Maria DiGrazia began the 15 Day Challenge with a powerful “why”: her son, Lucas. After being diagnosed with a condition that prevented her from giving birth, she received an opportunity to adopt her son, who became a motivating force in her physical and mental journey.
Because she traveled for work, she often felt guilty for the separation from her son, making as much time as she could to play with him. One night when she came home late, she and Lucas reenacted a scene from Beauty and the Beast, with Lucas wielding a makeshift sword. During their game, Lucas thrust the sword into Maria’s eye, leaving her half-blind.
At the same time, Maria struggled with her weight, causing her to feel drained and, at times, embarrassed to leave the house. She had gained weight gradually after earning her master’s degree, noting that she didn’t even realize the extent of her weight gain for some time. One afternoon when she took Lucas to the playground, he asked her not to come down the slide with him. When she asked why, he responded, “Because you’re too big.”
Lucas’s response shifted Maria’s perspective. Facing other health complications at the time, including multiple surgeries on her eye, she didn’t want her weight to limit her or develop into a point of embarrassment for her son. By November 2021, she found herself in a low mental state, searching for a relationship with God and an understanding of why she was facing so many difficulties. Soon after, she found Ashley Ryckman.
Ashley’s Facebook page promoted female empowerment, spreading positive energy that Maria called “contagious.” The two built a relationship through social media, and Maria claims that Ashley helped her rebuild her confidence. Having lost a significant amount of her hair—one of her favorite features about herself—due to various medications, her self-confidence began to fade. Ashley not only helped her feel comfortable enough to purchase her first wig, but she introduced Maria to a community of uplifting women who supported one another.
After Ashley became involved with TLC, she introduced Maria to a variety of products, which led to the beginning of her 15 Day Challenge journey. With Ashley as her coach, Maria committed to the challenge for the benefit of her mind, body, and spirit. To develop a new physical routine, she planned healthier meals, increased her exercise and hydration, and consumed TLC products every morning. She began meditating and focusing on spiritual growth, drawing a closer connection to God. She read books that inspired her to be intentional and practice a grateful mindset, and she grew closer with her online community, allowing her to be vulnerable, express her insecurities, and be uplifted without judgment.
The optimistic mindset she developed allowed her to think about her habits in a new light. Instead of looking at meal prep and exercise as a nuisance, she focused on the joy in her new routine. Not only did she build strong relationships within The 15 Day Challenge community, but her communication with others who were experiencing the same thing helped her understand her triggers, the reasons that led to unhealthy habits, like eating late at night. Her community constantly reminded her to remember her “why” to stay motivated. Maria’s “why” was Lucas, spending as much time with him as possible and cherishing every moment with him: “I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started trying to be a better mom and a better me.”
From January to October 2022, Maria completed a total of 17 challenges and lost over 140 pounds, feeling more energized, ambitious, and inclined to keep pushing to achieve new goals. In early October 2022, Maria was selected as a semifinalist of The 15 Day 25K Contest Season 1. As one of three winners that week, she shared her story in front of a live Facebook audience, who voted for her to win first place for the week (and a cash prize of $1,000). With people relating to her story, Maria progressed to the Top 10 and was then voted to join the Top 3 on stage at TLC’s first ever 15 Day Challenge Gala in November 2022.
The Gala gave Maria the opportunity to meet many of the people she had been communicating with online. She described the atmosphere of the Gala as energizing, with a sense of camaraderie among members of The 15 Day Challenge community who had showed up to cheer one another on and show their appreciation for one another. After a grand evening of celebration, the three finalists stood center-stage, waiting to see who would take home the contest’s grand prize of $25,000. Maria gasped when her name was called, seemingly shocked that people were so inspired by her story that they had named her the first winner of The 15 Day 25K Contest.
Maria’s 15 Day Challenge journey did not end at the Gala. In fact, the event was one factor that reminded her why she had signed up to be a Life Changer with TLC in October 2022: She wanted to help inspire others who were looking for guidance like she was—to connect with other people, uplift them, and help them reach their goals.
Now, she not only works as a Life Changer to introduce others to the challenge and TLC’s products, but she has inspired her son with her story; Lucas has shown pride in his mother’s accomplishments, getting excited to see pictures of her at the Gala and wear his 15 Day Challenge shirt. Maria is now a coach in The 15 Day $25K Contest Season 2 and currently has one semifinalist in the running to win $25,000!
Maria would encourage people who are new to The 15 Day Challenge to individualize the experience. “Take baby steps,” she said. “Whether that’s the number on the scale or not, you need something in your life that will make you want to do better.” She advised beginning with simple steps and progressing at your own pace, understanding your goals, using the resources available to you, and keeping a positive mindset. But the most important step of the challenge, she said, is starting. “Find something within yourself that motivates you,” she said. “You can do great things; you just have to begin. Commit for 15 days, see the results, and I promise you’ll want to commit to yourself even longer.”
*Results achieved through one or more TLC 15 Day Challenge cycles combined with a low calorie, balanced diet, and regular physical activity.
**Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person. Taking TLC Products is not a substitute for a reduced-calorie diet and exercise if you are trying to lose weight. You should always consult a physician before starting any weight loss or fitness regime.
By Morgan Brown, Creative Content Writer