In March 2021, my stress levels were sky high. I work in the pharmacy, and during the pandemic, we were on the front line, doing our best to help people. But I felt terrible. I’d grab fast food or I’d just have chips for lunch. My husband, Chris, is a chef, and he’d make beautiful chicken dinners, but I’d eat too much. I was eating my feelings and I weighed 256 pounds. My feet hurt, my hips and back hurt, my head was pounding, and I was always tired. 

I was helping to take care of my mom, who had health problems.

We found out that she had high blood pressure, and it was a wake-up call for me. I went to the doctor and discovered I also had high blood pressure. He put me on three different medications. As a pharmacy assistant, I knew that along with medical treatment, I needed to take care of myself, and I wanted to be healthy for my three kids.

A co-worker, Lisette Mitchell, inspired me to download the Thrive app.

She was a Thrive Challenge winner. I began my Challenge with a Microstep, drinking water first thing before my coffee. Staying hydrated slowly became a habit. I cut out soda and inspired the family to drink more water too. Even our 15-year-old, Laurel, stopped drinking soda. 

I began food prepping and taking my lunch into work instead of grabbing fast food.

I’ll make what I call turkey “muffins,” ground turkey with veggies, cooked in muffin tins. They’re delicious and I’ll have them with salad and ancient grain bread.  

At work, there’s a supportive Thrive community. 

On my team, we’re very comfortable with each other; most of us have known each other for 25 years. Our pharmacy’s always busy, and whenever things feel stressful, I encourage everyone to regroup and stretch and breathe. We bend over and let our arms hang down. We’ll have a chuckle, which is important to relieve tension, and on breaks, we’ll go outside for some fresh air. With less stress, I’ve become more patient and calm with customers.

At mealtimes, I stop when I’m full.

A Microstep that helps is savoring my food and really enjoying it; I have smaller portions and feel satisfied. All my kids live at home, and we have family dinners when we can. I like to go for a walk after dinner now, too. 

Soon, I lost a few pounds, which took the stress off my back.

I had more energy to stand and go for walks. My feet weren’t sore at the end of the day; everything was improving. But a few months later our family was in shock when my mom had a stroke. We thought she’d recover, but she died 29 days later. She was a single mom and we were very close; my grief was unimaginable. But I continued taking Microsteps and I found that taking care of myself had become second nature. I was still doing squats while brushing my teeth, eating fruits and veggies, and going for walks without even thinking.

In May 2022 I heard that I’d won the Thrive Challenge.

It felt like I was watching someone else win, I couldn’t believe it! I was floating in the clouds. It was such an honor to be recognized for the changes I’d made, and I was inspired to keep going.

Family time has become even more important since Mom died.

We live on Cape Breton Island. It’s absolutely beautiful — the five of us hike the trails that go on for miles. It’s so peaceful; we see moose and deer and amazing birds. There are waterfalls and swimming holes, and we all love to swim when it’s warm. After our hike we’ll hit up a local mom and pop seafood restaurant and get whatever’s in season, like lobster or crab.

To relax, the girls and I watch Taylor Swift and BTS concerts on T.V.

We belt out the songs and get up and dance. We’re also doing watercolor painting, although I’m not that good! I love painting forests and fish. Our three cats like to get in on the act, walking over the pictures and leaving their mark. In the evening, I’ll have a bath with epsom salts, and before bed, I’ll put my phone away and do some journal writing about what I’m grateful for.

I still miss my mom; healing is a slow process.

I find that talking about her with my aunts and my cousins is comforting. And when the grief hits hard, I’ll breathe or watch a Thrive Reset. I love the meditation ones. I remind myself that Mom is at peace and she’d be so proud of me and the children.


Cindy with her daughters, Christina and Laurel, and her mom, Evelyn

I’m 49 now, and my blood pressure is in the normal range.

It’s the result of the medication, but also my lifestyle. Our family doctor has known me for 29 years and whenever I see him he says, “Keep doing what you’re doing!” 

My weight loss has been slow and steady; I’ve lost about 50 pounds over the past three years.

But it’s not about the number on the scale. It’s about how I feel. I don’t get as many aches and pains, and I don’t get so stressed and overwhelmed. I’m not trying to please other people; I’m happy with myself. Now that I’m healthier, I’d love to do some traveling with my husband and visit New York and California; I’ve never left Canada! And no pressure on my children… but I’d love to be a grandma. That would be a dream come true.

Cindy MacNeil, Walmart Store #1178, North Sydney, NS; $5K Winner