At the beginning of this year, I was stressed and had very low energy. I told my husband Ronald I felt depressed. I weighed 221 pounds, the heaviest I had ever been. I didn’t have energy to spend time with our three teenage children; I just wanted to come home from work and get into bed. I had a lot on my plate at work. I’m a hairstylist, and new owners recently took over the building where I work. They gave us 30 days to get out; we had to move the salon to a new location. As a busy mom working long hours, and picking up my kids from soccer and football practice, it was easier to eat fast food: chips, pizza, fried chicken. 

The moment everything changed 

A recent visit to the doctor was the turning point for me. I had already been diagnosed with high blood pressure and was on medication. This time, it turned out I was doing worse, and that scared me. I wanted to get my health under control and set a good example for my children. I started the Thrive Challenge because I knew that, for the sake of being the mother, the friend, and the wife I want to be, I had to have a mindset change.

Finding inspiration from family 

My daughter, Naomi, recently decided to become a vegetarian. She inspired me to be more mindful about what I eat. I started cooking big pots of what’s now known as  “mom’s famous medicinal vegetable soup.” I add garlic and turmeric, which boosts our immune system. I sauté broccoli, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and zucchini, put the veggies on top of brown rice, maybe do some collard greens with olive oil. Sometimes for protein, I’ll cook beans or lentils, salmon, or baked chicken. I’ll make a fruit salad for dessert. Everybody tells me how good it is, and they go back for seconds. 

For exercise, I’ve inspired my 15-year-old son, Tre, to work out with me. He’s a football player and he said, “Mom, I want to be healthy and get my weight down for the season.” We walk in the park together and I love every moment. At home, we’ll do quick 10-minute workouts. We’ll do squats and kick-backs one day, and the next we’ll do some core work. 

The joy of seeing results 

Before I started exercising, I would wake up at 2 a.m. In the morning, I didn’t have any energy. Now it’s the total opposite. I sleep like a baby and have tons of energy throughout the day. I was so happy when I saw the scale go down. I’d look in the mirror and feel more confident, and I could see the difference in how my clothes were fitting. 

Staying committed no matter what and inspiring others to do the same

I give myself permission to have a treat occasionally, and if I pick up a pound or two, I don’t beat myself up. I’ve hit some highs and lows due to COVID-19 and all the life changes that have come with it, but even in the midst of everything, I get back on track. My family and I encourage each other. I took “before and after” pictures of myself and sent them to my mom and my two sisters, and they were inspired to get healthier themselves. I’m inspiring my clients, too. When I’m doing their hair, we’ll have conversations about cooking and exercise.

Moms (like myself) are the machines that keep things running at home. When mama feels down, it messes with the flow of the household. Now my family sees me up and energetic. It makes a big difference and I’m constantly grateful. My mind feels clear. Doing the Challenge has shown me that when you make a choice to get healthy, it benefits everyone around you.

—La’Shondra Swanson, Walmart Customer; Hampton, GA; $2K Winner 

Through the Thrive Challenge, our community is making Better Choices, seeing big results, and winning big.