Thriving Outside the Box with Connie, an ER Doctor and Mom

September 23, 2021

Thrive Market is more than an online grocery store; it’s a community of over 1 million members and 500 employees with their own unique stories. Our members are parents and teachers, first responders and climate activists, artists and athletes—all doing healthy their way. We thought it was time to celebrate them, so welcome to Thriving Outside the Box: a series that puts our members in the spotlight and shares the inspiring, real-life stories that bring us together.

As an emergency room physician in the Kaiser healthcare system in southern California, Connie has been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every day, she sees patients suffering from the disease, and provides crucial care in a time of crisis.

It was during the height of the pandemic in 2020 that she learned about Thrive Market’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, which offered financial support and grocery stipends to frontline workers She applied for and received a complimentary membership through Thrive Gives, a program that offers a free Thrive Market membership to deserving individuals and families for every paid membership. 

A Thrive Gives Member Gives Back

Connie says that being able to get healthy, high-quality groceries delivered (while avoiding potential COVID exposure at the store) was invaluable to her during the pandemic. In true healthcare hero fashion, she paid it forward by sending Thrive Market care packages to her friends and family during those many months apart, helping her parents stay healthy while avoiding crowds at the grocery and stocking the pantries of friends recovering from COVID.

“I wanted to send [my parents] supplements and healthy snacks that I knew they would never get for themselves,” Connie shares. “It was fun for them to get these care packages from Thrive Market delivered, and they felt safe not having to leave the house.”

Connie’s care packages weren’t just practical—they were a gesture of love during a difficult time. “When my friends and family received the care packages, they absolutely loved it,” Connie goes on. “It was a surprise to get that big green box and open it up. It was a bit uplifting in a darker moment for them.”

Despite all she witnessed during the last year and a half, including her first-hand experience with the pandemic’s heaviest toll, Connie maintains her optimism as she strives to set a positive example for her daughter. “I think she feels proud,” Connie says. “She knows that I’m considered a frontline worker and sees the routine I go through to go to work and the extra steps [my colleagues and I] take to protect our families.”

When we paid Connie and her family a (vaccinated, masked, and socially distanced) visit at their home in Hermosa Beach, COVID cases in the Los Angeles area were on the rise, fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant and stoking fears about a possible return to 2020 restrictions. Yet as a rambunctious dog—who joined the family during the pandemic, of course—romped playfully underfoot and Connie’s daughter studied a workbook in preparation for starting fourth grade this fall, Connie spoke hopefully about the future. “It’s going to take some time to get to a place where we’re going to be able to return to normal life,” she says, “but there is light at the end of the tunnel and we will get through this.”

Read on to learn about how Thrive Market helps fuel a frontline healthcare worker, so she can uplift others. 

Tell us a little bit about your job as an ER doctor. What was it like working in a hospital during the height of the pandemic?

I’ve been practicing emergency medicine since 2006, so it’s been about 15 years now, but this last year and a half has definitely been different and challenging.

Although we all still felt like we were just going to work, we had to put on a lot more protective gear and the stress levels were definitely much higher. It was hard to see people going through a pandemic, getting infected at crazy rates. People who would have been otherwise healthy and young, falling ill and seeing them at first sight and knowing that they were probably not going to make it out of the hospital.

Now it’s a different feeling. It has gone from fear and stress through a phase of just feeling very disheartened, especially with how long the whole pandemic has lasted. And now there is a touch of frustration with the current situation, but still not giving up hope as there are more vaccines and medications and trials coming out to help treat people, so there will be an end of the road.

What was it like for you to shop for groceries before you belonged to Thrive Market?

I’d have to go all over the place. I would go to certain markets for certain things. If I wanted my Asian groceries, I would go to H Mart. If I wanted more natural foods, I’d go to Whole Foods. For quick stuff I’d go to Trader Joe’s as well. But I’d have to drive all over town to get everything that I would want. I’d spend 40 minutes just on the drive alone, and then maybe another 20 to 30 minutes in the store.

Thrive Market is able to combine a lot of those things for me, especially when I am running short on time or busy, and I can just click and have the box delivered to our house instead.

How does your Thrive Market membership support your healthy lifestyle?

We’re cooking and eating so much better. My husband picked up road cycling [during the pandemic] and ended up losing 20 pounds. He’s down to his college weight with this pandemic! I think the combination of maintaining good physical activity as well as a much healthier diet, which Thrive Market contributed to—that actually was an added bonus to what we were going through.

Taking care of yourself in all regards is of utmost importance right now, and anything we can do to prevent sickness or injury, whether that be mental or physical, or just to offset it for now, for future, for our kids, is going to have to take a top priority. Thrive Market, with their social mission, does a very, very good job of supporting those values. We need more companies like that.

When it comes to shopping for groceries and other essentials, what’s most important to you?

[Ours] is a household with children in it and I like to give them the best chance of living a clean lifestyle as I can from the beginning. The values that I shop most often on Thrive Market are clean products: organic and non-GMO foods and household products that are free of chemicals that are potentially toxic, such as parabens and synthetic fragrances.

What’s always in your Thrive Market box?

We buy a lot of pantry items and dry goods, so we have the collagen powders, the protein powders. I buy a lot of vitamins. There’s a lot of healthy snacks that I like to try as well. Thrive Market has an amazing selection of snacks; each time I make a purchase, I will order a few just so I can try different, interesting-sounding things that I would have never found on my own before.

My daughter’s favorite items from Thrive Market are the snacks. Her favorite item right now is the Good Crisp Company potato chips that taste like Pringles, but are healthier.

What does a day of cooking and eating look like in your household now?

We have a pretty busy household, so breakfasts are usually a quick smoothie. It’s what I call my rainbow smoothie, where I put all the colors in and then I will supplement it with ground flaxseed or collagen powder or protein powders, a lot of which I get from Thrive Market. Lunches are pretty light. Dinners are usually home-cooked meals with some rice, fresh veggies that are stir-fried, and a meat and veggie dish. A lot of our meals are made at home. We eat mostly Asian foods, so I go to the Asian market to get produce. 

“Healthy” means something different to everyone, and we’re on a mission to help people do healthy their way. What does “healthy” mean to you?

Healthy living is more of an all-encompassing lifestyle. I believe it’s not just the fuel that you put in your body, but also how you use that fuel. So keeping good care of your body, exercising it, keeping it in good shape so it can fight off other things, like infections, but also injuries. 

It’s also what you put in your home. So the household products, the cleaners that you use, other products that you use at home. And then also taking care of your work/life balance and your mental health, especially in a challenging year [like we’ve just had].

It’s obviously been an incredibly challenging year and a half; have you learned any lessons you’re grateful for or discovered any silver linings?

I’ve learned to be so grateful for the relationships I have with family and friends. I’ve become much closer with my family since we had to stay at home all the time together, and I’ve become even more appreciative of close family and friends who have helped us fill our cups. And also at the same time, [taking] away some of the more draining relationships. Quality over quantity!

This interview has been edited and condensed.  

If you or someone you know would benefit from a complimentary Thrive Market membership through Thrive Gives, click here to apply.

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Thrive Gives

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Kirby Stirland

Kirby Stirland is a writer, editor, and New York transplant living in Los Angeles.

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