Growing up, I was picked on because I was a bigger child. I started playing sports, but I always quit because I felt I wasn’t as pretty as other girls. I remember in eighth grade, we needed to have an escort to participate in the school pageant, and one boy said, “Who would want to walk with her?” I did go to the pageant because a friend’s cousin escorted me, but I was sad. 

Now I’m 28. I’m a busy mom and I had no time for myself.

I’d eat fast food and drink Red Bulls and Coca-Cola. I did my job, went home, and cleaned the house and that was it. My daughter, four-year-old Paisleigh, and our son, two-year-old Riley, were constantly asking me to play with them and I was constantly coming up with excuses. I was upset with myself and I had no confidence. I felt that my marriage was going down the drain — my husband, Colby, and I were bickering all the time.

A co-worker, Tiffany Hutto, told me about the Thrive Challenge and I signed up that day.

Ever since then, I’ve had a new life. I stopped drinking sodas and energy drinks and switched to water. The first week I had the worst migraine ever, but now I feel great.

I make time to cook. 

Our favorite meal is spaghetti with chicken in homemade sauce, baked in the oven. We’ll have it with salad topped with sunflower seeds. I used to eat until I couldn’t eat any more, now I have smaller portions and I take my time in between bites.

We eat at our kitchen table and talk about our day.

We’ll ask the kids about daycare, and let me tell you, Paisleigh is extremely sassy! She’ll say “I don’t want to go to school,” but then she’ll tell us what fun she had playing hide-and-seek with her best friend, Asher, and playing with the Cocomelon toys. My little one is still learning to put sentences together so we help him. 

At work I challenge myself to move more, and I’m up to six thousand steps a day. 

I joined a gym with a co-worker, and I’ll do the treadmill and the stair climber. 

At home, I prioritize time with my kids.

As soon as I walk in the door, I change my clothes, and they’re dragging me by the arm, saying, “Mama it’s time to play.” We have a big backyard and we’ll play for hours on the swingset, the seesaw, and the trampoline. I hadn’t been on the trampoline in years, but I’ve started jumping with them. The kids love chasing me around and I don’t get tired out anymore.

Colby and I have date nights once a week.

My mom looks after the kids and we’ll go for dinner or to a movie. We went axe-throwing one night. Neither of us had done it before — you throw little axes at a giant target on the wall and try to get a bull’s-eye. My husband did much better than I did, but we really enjoyed ourselves and we haven’t laughed that much in a long time. 

I’m not going to say we don’t argue, but we’re nicer to each other.

When we have a disagreement, instead of jumping down each other’s throats, we’ll wait and discuss it later when the kids are in bed, and work it all out. 

Every week I do something for myself.

I’ll get my nails done and do a little shopping now I’m more confident. I bought three pairs of jeans, a Christmas sweater, and a multicolored sweater. It felt great trying them on because I’m two sizes smaller than I was and I’ve lost 30 pounds. I was excited and my husband said he’s proud of me. 

At work, instead of being in my office all the time, I’m out on the sales floor. 

I’ve been in the garden center helping my team stacking Christmas trees. I was really excited to be able to pitch in because I have more energy and they all appreciate it. 

I was never told I was beautiful so I’m changing that with my own family. 

I always tell my daughter, “You’re beautiful.” I’m still hard on myself, but I’m telling myself, “You’ve got this!” I’m doing my best to change my mindset. I’m a better mom, and I’m better in myself. It makes me emotional to say this, but I can actually say I love myself.

— Elizabeth Jowers, Walmart Supercenter #593, Douglas, GA; $5K Winner