Challenge Winners//

In the Wake of Tragedy, Doug Is Inspiring Others to Persevere

“I hope that by sharing my story, I can encourage others.”

Before the Challenge, my life was the status quo. I was going through the motions of my daily routine. Even though I was going to the gym, my training felt stale and uninspiring. I come from a fitness background: I started lifting when I was 11 years old, and by the time I was 17, I was competing in bodybuilding competitions and Olympic-level lifting. But I fell away from it all in 2012, when our oldest son, Connor, a top student and doubles champion in tennis, took his own life after struggling with mental illness. It was a tragedy for my family that changed our lives forever.

After losing Connor, our family struggled.

I was self-employed and under a lot of stress. My wife, Jane, suffered from anxiety. Our youngest, Chris, had lost his brother. Health wasn’t our top priority. A reset happened in 2015 when I came to Walmart. I got a physical done before becoming a driver and learned I was obese and needed to lose weight. It took me a year to lose 50 pounds. I felt great. And then two years ago, while I was at a Walmart shareholder’s meeting, I learned about the Challenge. I met some people who worked for the Challenge and was encouraged to share my story. 

At first, I didn’t know if my story was worth sharing.

But I reflected on all the changes I’ve made, the shift in mindset I’ve had, and I realized I wanted to inspire others. Being a driver has unique challenges. It’s hard to live a healthy lifestyle when you’re sitting for long periods and eating poorly. But with small steps, drivers have the power to make changes even with a tough schedule. I rejected the idea that I would default to a dormant lifestyle because of my job title. I’m working hard to shatter the mold of the stereotypical truck driver.

My two key changes had to do with food and exercise.

I look at it as a lifestyle instead of a diet. With that mindset, I never feel deprived. I eat a lot of veggies, berries, nuts, apples, eggs, and quinoa. I make a killer bean salad! Plus, Jane’s a great cook, and she’ll make healthy recipes I can take on the road with me. As a Walmart driver, I frequently take my 11-hour layover breaks at a distribution center close to a gym. I love to start my day with a cardio workout! But if I’m not close to a gym, I’ll still use dumbbells, cables, and an ab-roller to fit some exercise in. You might even find me doing crunches in my truck!

I’m on the road five days a week, but when I’m home for the weekends, it’s all about family.We make the most of our time by going running, biking, and hiking. Jane and I ran our first race together two years ago and since then, I’ve been hooked. All my cardio training paid off! We enjoy playing tennis too, and recently played with two friends who knew Connor and were there for us during the hardest times. Afterward, I received a text from our friends telling us they frequently think of Connor. It was a very special affirmation that even after nine years, the memory of our son lives on. And I hope that by sharing my story, I can encourage others who may have experienced a similar tragedy or loss. Despite this, one can persevere, like our family has, and move forward in life.

—Doug Slates, Transportation Admin #7830; Pottsville, PA; $5K Winner

Small daily choices can lead to life-changing results. Download the Thrive ZP App today to improve your well-being. For more inspiring stories, follow Thrive ZP on Facebook and Instagram.

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