I was taking care of my mother for years, and I watched her slowly drift out of this world in pain. She died from complications of type 2 diabetes. We were extremely close, and when she passed I found myself feeling depressed. I would just work and come home. I’m 56 with two grown kids and three grandchildren. My daughter Jourdan, her husband Bruno, and their adorable 2-year-old Calista live with me. But I didn’t have any joy, and I wasn’t taking care of myself. I realized my mom had spent her life taking care of everyone else and putting herself last. I was doing that too. I weighed 255 pounds, and my ankles and knees hurt constantly.  

A year ago, I found out I also have diabetes.

My doctor said I needed to get my health in check or I’d be traveling along the same road as my mom. He put me on several medications, including Ozempic. It was scary and I was determined to change. I don’t want my family to have to take care of me.  

My co-worker, Gabino Suarez, inspired me to start the Thrive Challenge. 

I began by focusing on Microsteps which helped me accomplish little things during the day, like drinking a bottle of water instead of an energy drink, and eating slowly without gobbling my food. I found myself reading food labels and making better choices when I was shopping for groceries. 

I started meal prepping so I know what I’m going to eat all week.

I added choline-rich foods to my diet, such as boiled eggs and broccoli. My favorite meal is rotisserie chicken with cucumber and tomato salad. I began portioning out snacks like fruit and nuts into small bags so I eat the right portion size. And one of my top tips is using a smaller plate for meals so I’m not tempted to overeat.

One Microstep I’ve been taking is moving my body every day. 

I started going to the park with my daughter and granddaughter. I’d push Calista on the swing and take a short walk. I worked my way up to half mile walks; now I’m happy to say I’m regularly walking two to three miles. I can chase my granddaughter and keep up with her.

I’m also going for relaxing walks on my own with our puppies.

I’m enjoying being in nature, looking at the turtles and ducks in the lake. It clears my mind. And at home I love listening to country music when I’m cleaning my house. Reba McEntire, George Strait, and Garth Brooks always make me want to get up and move. 

I’m going on adventures with my family.

We went to Galveston, Texas; it was our first family vacation in 20 years. I could play on the beach with the kids and get down on the sand looking for shells. I even went swimming with them. I’ve never been able to join in the fun before and I can’t put into words how I felt — it was amazing. My grandbabies are my entire world and now I’m an active, involved grandma creating priceless memories.

At work, I have an accountability buddy — my friend, Shelly Contreras.

She’s a Thrive Challenge winner and a manager like me, and we’re always supporting each other. If one of us is tempted to grab a burger, the other one will say, “We don’t need that.” We walk around our building together and remind each other to drink enough water. I’m so excited because Shelly and I are going on a cruise to the Bahamas. 

In the past year I’ve lost 36 pounds.

My A1C is down and my doctor is thrilled. I’m still taking medications, but I feel so much better. I’ve learned it’s never too late to build healthy new habits. A mighty oak tree starts out as a tiny acorn, and joining Thrive was my acorn. I’ve started to believe in myself. I miss my mom, but I know she’d be proud that I’m living a healthy, happy life.

— Tammy Palacios, Distribution Center #7559; Waco, TX; $5K Winner