​​Every year, Thrive Challenge participants share their inspiring stories of resilience, perseverance, connection, and joy. John Tyler is one of this year’s Thrive Challenge Grand Champs, and as his story shows, small changes can have a big impact on our lives — and the lives of others. Download the Thrive app to start your own Thrive Challenge. After 21 days of making better choices, share your story for a chance to win part of the $1 million prize pool! 

My mom raised me and my sister on her own and it was a struggle. 

She did her best, but we didn’t have a lot of money and we mostly ate junk food. We’d eat out at cheap restaurants where you could grab a burger for a dollar. Since junior high I’ve been overweight; I was bullied and picked on at school. 

Later, in my 20s, I was classified as obese.

I couldn’t get on a scale at home because it wouldn’t register my weight. So I only knew what I weighed when I went to the doctor. My wife Rachel and I both work at Walmart and we have three amazing kids: 15-year-old Piper, 18-year-old Jazlyn, and Dayton, who’s 22. But I had no energy to do anything with my family. We love going to Disneyland, and I felt a lot of shame because I couldn’t fit in the rides. Also, I’d been smoking since I was 12 years old. From the age of 18, I’d smoke a pack and a half a day, no problem. And I was out of breath doing simple tasks like putting on socks and shoes.

One day, nine years ago, I almost passed out at work and ended up in the hospital.

I found out I had pneumonia and congestive heart failure. I started seeing a cardiologist and I was taking nine medications a day, including multiple pills for high blood pressure. I was also prediabetic. But I still didn’t take care of myself.  

At the start of last year, I went to the cardiologist and had a wake-up call.

I stepped on the scale and I weighed 478 pounds. I’m 42, and my doctor said if I continued the way I was going, I’d be prone to heart attacks and could face an early death. He said, “You need to quit smoking and you need to lose weight.” Then, my uncle Steve, who was my father figure growing up, had a heart attack. He was only 60 and could barely take care of himself. Something clicked and I was like, “You know what, John, you need to change your life if you want to live to see your grandchildren.” 

Rachel encouraged me to start the Thrive Challenge, and we’re taking it together.

I started in April 2022 and my first Microstep was just moving my body. I began walking a thousand steps a day, which isn’t a lot, but I was like, “Hey, this is a goal I can easily accomplish.” I kicked it up to 2000 steps, then 3000 steps. And now I easily walk five miles. 

Rachel and I walk around the neighborhood with our four dogs.

We’ll go to the park, walk around the lake, and look at the ducks. It’s calming and nice to get out in nature together.

At the gym, I began lifting light weights and gradually got stronger.

I have a trainer, Dawson, who keeps me motivated — it’s fun. I take monthly fitness tests and it’s night and day from when I started. I like the Microstep about having a meaningful conversation with someone, and that’s what I do with Dawson. We really communicate well. I know he’s in my corner. 

I changed my diet with Microsteps, like starting my day with a drink of water. 

I’ve cut back on diet soda. I just have one every couple of days. We’re experimenting with new recipes. We’ll make chicken and fish with mashed cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes. We cook “zoodles” (zucchini noodles) with ground turkey and diced tomatoes. And on my days off, I’ll smoke chicken and salmon. I’m eating food I would never eat before, like broccoli. I’d never had a sweet potato until this year, and now I love them. 

I’ve lost 209 pounds and I feel tremendous — the best I’ve ever felt in my life. 

My sister, Amber, and my mom were in tears when they saw how much weight I’d lost. I think they were worried I’d never change.

When I won the Thrive Challenge in April, it was awesome. 

It was such a big surprise. I never thought I’d be a person others would look up to, but I’ve been inspiring my co-workers and encouraging them to download the Thrive app.

I post videos on TikTok to share my Thrive journey and I’ve had an amazing response.

I send muscle emojis and I’ll say: “Keep going brother.” And when I get a message saying, “Hey man, you inspired me,” it feels great. Inspiring others helps me stay motivated on my own journey.

I’ve quit smoking.

I started smoking half a pack instead of a whole pack, and I progressively smoked less and less. To help with cravings I chewed gum and drank more water. It was hard, but now, when I’m stressed, instead of picking up a cigarette, I’ll calm myself by watching a Thrive Reset — I really like the one with mountain scenes. Since I stopped smoking, I have more energy, and I can breathe freely. 

Because I’m moving more and less stressed, I’m sleeping six to eight hours a night.

Before Thrive, I only used to get a couple of hours. I turn off all electronics an hour before bedtime, I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, and I’m not tired during the day. 

At work, I can climb a ladder without worrying it will break or that I’ll hurt myself.

I have more energy to help customers, and as a store manager, I’m more confident. I engage with my team and ask them about their lives. They know they can talk to me and that I’m here for them. 

I used to have a lot of fear and embarrassment, and it’s gone. 

Since losing weight, I feel that people look at me in a different way. I feel accepted and I feel more attractive.   

The best thing is that I can fit in the rides at Disneyland.

We all love Disneyland. We were there last month for a family trip and I was able to join in the fun with Piper, versus watching on the sidelines. Her favorite rides are Cars and Guardians of the Galaxy. It felt so great to be an active dad. It’s hard to explain what that means to me — I was overcome with joy.   

I’ve always enjoyed camping, but I used to stay behind at the campsite.  

Recently we went to the Mogollon Rim and I climbed a mountain with Piper. I said, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” We had a view of the entire valley. Piper and I picked up rocks, we could see deer and pine trees, and we watched the sun going down. It was beautiful. 

When I went to see my cardiologist for a checkup, he said, “Wow what happened?”

He was super impressed! I’m not prediabetic anymore, he said there’s been significant improvement in my heart function, and my blood pressure’s normal. My medications are down from nine to two.   

I love who I am and who I’m becoming.  

The way I was rolling, I wasn’t going to be around for much longer. Now, I can look forward to Christmases for years to come. To be honest, I feel 10 years younger. I feel I can do anything.I know I’m on the way to having a longer life — I’ll be here for the people I love.

— John Tyler, Neighborhood Market #2632, Phoenix, AZ