What led you to the Challenge?

My wife, Celeste, and I had just bought a house and I was working 12-hour days to pay the bills. I wasn’t sleeping well and was eating badly. I’d have five scrambled eggs with toast for breakfast, then later I’d eat chicken nuggets and munch on chips. My wife is at college while working full-time, and we’d eat out because we were so busy. I’ve always been into fitness but had quit working out and I weighed 253 pounds. I had no energy and was drinking quite a bit because I was so stressed. I turned 30 and felt I should be further ahead in life than I was. 

You started last summer, what were your first steps?  

I used to be my own worst critic, telling myself: “You’re stupid. You’re lazy.” So I started saying positive affirmations out loud like: “I love myself. I am strong and intelligent.” I’m a very vocal person and hearing myself saying those things was reassuring. Also, I used to make lists of all the things I wanted to get done, which was overwhelming. But instead, I say, “It’s really not that much… you’re choosing to do these things, this is going to be a good day,” which switched everything. It was like a huge stone lifted off my chest. I’ve developed a more positive outlook.

How did you change your lifestyle?

We quit buying frozen meals and we’ve incorporated veggies and fruit into our diet. I make great smoothies in the morning with kale, banana, ginger, and grapes. For dinner, I might make chicken fajitas. Celeste and I walk our two dogs together. And what’s fun: incorporating the dogs into my workouts. I’ll do squats holding our 70 pound lab, Lady, in front of me which makes it more work for me, but she enjoys it! I’m also doing circuit training and lifting weights at the gym. I’ve gradually increased the amount of cardio I do and I’ve lost 40 pounds. 

What else have you been focusing on?

We’ve been focusing on budgeting. We put our bills on a whiteboard so we can see what we’re spending. We’re planning our meals each week so we don’t waste money and we’ve been able to create an emergency fund.

I’m taking more time off work and I’m less stressed. Celeste and I started painting together and we love being creative. I also wanted to challenge myself to read more so I’ve been reading fantasy books at night like The Wheel Of Time and A Game of Thrones, which helps me sleep well. 

How are you feeling now?

From feeling down and depressed, I feel fantastic. I feel like myself again. I’m whistling and feeling chipper. I couldn’t be happier. I’m so grateful and I’m always telling my wife how much I appreciate all the support she gives me.

—Joe Kieft, Walmart Customer; Muskegon, MI; $5K Winner

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