Being a People Lead at Walmart during COVID was quite the challenge. I’m a stress eater, so I just kept putting on weight from all the stress that was going on. It got to a point where my whole body ached. My joints were hurting and I even had a few heart issues. I went to the doctor and my blood pressure was high, and she said to me, “You’re a good candidate for a stroke if you don’t get some of that weight off and bring that blood pressure down.” That really scared me. I remember saying to myself, “You either do something or this is going to kill you.”

I just kept thinking, “I’ve got to be here.” 

During COVID, our Store Manager was going through a battle with cancer so she was a big inspiration for me. I have one grandson and I’ve got to watch him grow up. That was my motivation. I’m also lucky that we have a beautiful team here at our store, and I have a wonderful family life and a church life, so I felt like I had a lot going for me, but I was just drowning in my weight and my health. Working in retail can be stressful, and just trying to take care of myself was hard. I also wanted to make sure I was there to support my store manager during her difficult time and it became overwhelming.

I decided to get into a new routine. 

I remember it was the first day of May, and that was the day I got started. My doctor had helped tell me about nutrition and what I should be staying away from, so I started cutting out desserts, cookies, and all the sugary things. I also started walking in the morning. I liked the Microsteps on the Thrive app about moving your body. It was hard at first because my joints were out of whack, but every morning, I got up at 4:20 a.m., got ready for work, and got to the grounds by six, which is an hour early. I would start walking around the parking lot, around two and a half miles. 

When it got colder out, I moved my walks inside. 

Soon enough everyone started noticing, and on my days off the other associates would come in and say “Oh Judy’s not here walking, it’s her day off.” That’s probably what’s helped me the most. Everyone’s been encouraging me and saying things like “You look amazing.” But most importantly my legs and knees don’t hurt anymore. The extra weight just made me achy all the time, even just walking to the car. But now I climb the stairs and I’m not even out of breath. 

My 11-year-old grandson has even been wanting to join me. 

Even at his age, he talks to his mom about wanting to get healthier. The other day he told his mom, “I want to go on a walk with grandma.” He makes my heart skip a beat, and part of me is doing this for him so that I can see him grow into a great life of his own.

Now, I come into work and I have more energy, and my day just goes so much better.

When you don’t feel well, it affects your attitude and just your overall work environment. I’ve worked for Walmart for 38 years and I started feeling sad because I just wasn’t feeling like myself, and I’ve always prided myself in giving 110%. Now I finally feel like I’m giving my all again, and I like to think I’m an inspiration to the people around me. There’s one girl who works up front and she comes in and sees me walking and she’ll come join me. I hope others will follow that pattern and want to get healthy too. I want to encourage others and show them that it’s possible to accomplish something like this. It’s just made such a big difference in my overall happiness.

— Judy Mahle, Walmart Supercenter #1013, Clinton, IN; $5K Winner