For years, I had problems losing weight — but the real problem was that I constantly sought perfection in myself. I embodied an all-or-nothing mentality. If I didn’t work out for a day, then I’d say, “Oh well, I didn’t exercise today, I might as well eat whatever I want.” That mindset led me to start and stop many diets, and ultimately be overweight for most of my life. I never practiced grace with myself and felt uncomfortable in my own skin. 

I was unhappy and under a lot of stress, and my family could feel it too. 

I didn’t have energy and never wanted to take photos with them because I didn’t like how I looked. I missed out on so many opportunities to capture memories simply because I didn’t like my appearance. I had heard about the Challenge a year prior when I was still working in the office, but it wasn’t until I participated in a Thrive Global training in January 2021 that I paid attention to it. 

I signed up for my first 21-day Challenge as a way to make small changes.

The first and most important step I took was building a morning routine I love. I’ve used the concept of habit-stacking to add good habits onto one another and set myself up for a good day. I weigh myself, change into gym clothes, take supplements my body needs. I drink 32 ounces of water, do a Bible study, and meditate. Then, as soon as humanly possible, I get myself outside. The fresh air and sunlight wake me up and mentally prepare me for what’s ahead.

Developing a movement-over-exercise mentality has helped so much.

In my previous perfectionist mindset, I’d think “OK, I’m going to wake up at 5 a.m., then exercise from 5:30 to 6.” And if I didn’t get that exercise in right then, I’d feel like I failed myself. It caused a negative mental spiral. Now, I have a mini gym set up in my house and fit in bursts of movement throughout the day. If I have a break between meetings, I’ll do a 10-minute CrossFit circuit. If I have a meeting where I don’t need to be on camera, I’ll head to a local trail and turn it into a walking meeting. Rather than looking at exercise as something I need to do at a set time, I look at movement more holistically.

I read Atomic Habits and learned that I shouldn’t set resolutions.

Instead, like the book teaches, I’m defining who I want to be and taking steps to get there. I set “mini goals” and take small steps to reach them. It comes down to things like following my morning routine, cooking at home instead of getting fast food, setting a bedtime and writing in my gratitude journal. I’ve lost 20 pounds so far and I’m using mini goals so I can celebrate milestones.

My family is setting routines too.

My husband and I set date nights where we can spend quality time together talking and laughing. Though my children are getting older, we’ve established Sunday afternoons as a time to share a meal together. And I’ve set distinct times for myself to do activities that separate my identity as “worker” and “mom” and “wife.” I’m becoming more grateful — not only for the people around me, but also for myself. I’m learning to truly love myself and the person I’m becoming.

—Candace McCabe, David Glass Technology Building/Remote; Bentonville, AR; $5K Winner

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