It finally hit me: I realized I had only seen my family once or twice in a six-month period. I was isolating myself and didn’t know why. I felt like I was becoming a recluse, and simply didn’t want to get out of bed some days. In January, I decided that nothing was going to change unless I changed. I had seen info about the Thrive Challenge in the break room at work, and one of my co-workers, Ashley VanBrocklin, encouraged me to try it out, as she was doing it herself. 

“I had to overcome those cravings and deal with my emotions.”

I started following a keto diet. Before I changed my eating habits, I reached for comfort foods whenever I was angry or sad. I realized I had to overcome those cravings and deal with my emotions. Since going keto, I’ve learned to get creative with my cooking. I’m making pizzas with portobello mushroom caps, swapping in cheese sticks or beef jerky instead of snacking on potato chips, and having fruits instead of ice cream for dessert. I make sure not to deprive my body of the nutrients it needs. 

On top of changing my diet, I also started working out. Now I’m exercising nearly every day in one way or another. I play “Ring Fit Adventure” on my Nintendo Switch, which has me doing everything from squats and yoga poses to dance moves and jogging in place. It’s helped me build my muscles and increase my flexibility. I also park far away when I go to the store, so I can get more steps in. I’ve lost a lot of weight so far, and I’m in much less pain than I was before. I used to struggle and feel strained doing simple things like picking something up that had fallen on the floor or getting out of bed. Now I’m doing those things with ease. Two months into my Challenge, I had to buy smaller clothes for the very first time, and it hit me how much these changes were benefiting me. 

“I feel like a totally different person.”

I’m feeling better physically and emotionally, which colors every one of my actions and reactions. I’m seeing my family more often and texting my mom every week. I’ve saved just over $1,000 from not eating out and being more conscious of my spending habits. I’m more hopeful about my future because of putting money into my savings account every time I get paid. I’m also sleeping better. I make sure to get off my screens at night and have a strict bedtime of 10 p.m. My weight loss has helped me sleep more comfortably, and getting off my phone helps my mind slow down. It doesn’t take me two hours to fall asleep anymore! 
I feel like a totally different person. I have so much more confidence and happiness in my life. I’ve encouraged several friends to start keto diets and we all support one another. I hope to show people that no matter what obstacles stand in the way, it’s possible to make positive changes — it just comes down to taking that first step.

––Jessica Ayre, Supercenter #2911; Central Square, N.Y.; $5K Winner