A few months ago I went to the doctor and found out I was severely anemic. I’m a 43-year-old single mom with a 20-year-old daughter, Ky, and I wasn’t feeling good. I was getting headaches and was always exhausted. I often have to help out my grandma but I had no energy to do anything. I was eating fast food and candy, and drinking a lot of Sprite. I’ve been slim my whole life, and people assume that if you’re slim you must be eating well, but that wasn’t true for me. My doctor wanted me to make some lifestyle changes. 

I started the Thrive Challenge after reading about a single father who had won. 

Alex Hunt lost everything in Hurricane Sally and committed to creating a better life for his son. I thought, “If he was disciplined enough to do that, I can do it.”

My first step was to drink water instead of Sprite.

I also stopped eating fast food and began cooking. I’ll make salmon with a little olive oil and have it with steamed broccoli or salad. I bring leftovers into work for lunch. Instead of Snickers bars, I treat myself to blueberries and strawberries.  

I committed to walking in the park twice a week.

It was hard at first because I felt so tired. But the more I moved, the better I felt. I walk with my mom and sometimes with Ky. And now, I am even jogging a little. I love being outdoors, looking up to the sky and appreciating everything in nature that I used to take for granted. I find it peaceful.

I’m using the Thrive app for relaxing meditations.

I’ll watch videos of plants and trees. I’ve also been buying plants for inside the house and out in the yard — I’m enjoying gardening as a new hobby. And I’m doing stretching exercises to wind down.

At work, I’m more compassionate. 

I’m an optician manager, and recently, a lady came in because her glasses were really bent out of shape. I wasn’t ready to open our department that day — everything had been disrupted because of Hurricane Ida. But at that moment, I stopped what I was doing and helped her out. I was able to fix her glasses, she was so grateful and I thought: it doesn’t take much to be kind.

I have the energy to be there for my family. 

I have dinner with my mom and dad a few times a week. I’m assisting my grandma with tasks and chores as soon as she needs my help, rather than putting it off until later. I go grocery shopping for her and take her to doctor’s appointments.  

My life has changed by taking small steps. 

I’m not anemic anymore and I feel great. Making better choices one by one is much easier than jumping into a program that would be hard to stick to. The Thrive app reminds me to stay on track. I say to myself: “Yes, I can do this.”

— Larasha Gray, Sam’s Club #8221, Harvey, LA; $5K Winner