I was in a very dark place and I didn’t feel good — I was eating a lot of fast food. At the end of last year I weighed 300 pounds and I had high blood pressure. I’m 33 and I have two biological kids and three stepkids. My husband, William, and I have quite a houseful! My 13-year-old son, Cameron, does dirt track racing. I know it’s his passion, but I really worried about his safety. I had a lot of anxiety and I felt stressed. Elizabeth Jowers, our people lead, told me about The Thrive Challenge and I got started.

I started by cutting out sugar altogether and I stopped eating fast food.

I stopped drinking sweet tea and soda, and I stopped cooking with salt. I used to eat Doritos, but I haven’t had them for a long time. Now, I have honey roasted cashews instead for snacks. I’ve discovered that Microsteps, like drinking water in the morning, lead to bigger things and real lifestyle changes. 

My 10-year-old daughter, Eryn, always wants to be in the kitchen with me.

She’s helping me cook. One of our favorite recipes is oven baked whole wheat noodles with deer meat, which is low in fat. I also love baked tilapia with lemon juice, and veggies, like sauteed asparagus. 

My whole household is supporting me on my journey.

We’ve all changed our eating habits. Thrive has become a way of life. My kids tell me all the time: “Come on Momma you got this, you can do it. We’re with you every step of the way.” 

I started moving more.

Eryn loves YouTube and she came across some great zumba videos. So of course we had to give it a try. And we fell in love with Zumba — we’re having a blast. It’s a chance to act silly together and laugh! We’re also making TikTok videos. We dance to upbeat music. Eryn’s on a Justin Bieber kick, but I’ve also got her into soul and country music. 

Before the Challenge, I never wanted to be outdoors, now I love being in nature. 

We go for walks as a family, and we go fishing and hunting. We’re spending time with my siblings — there are seven of us and we like to have family cookouts. 

We all watch The Vampire Diaries together.

We’ve been going to Vampire Diaries conventions in different cities. There’s a lot of walking and talking, and you meet people from all over the world. I’m enjoying interacting with people who have the same interests. 

Every day I make a point of taking at least a few minutes just for myself.

I breathe and notice what’s going on around me or I’ll do a relaxing Thrive nature Reset. The Resets help me stay calm when Cameron’s on the track racing. My kids are even watching some of the Resets with me. I also like to sit outside at night with Eryn. We’ll look up at the sky and see what shapes we notice in the stars

Thrive has helped my marriage; William and I have a closer bond.

I’m more patient and I’m not stressed out all the time. We used to have spats and we bickered. But now, instead of snapping, we’ll tell each other how we’re feeling and figure out how we can come to an agreement. Right before bedtime, we sit on the edge of the bed and talk about what’s bothering us. We really listen to each other.

At work, I stop to speak to my co-workers.

It might be something as simple as, “Hey, how are you doing?” And by taking the time to talk to people, I’ve got to know them.

My life has changed so much! I’ve lost 40 pounds and I feel completely different. 

I’m breathing easier. I used to be on three blood pressure medications, and now I’m off them all. My blood pressure is normal after 15 years. We went on a family trip to Texas and I actually wore a two piece bathing suit for the first time in 15 years. I have more confidence as a woman and more self-love. And that’s very powerful. I feel happy and peaceful.

— Kayla Kirchner, Walmart Supercenter #593; Douglas, GA; $5K Winner