collecting dust. I started walking for 30 minutes early in the morning, listening to electronic music before everyone else woke up. I gradually started jogging, and now I’m jogging five days a week. It feels great, and I’ve introduced kettlebells to my workout.

Because I was exercising, I didn’t feel like drinking as much alcohol. 

I was making such progress during the day, it motivated me, and I gradually cut down how many drinks I had at night. Now I’ve cut out alcohol completely. It took about a month, and that was the hardest time. But I started to feel much better. I’d had stomach problems, and they went away. And the weight started to come off.

Instead of alcohol, I drink water.

I also stopped drinking Diet Coke. I started drinking coffee, which I never used to do. I’m getting really good at making cappuccinos and we’re experimenting with different flavored coffees. If I’m with people who are drinking, that’s fine because I don’t crave it anymore. I know alcohol will make me feel bad. 

I’m eating in a different way.

I have a routine now. For breakfast I’ll have a protein shake and an apple. I never liked apples, but now they taste good to me. For lunch I might have an egg wrap and half an avocado. Nicole is very supportive and we’re food prepping. We’ll marinate shrimp and chicken thighs and grill them, so there’s enough for a few days. And I’m making cauliflower rice. If we go out to dinner I’ll have steak and broccoli. Because I’m not drinking margaritas, I’m saving $50 on the restaurant bill. 

My insides feel lighter and I don’t feel bloated.

I feel 20 years younger and I’ve lost 35 pounds. I just saw my doctor and my A1C is down.

We’re connecting as a family.

The kids are cheering me on. I can dance and run with Audriana without getting out of breath. Both our girls are in dance teams and they compete. I spend Sundays watching them in competitions. I saw Audriana do her first solo jazz performance; I was so proud.

We went on vacation to Cape Canaveral in Florida.

It’s amazing! You can see rocket launches from the beach. We went for bike rides, and I went running with Audriana. 

At work I have much more energy.

I have 300 associates looking to me to set an example, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job. I’m engaging with people and finding out what’s going on in their lives. I’m talking about fitness and nutrition and encouraging them to download the Thrive app. 

Thrive keeps me honest.

I’m thinking more positively and I know now that I can accomplish so much. And what’s most important, I know I’m a better dad for my girls — I’m going to be there for them.

— Luis Garcia, Walmart Supercenter #1698, Hooksett, NH; $5K Winner