After having three kids, I wasn’t paying much attention to my weight. I was probably 25 pounds overweight. Then, one day my husband posted an unflattering picture of me on Facebook, and I asked myself, “Is that what I really look like?” After that moment, I said to myself, “OK, I need to start eating better and working out.”

I started slow, and began seeing results over time.

Once I started, it was a slow process. I didn’t say, “I’m going to eat better every day.” It probably took me a good six months. I started in October and then the next year in April, I was finally happy with the results of working out and eating better. I ended up losing around 22 pounds.

I began finding more joy in spending time with my kids.

I used to avoid certain activities with my kids because I felt uncomfortable, but now I simply enjoy my time with them. If they want to go and do something but it makes me uncomfortable because of how I look, I do it anyway. I have lightened up on that whole mindset. I have always been active, but now we’re doing different things together, like rollerblading outside and eating better as a family.

I don’t deprive myself. 

My vice was always going for the ice cream when everyone went to bed. Now, I try to not eat after 8 p.m., but I also try not to obsess over the little things. I try to only drink water and limit my portions. I used to think: “I can’t eat that. I have to eat something healthy. I have to eat chicken and vegetables.” Now, I have more of a balance. If I want to eat tacos, I’m going to have tacos, but I’m also going to limit my portions.

I set a goal and stuck to it — even through the imperfect days.

I’m proud that I didn’t quit along the way. Even if I had a day where I felt like eating ice cream, I reminded myself that that’s OK. I would tell myself, “Eat your ice cream, start over tomorrow, and just keep going, because you don’t have to be perfect.” I ended up putting back on a couple of pounds, but I reminded myself that striving for perfection isn’t the goal. It’s just about finding a place where you’re happy and doing the best you can. I never wanted to get to a point where I was saying, “I’m starving today. I can’t eat because I’m trying to lose weight.” That’s not the sustainable way. So I learned that even if you don’t have a perfect day, you just keep going. Today might be a bad day. Start over tomorrow.

—Meredith Bowlin, Walmart Customer; Bakersfield, CA; $5K Winner

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