I was born with a disability called pervasive development disorder, which means it’s hard for me to communicate with people or read. I live with my mom, Doreen, our four cats, and two dogs. I take care of my mom… and she takes care of me! Before I started the Challenge I wasn’t eating well. My mom does the cooking and would make spaghetti and hamburgers. I’d always have second helpings, and I’d snack on cereal and popcorn, or anything I could find in the refrigerator. Losing weight is hard for me because I love food. I always exercised but I used to think if I exercised more I could eat more!   

“When I stepped on the scale and weighed 250 pounds, I felt sad.”
I’m 40 and I’m pre-diabetic with a thyroid condition and knew I needed to get healthy. My clothes were too tight, and when I looked in the mirror I thought I looked fat.

When I started the Challenge, we switched from spaghetti to spiralized zucchini with tomato sauce, and chicken meatballs instead of ground beef. My favorite meal is chili with veggies. We have salads and lots of spinach, for the iron, and I eat plenty of fruit — bananas, apples, and pears. I find portion control hard but I’m working on it! I used to eat sandwiches at night, and I am not doing that anymore. And instead of buying junk food at work, I get a salad or a sandwich.

“I’ve lost 20 pounds and feel toned and healthy.”
My goal is to get down to 150 pounds. I do Taekwondo, swim regularly, at least 25 laps, and I’m starting water zumba. I also walk our dogs. I do breathing exercises when I feel anxious, which helps me relax. 

“I am saving $200 a month.”
I was spending a lot on toys at work (Walmart) and donating them to charity; I worry that during COVID, parents won’t have enough money to buy holiday gifts for their children. I still buy some toys, but my mom has encouraged me to cut back, because it’s important for me to save for the future. So now I put money away in a savings account. I also want to save for a safari to Africa — I love traveling, seeing how other people live.

 “Volunteering makes me happy.”
I can’t volunteer in-person right now, so I fill shoe boxes with toothpaste, deodorant, and little toys and take them to our local church, and they send them on to children in other countries.

“My mom and I are getting along much better than before.”
We go for walks and watch the nightly news together. I help out by cleaning the house every Sunday; I’m grateful for our nice home. I love doing the Challenge — it feels good to complete a goal and keep setting new ones. My advice to others: Don’t give up — you can do it! 

—Michelle Gallien, Orange, MA; $5K Winner 

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