Before the Challenge, I had lost myself for a while. I lost my grandmother and my father, who was a huge part of my life, and I had to get myself back from that. At one point, my kids told me I wasn’t spending enough time with them, and that made me feel bad. I was also seeing some weight gain after having foot surgery. So I had to realize what was important to me in my life — I had to come back to being me.

“I knew that it would help me”

Then one day at work, one of my co-workers started telling us about the Challenge. I knew that it would help me. It was so important to me to make sure my family knew that I loved them very much, and I gave them my word that I would do better. So I started spending more time with them. It could be any little thing like watching a movie, playing board games, or just hearing how their day was.

I also changed my eating habits. I’m trying to stay away from sodas, and instead of eating fried foods, I bake now. I’ve discovered that I love green beans and salmon — I could eat those daily. I don’t eat out as much, which saves money and allows me more flexibility to do other things.

I exercise around two times a week, plus I move around all day to get my 10,000 steps in. When I’m at work, instead of normal walking I speed walk, moving my arms up and down. I also exercise with my family. I have four beautiful babies and their favorite thing to do is ride their bikes, so we do that whenever we can.

My son is 12 and has bad asthma, so he and I are kind of working together on our weight. So if we have to take a trip, instead of driving, we’ll walk or ride bikes. And it’s working — I’ve started losing weight, I have more energy, and I don’t get tired as much. I feel like I could run miles now if I wanted to. I get more sleep and I sleep more peacefully, as well. I stop using my phone around 7 p.m. and focus on just relaxing my body and mind.

“Instead of just living, I’ve been trying to live better.”

Every day I thank the man above for healing my mind, body, and soul. I am more appreciative of the things that matter, and I’m aware that I have to take care of myself and my family.

What I’ve learned about myself is that I can be motivated and be a motivator for people around me. I realized that whatever I put my mind to, I can do it. At first, it’s easy to tell yourself, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. Now I say, “You can do it, Tanika — let’s get it done and stay focused!” So that’s been a big change for me — instead of just living, I’ve been trying to live better for myself and the people around me.

—Tanika Stewart, Atlanta, GA; $2K Winner

Small daily choices can lead to life-changing results. Download the Thrive App today to improve your well-being. For more inspiring stories, follow Thrive on Facebook and Instagram.