I learned about the Thrive Challenge at Walmart orientation when I first started working there in April. Money was a big issue for me. I had a lot of credit card debt. I used to throw money at my problems, and at one point, I was supporting myself and also helping out my parents and brother. I also wanted to lose weight. So I decided to take the Challenge.

“I’ve paid off $6,000 in credit card debt.”

I’m getting my finances under control. I want to have three months’ worth of pay saved up for a rainy day, so I’m saving money by not eating out and cooking more at home. Every time I get a paycheck, I put 10% in a savings account. I’m also using apps like Robinhood and Acorns to invest money, and so far, I’ve made about $1,000 from stocks. Since April, I’ve saved at least $10,000 and have paid off $6,000 in credit card debt. I keep my checking account balance at or more than $1,000 to make sure I can cover all of my expenses. 

“I am in control of my eating habits.”

Instead of spending money on fast food, I am cooking at home, which has helped me get my weight under control. I’ve lost 70 pounds since starting my Thrive Challenge. I purchased an air fryer, which I’m using to cook fish and chicken. I’m obsessed with getting enough fiber and have been eating more fruits and vegetables and less red meat and carbs. While I allow myself to have “cheat meals” every once in a while, I still feel like I am in control of my eating habits rather than falling prey to them. 

“I had to adapt and find ways to work out at home.”

At the start of COVID, I had to adapt and find ways to work out at home. I purchased resistance bands and kettlebells to do some toning. I also did the Mission 22 Push-up Challenge to raise awareness for veterans’ mental health. As a Marine Corps veteran, it was important for me to do this. I did 22 push-ups a day for 22 days and raised some money for a good cause. At work, I’m walking 20,000 steps each day and tracking my steps with a pedometer app. 

“I no longer have a funk blinding me.”

I’ve noticed that I’m more inclined to help others at work and be a sounding board for my co-workers. I’ve also been working on relationships and thinking about gratitude more often. When my family comes down to visit me and they do something nice for me, I’ll acknowledge it. Not only am I appreciating their behavior, I’m trying to reciprocate it. My hope is to be a positive influence on them. Both my mom and brother have lost weight and are doing well for themselves. As far as my progress, I’m getting up each day feeling accomplished. I recently got into nursing school. I’m more positive and outgoing. I no longer have a funk blinding me — I’ve been able to clear the windshield.

––Joseph David Mckenzie, Sylva, N.C.; $5K 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.