I went for my yearly physical and found out my cholesterol had gone up. At first, I was prescribed medication, but it was costly. My doctor said if I went off the medication, I would need to eat better and exercise more. It was true: I wasn’t eating healthy meals and I felt tired all the time. I’d skip going out with my family or joining them on walks. I had previously found Challenge brochures in the break room at work, and apart from my cholesterol, the spark that got me to act was my oldest daughter. 

I saw my daughter work hard to become a Marine.

She went to the gym and worked toward her dream. She finally became a Marine on January 29. I was so proud — and I thought if she can do it, I can too, and I can do it for her. I wanted to make Better Choices so I could be around for my family. The pandemic put the important things into perspective — but it also made me worry. I felt so stressed that I couldn’t fall asleep at night. But I realized the most important thing I could do was make some changes. Exercising and eating right could prevent me from getting sick and paying higher doctor’s bills, and it could keep me around for my family.

The hardest part was starting.

I had to stop saying “tomorrow” and start today. I make time to exercise 30 minutes a day, Monday to Friday. I walk on some days and run on the others. My co-workers and I work out over our breaks. Even though we’re on different schedules, we support one another. When the weather is nice, I go for walks with my wife and daughters. I’ve lost five pounds and have more energy. 

Changing my diet has made a big difference.

I like to use avocado in my sandwiches instead of meat. For snacks, I eat almonds and other nuts instead of chips. I’m drinking more water and less soda, which helps my teeth. A little change that helped a lot: eating oatmeal for breakfast instead of cereal. It’s simple, less sugary, and gives me a good start to the day. I top it with strawberries, blueberries, cinnamon, and dried cranberries. 

I’m less stressed about debt. 

We consolidated three of our credit cards with higher balances into one monthly payment. After that, I stopped using them and started focusing on buying what I need, not what I want, and I’m saving $200 a month. I feel more secure and at peace with myself. My credit score has gone up and I can go to bed without so much worry.

I dedicate Saturdays to spending time with my family. 

We go to church together and talk more. We feel closer than ever before. I’m turning 50 this year but my daughter turned to me and said, “Dad, I can’t believe it! It’s like you’re in your 30s.” I feel more satisfied with myself and my life. I looked to my family and found the motivation to do this, and I think everyone can do it. Whether it’s your brother, sister, daughter, son, mother, father — you can start doing something better for yourself and that person.

Eduardo Mateo, Supercenter #1735; Wheeling, IL; $5K Winner

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