At Thrive, we believe one of the most important ways to fight burnout is to find purpose and meaning in the work you do every day. Our partnership with Walmart enables us to see the power of Thrive’s behavior change platform in action every day. Through small better choices that build momentum over time, Walmart associates (and their friends and family) are able to make changes that drastically improve their lives and the lives of those around them.

Each month, we award 18 winners with a cash prize for their accomplishments in the Thrive Challenge. Reading through their stories and learning how each of them overcame everyday struggles gives us so much inspiration and passion for the work that we do. 

Below, read the stories of our 18 winners for the month of December. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Jessie Lassabe, Workers Comp Bldg. #608, Lexington, KY

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“At 39, I decided to go back to college — it was something I really wanted to do for myself. And I wanted to show my kids that you can accomplish anything by taking it one day at a time. But I was finding it hard to focus on my studies, and all the tasks I had to get done at work and at home. I was always tired. I downloaded the Thrive app, and the first thing I did was to make a sleep schedule. I began going to bed and waking up at the same time every day to ensure I got the rest I needed. To lower stress, I eliminated my iPhone from my life. I use a flip phone now, and I’ve never felt better. It has no social media apps distracting me. Microsteps helped me focus on my studies. My time management improved, and my mind became clearer. I completed my bachelor’s degree in business in May. It was a huge accomplishment — I feel on top of the world.”

Jose “Mane” Lopez, Distribution Center #6094, Bentonville, AR

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“I was in very bad health. I weighed 287 pounds and I had low self-esteem. I started the Thrive Challenge and began with food, adding more protein to my diet, like chicken and salmon, and eating fruits and veggies. For breakfast, I have egg whites a la Mexicana, and for lunch I’ll have tuna salad. And because we’re cooking at home instead of eating out, we’re saving $300 dollars a week. I have more energy because I’m moving more. I walk 10 thousand steps a day, I gradually started running, and I’m going for long bike rides, which is a great way to lower stress. I’m spending more time with my family, we go on bike rides together and play soccer. I’ve lost weight and I’ve lowered my sugar level and my blood pressure, which is almost at a normal range. I feel proud of myself. And what’s great is that I’ve inspired my family too. That means such a lot to me, and I’m excited to continue my journey.”

Matthew Howard, Distribution Center #9153, Waco, TX

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“My mom had a heart attack, and it  was a wake-up call  that motivated me to change my lifestyle. She had high cholesterol. I also had high cholesterol and high blood pressure. I’m 39 and I was in  pain — my knees hurt a lot, and I didn’t feel good about myself. I downloaded the Thrive app and started to focus on making healthy food choices. I’m eating meals like grilled chicken and broccoli for dinner. Cooking at home instead of eating out is helping me save money. I’m moving more — I walk on my treadmill in the morning before work. I use dumbbells and do push ups. Once I was moving, I started to feel better, and now I have a lot more energy. To relax, I go fishing — and I like hanging out with friends and family. I’ve lost 40 pounds and I’m much more confident and less stressed. My blood pressure has gone down and is now in the normal range, and I’m no longer pre diabetic. I feel amazing.” 

Sedeja Drigo, Neighborhood Market #2858, Statesboro, GA

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“I decided to start the Thrive Challenge because I wanted to overcome my financial difficulties. I’m 21, and I’m pursuing a degree while working at Walmart. I was often exhausted, and I had little time to prioritize exercise or maintain a healthy diet. To improve my sleep, I established a consistent bedtime routine, and I limit screen time before going to bed. I’m eating more fruit, veggies, protein, and whole grains. I’m proud to share that I’ve successfully lost 20 pounds. By moving more, I feel more energized. I dance while doing chores, and recently achieved a milestone by running a mile. To achieve a better work life balance, I cut my work hours. I’m doing breathing exercises and prioritizing activities that bring me joy, like photography. To unwind and relax, I listen to the jazz and soul music I grew up with, which is calming. The Thrive Challenge has had a profound impact on my life. I’ve adopted a healthier lifestyle, I’m saving money, and managing my stress.”

Kevin Rizzardi, Fulfillment Center #7559, Bethlehem, PA

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“I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer in 2014. That pretty much broke me. I felt so bad about myself and gained weight. I’m 48, and I weighed 254 pounds. I used to treat food as a reward. Emotionally and mentally I wasn’t happy with myself, so I started the Thrive Challenge. I began taking Microsteps like not eating late at night. I’m having healthy snacks, like nuts, and I measure out portions. One of my favorite Microsteps is making simple food swaps, like eating egg whites instead of the whole egg. I’m happy to say that my cholesterol is the lowest it’s been in years. Another Microstep I like: ‘Make a choice to move your body today.’ I’m running, and I’ve found a new passion: swimming with my daughter, who’s a competitive swimmer. I’ve lost 32 pounds, and when I look in the mirror I like the person I see! And more importantly, I like the person who I’ve become. I can’t remember the last time I felt that way.”

Owen Laurie, Walmart Supercenter #9401, Manassas, VA

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“A few months ago, I was having a hard time feeling motivated. I’d just started my new job at Walmart, and at the same time I’m doing a degree. I’m 25, and my wife, Dawna, and I have two young sons. And we were struggling financially — I was stressed. I downloaded the Thrive app and started with some Microsteps. Each morning, I do some stretching and breathing exercises. I pray or meditate. Before having a money conversation, I ask Dawna if it’s a good time to talk. Then we sit down to set a budget. We’ve developed a habit of saying no to any ‘wants,’ like a new sofa or lounge chairs. We’ll just spend money on what we really need. We’re doing DIY projects at home — we repaired our garbage disposal and refinished our dining table, which saves a lot of money. I’ve been feeling more peaceful and less stressed. Of course, life isn’t perfect and we still face financial challenges, but I know now I’m capable of surmounting whatever is thrown my way.”

Joshua King, Fulfillment Center #7559, Bethlehem, PA

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“I’m newly divorced, I relocated for a promotion, and I was struggling — moving a long way from my two children was a challenge. I wasn’t sleeping or eating well. I downloaded the Thrive app and began with movement Microsteps to lower my stress. At work, I go outside for 10 minute breaks to walk in the sun and get vitamin D boosts. I gradually got in better shape and started running. I visit my kids every month and we do fun activities, like playing laser tag and hiking. We also have family therapy. Our relationship continues to grow — I text or speak to them every day. Thrive nature Resets help me lower stress and find peace. I’ve learned to take accountability for my actions without being too hard on myself. A big accomplishment was running a half marathon. With Microsteps, I trained, I put my mind to it, and accomplished my mission! I felt so good inside and out, but even better, I now feel like I can conquer any challenge in life.”

Jamie Saxton, Walmart Store #1843, Mcminnville, OR

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“I used to work the night shift and I never got enough sleep. I was tired all day, I ate a lot of sweets, and I gained weight. I didn’t have enough energy for my family. I got started on the Thrive Challenge. What helped me was transferring to a new position. I don’t work nights, which means I can go to sleep at a decent time. I set up a nighttime routine. Once the kids are in bed, I take a relaxing bath with epsom salts. I put my phone away, and then I read in bed and fall asleep. We’re eating better. I’ve cut down on the sweets and lost weight. I make sure I move throughout the day, which improves my mood. And I’ve been spending more time with my family. I’m a mom and a wife, and I always want to take care of everyone else. Now I know it’s okay to put myself first, to give myself a break, read a book, or get a pedicure. I tell myself I’m worth it.”

Leonard Carrion Anglero, Walmart Supercenter #5803, San Juan, PR

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“My biggest challenge in life has been my weight. I really like to eat — I love candy — and I worried about my health. I wanted to connect more with my fiancé, Isachy. I was stressed about money, and my dream is to buy a house. That’s why I started the Thrive Challenge. I began getting up early and going for a walk. Then I committed to changing my diet. I stopped eating candy, which was hard. I’ll have fruit instead. And I’m cooking healthy, low-carb meals. I’ve lost 13 pounds, and my body doesn’t ache anymore. Isachy and I are spending quality time together. We go for walks, and we sit and talk to each other, without our phones or the T.V. Microsteps are helping me save money. I made a budget and calculated everything I spend. I limited myself to only buying things that are necessary. We have a long way to go, but we’re hoping to have a down payment for our dream home by next summer.”

Maria Zuniga, Distribution Center #9153, Waco, TX

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“My life has been hard. I was a single mom who raised three kids. Now I’m 56, and in the past few years, I’ve not been in good health. My blood pressure was high, I was overweight, and I had no energy. I lost my self esteem. So when I heard about the Thrive Challenge, I decided it was just what I needed. My sister, Lourdes, is my best friend, also works at Walmart, and we’re doing the Challenge together. We go for walks together and talk and laugh. I started moving more and stretching, which helps calm my anxiety. I ride my bike to the park; I love to feel the breeze on my face. I stopped eating junk food and drinking soda. One of my favorite meals is tuna fish baked with a little olive oil. I have it with broccoli or cauliflower and quinoa — it’s delicious. I’ve lost 15 pounds and I wake up without pain. I have my confidence back and I feel fantastic.”

Shelly Contreras, Distribution Center #9153, Waco, TX

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“I was making poor food choices and eating unhealthy food. I weighed 280 pounds and I was always exhausted. I signed up for the Challenge and started by cutting carbs. One recipe I like is pizza with a cheese crust, topped with bacon, pepperoni, and onions. It’s amazing. In between meals I drink protein shakes and water instead of soda. My partner, Javier, is very supportive. We walk around the lake near our home and cook together. I’ve lost 47 pounds and I feel amazing — my lower back pain has improved. Connecting with my family is a priority. I took my granddaughter, Isabella, to Universal Studios, and I had the energy to go on all the rides with her — she loved the motorcycles and the Hulk rollercoaster. We had a lot of fun. I can play with my two-year-old granddaughter, Ava, and run around after her. Making small choices has made a big difference. I feel empowered and accomplished, and I’m going to continue to live my best life ever. Cheers to Microsteps!”

Darvin Dominguez, Walmart Supercenter #2302, Barceloneta, PR

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“I decided to participate in the Challenge because at one point I didn’t feel motivated or encouraged to do new things or everyday activities. I wasn’t taking care of myself physically or mentally. I decided to go to bed earlier every night so I could rest better. I leave my phone on Do Not Disturb mode and it has worked for me. I’m going to bed earlier, and thanks to that, I can perform much better at work and I don’t feel as exhausted as before. In the morning, I eat a good breakfast with vegetables. Before the Challenge, I ate a lot of rice, pizza, and hamburgers. Thanks to those changes, I have improved a lot. I’m saving because I’ve stopped spending money on unnecessary things. My experience with the Challenge has been very good, and my wife and daughter are happier with me. They tell me that now they always see me in good spirits and I’m always smiling, and they love that. At that moment I realized that the Challenge works, and that motivated me to continue doing the Challenge day after day. Thanks to the Challenge I am a happier person, I sleep better, I eat healthier, I share more with my family, and I arrive at work in a better mood. Thanks to those changes I am a better person.”

Tina Roddy, Walmart Supercenter #1690, Decatur, IL

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“My husband, Jeff, and I were eating a lot of fast food and we weren’t really thinking about whether it was good for us. We were gaining weight and we weren’t feeling good. Then I was introduced to the Challenge and I told Jeff, ‘We should do this.’ We cut down on carbs and added plenty of protein-rich food and lots of veggies to our meals. It was like night and day. We started to feel so much better. Jeff and I enjoy each other’s company — we’ve been together for 38 years. So we got moving together. We go for long walks and we ride our bikes. We have a nighttime routine and wind down in the evening. At bedtime, we turn off the phones and we do one or two breathing exercises, which relaxes us and helps sleep. I’ve lost 20 pounds since January. I have more energy and I’m less stressed. I’ve found that it really makes a big difference taking the Challenge with my best friend — my husband.”

Lori Sassaman, Walmart Supercenter #2024, Tunkhannock, PA

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“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been trying to curb my anxiety and eat better. I was eating a lot of processed food and I was always stressed. I downloaded the Thrive app and started making some changes. For dinner, we might have baked chicken or salmon with mixed broccoli cauliflower with potatoes. My 15-year-old daughter, Cassandra, and I started going for relaxing hikes in the state parks close to us. We pause to take photos and look at the local wildlife and plants. I’m spending time doing things I enjoy, like playing with my cats and painting. With Money Microseps, I created a feasible budget. And every month 70 dollars goes automatically into a savings account. Instead of being on my phone at night, I’ll read a book. And I’m sleeping better. I’ve lost 13 pounds in the past year. I have more balance in my life, and less anxiety — I feel happier.”

Daniel Palmer, Walmart Supercenter #5055, Naples, FL

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“I was at a low point in my life. I was feeling stressed and drained. I didn’t have the energy to be active with my wife, Isabel, and five-year-old son, Daniel Jr. We were eating fast food and we weren’t getting fresh air. I started the Thrive Challenge because I wanted to be a better role model for my son. Isabel and I take Daniel to the park; we play hide and seek and run around. He loves the balance beams and the swings. Microsteps are helping me change my diet. I cut down on soda and we’re having more home-cooked food and less takeout. Our favorite meals are chicken or steak with rice and salads. I’ve lost 10 pounds and I feel much better. We’re gardening and growing flowers. I spend time outside with my son, watering plants or removing dead flowers, instead of just sitting down inside after meals. As I’ve started to feel better at home, I’m more motivated at work. I have better time management and I’m less stressed.”

Bridgett Haynes, Distribution Center #9153, Waco, TX

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“I’m about to turn 40 and I wanted to make some changes. I was stressed about money and I was eating a lot of fast food. Between us, my husband and I have five kids, and I felt overwhelmed. I started the Thrive Challenge and began with Money Microsteps. Brandon and I have financial check-ins. Also before buying things, I ask myself whether the item is a ‘want’ or a ‘need.’ We’re eating more fresh food and lots of veggies. My family loves my boneless and skinless chicken thighs with mushrooms sauce and herbs. Exercising helps with stress. I’m walking 2,500 steps a day. I love dancing with my kids — I do some dance moves that my daughter finds outdated and embarrassing! The joy comes when we find ourselves laughing. I give myself time to relax with Thrive breathing exercises. I take bubble baths and read the Bible. I know I’m doing a great job with my kids because they’re always thanking me, giving me hugs, and telling me I’m a great mom.”

Lisa Bell, Walmart Supercenter #1623, Wilkes-Barre, PA

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“I’ve always put my family and friends and my job first, but I didn’t make myself a priority. 

I’m 52, and I’m the go-to person for everyone in my family. A co-worker inspired me to start the Thrive Challenge. My husband Geoffrey and I began planning meals instead of just grabbing something to eat. I pack healthy snacks to take into work, like tuna and hard boiled eggs or nuts and berries. I’m doing things I enjoy — I’ll get together with friends for dinner. There’s always a good conversation and lots of laughter. One of my hobbies is shopping at second-hand consignment shops. I love browsing and finding amazing treasures at great prices. And I love curling up with a good movie. Being with my five grandchildren is a joy — and I have much more energy for them. I like to read to the younger ones. There’s still family stress that I deal with, but I’m learning I can’t fix everyone’s problems and I need to put myself first sometimes.”

J.D. Mauricio, Distribution Center #9153 Waco, TX

“When I was young, I had the honor of serving in the army. I was extremely active and could eat whatever I wanted. However, that changed when I married my wife, Jennifer, and we started having kids. I was eating a lot of junk food. I’m 42, and I want to be the best father I can be for our four young sons. So I started the Thrive Challenge and began making small changes with Microsteps. Instead of reaching for a candy bar, I opt for fruit and nuts. And instead of soda, I drink water. The older boys and I go for bike rides around town, which they love. I also go to the gym. I’ve lost 10 pounds so far and feel great. Slowing down and breathing is helping me relax. Being over 40 with little boys has made me realize that I want to keep up with them. I don’t want to be a dad who sits on the sidelines. The Thrive Challenge is helping me move forward in the right direction.”