During the pandemic, family life became hectic. My wife, Veana, and I have three sons: Michael, Mason, and Matteao, who’s autistic. We have custody of my wife’s nephew and we have three dogs. It’s quite a houseful! I wasn’t taking care of myself — I had Type 2 diabetes and kidney disease and weighed 305 pounds.

“I’m a meat and potatoes guy — that’s how I grew up.” 

We cook a lot, but my portions were out of control. We’d have chicken and vegetables, but I’d have five to six cups of mashed potatoes, and I drank way too much diet pop! And sometimes we ate out. I have a lot of responsibility at work, and I’m completing my Ph.D. in criminal justice. After work, I’d fall asleep in my chair. I wasn’t what I’d call an ideal dad. I lost my dad when he was 42, and he never got to see my kids. So I decided I wouldn’t let history repeat itself and started the Challenge.

“I began by working on portion control.”

What helps is drinking protein shakes, which fill me up, and eating nutritious snacks like cottage cheese instead of chips. I love cooking — I was planning to be a chef at one point. I make a great meatloaf with oats instead of bread, and my wife makes delicious sautèed Brussels sprouts. My kids are picky eaters but they love my stuffed peppers with ground chicken and black beans. We stopped eating out and we’re saving $350 a month. I go to the gym with my buddy, Phil, and we do weight training together. It’s great to have moral support and we’re like brothers. 

“I’m sleeping well and wake up ready to go.”

I used to stop breathing at night because of my weight, so I had to have a CPAP machine for sleep apnea. Now I don’t need it anymore and I don’t snore, which makes my wife happy!

“As a leader at work, I take the time to say ‘hi’ to everyone and I’m there to listen.”

I try to be there for my team. One young woman was distraught because she wore the wrong shoes for her first day at work. I told her, “Don’t worry, go grab a pair of shoes and bring me the receipt.” I also give my team my personal number, so they can text or call if they have a problem or just need to vent.

“I have more energy and spend time with the children.”

I play UNO with my autistic son (he usually wins!) and we all have family game nights and movie nights. I hang out with my wife more, just us two, whether it’s going to the shooting range or just grocery shopping. She’s my biggest supporter.  

“I’ve lost 78 pounds, 43% of my excess body fat, and my doctor said I’m not diabetic anymore.”

I have less stress, I’m more confident, and I know I’ll be there for my kids to help them make good decisions in life.

— Aarron Buzzard, Walmart Supercenter #1752; Bay City, MI; $5K Winner