Joyful and Triumphant

My good ol, faithful “highest weight pic” here on the left, was taken on stage at church camp the summer of 2014, right before I had the courage to join Anytime Fitness North Reno. (Here is the link to the original blog post I wrote back then: https://mandimonblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/update-of-the-year/ ) The picture on the right was last weekend, celebrating the holidays with my family in California.

That church camp picture was the one that pushed me. I couldn’t believe that it was me. I began my journey from that point, and over the course of 4 years, I busted my ass and lost 120lbs!

Then…I stalled and yo-yo’d. Again and again. Back and fourth in a miserable cycle of lose it and gain it. And, despite my best efforts in the gym, my food choices/emotional eating habits helped me slowly and painfully gain BACK almost 70lbs.

What followed were some absolute meltdowns. Despair, and an urge to quit fitness and feel sorry for myself. The complete DEATH of my pride. How do you lose over 100lbs and let it all start to creep back up AGAIN?

Well…I learned that it happens!!!!

LIFE HAPPENS!

And it happens a LOT.

The pursuit of health and fitness is not a simple, one-path-fits-all adventure. In fact, I can relate WAY more to people now, than I could before. I had never felt what it feels like to work so hard to get fit, only to lose it when I “know better”.

But, now I do.

As I know SO MANY other people do too!! I was surely humbled. It takes a different kind of motivation to get BACK on track and try AGAIN. I was also forced to face the fact that no amount of exercise can cure disordered eating.

So, I made the hardest decision of my life to have #vsg surgery in July, (that also DOES NOT CURE DISORDERED EATING!) but, what it has done, is helped me slowwwwww wayyyyyyy down, and given me a chance to literally rebuild my relationship with food.

I am so grateful to be fortunate enough to have access to an opportunity like that!!! It has helped me to stop sabotaging all of my hard work, and move in the right direction again.

I am officially 6 months post-op this month, and have lost 72lbs!!! Which means I have come FULL circle to where I was before, but with a whole new perspective and appreciation. My body is thanking me. My workouts are FUN again. Im feeling truly amazing and am SO grateful.

I used to think that #wls was a copout or shortcut. I was making judgements about something I knew NOTHING about. Im sharing all of this because I have always been honest about my journey, and making that decision has been one of the BEST decisions of my life.

Pride wasn’t helping me build the healthy body and lifestyle I had been working for. I am so thankful for this crazy journey Ive been on.

Had that girl on the stage at church camp in 2014 known what was ahead for her…she would NEVER have believed it!! But I AM SO PROUD OF HER FOR STARTING.

Wow. What a wild ride.

And now, with fresh gratitude, passion, and CONFIDENCE…I am ready to embrace everything that is ahead.

Bring it, 2019!

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Coldest Before the Sunrise

Two months ago I posted about my journey down a hard road that led to my decision to go ahead with gastric sleeve/weight loss surgery. Making that kind of life changing, and permanent decision was NOT easy. I was scared. Scared of the actual procedure, and doing something SO permanent to my body…and mostly, scared of what EVERYONE would think of me for making that decision. As much as I hate to admit it…the fear of letting people down, especially everyone in this fitness world I love, with people who have grown to respect me and support me whole heartedly was crippling.

Would they understand?

Will I be strong enough to persist if they dont?

But beyond my fear, there was peace. Knowing that everything I had worked for had set me up for this next step. All of the work and dedication would not be lost by finally “surrendering” to surgery…the years of hard work was preparing me for it, and setting me up for the optimum outcome, so that I COULD level up to a new season of freedom. Blogging about it, and posting it for the world to see made it official. A ceremonious show of faith. Surrendering that fear, and trusting what I KNEW was true, despite some who would disagree or be disappointed.

“Once all struggle is grasped, miracles are possible.” -Mao Zedong

A few days after that post, my whole world got turned upside down because of a video I had posted on my AF club’s Facebook page, that went crazy viral for a few weeks.

https://www.facebook.com/anytimefitnessnorthreno/videos/1828428767179406/

This video was made and posted in a moment of pure passionate impulse. My YEARS of absorbing the pain of terrible comments and the desire to protect my members from feeling that in our gym spurred me to action, and I truly DID NOT KNOW how much it would resonate with people. It was truly a miracle. I had NEVER spoken up for myself before. But I knew…if I was going to protect my members from nasty comments I HAD to have the courage to protect myself first.

Here I was, surrendering all I had to the hope of becoming something better…and within days I felt like God had taken my broken little bits of fear, shame and surrender and laid out a beautiful, mosaic path of hope, beauty and confirmation. A masterful and custom tiled path to my life’s purpose.

It wasn’t ME that made people connect to the video. It was bigger than me. It was only my willingness to speak. People connected to the pain and fear of being discounted, misunderstood and looked down upon. People connected with the intimidation of putting yourself out there, where you might be exposed and vulnerable to mockery or judgement. And people were inspired that it could happen…but you could PERSIST anyway.

It was amazing. To date, the video has reached over 500,000 people and has been shared over 3,000 times on Facebook, around the WORLD. I was asked to do interviews for the newspaper and local news. The articles multiplied overnight and so did the attention. It truly felt SURREAL to have so many people care about anything I had to say for 30 seconds, let alone for articles and interviews?! So many beautiful people reached out to me, sharing their own experiences. So many beautiful comments of love and encouragement. It was a crazy WAVE of love that came crashing out of nowhere.

Because of that video, I was also gifted with an AMAZING opportunity to go to THE MOST AMAZING wellness retreat in Northern Minnesota ( https://thepointretreats.com/) where I was fortunate to meet the MOST amazing people. I was also invited for a visit to Anytime Fitness Headquarters in Woodbury, MN, where I was treated like a queen for the day, got to chat with our MFCEO Chuck Runyon and my favorite AF rockstars, and spoiled rotten with love and support from my purple tribe.

It. Was. Unbelievable.

The whole time, being FULLY aware of my body and the space it takes up while traveling on planes by myself. The whole time, knowing my surgery was quickly approaching and how much physical, mental and spiritual work I still had ahead of me, reminding me this journey is far from over…and in some ways, just beginning. And lastly, knowing the whole time and being fully aware that for every 100 or so comments of love from sweet strangers on the internet, there was ALWAYS at least one or two mean and painful zingers, lurking from trolls and haters.

It all kept me completely anchored to humility during my little 15 minutes of fame. And in one of my many moments of panic and fear through all this, God gave me the best gift while out camping with my family and good friends.

My daughter had woken up at 4 in the morning on our last night and couldn’t get calmed down so I put her in her sleeping bag in the backseat of my car. I sat up in the front seat and we both fell back to sleep. A couple hours later I woke up because I had suddenly become CRAZY cold. I barely opened my eyes and saw that the sky was that perfect shade of blue just before the sun rises. There was a thin blanket of fog slowly rolling along the top of the lake we were camping by. It was one of those quiet moments early in the morning where you feel you’re the only person alive in the world. As I sat up and started pulling my arms into my sweatshirt to warm up, something my dad always used to say to us growing up, taking us fishing popped into my head.

“It’s always coldest just before the sunrise.”

As soon as I heard that I stopped.

I knew.

As cheesy as it sounds, I knew in that moment everything would be ok. All of the hard times, humiliation, shame, disappointment, embarrassment, doubt and fear would pass. I knew that it was not in vain. My body has served a bigger purpose, even in a state that I would not have expected.

Nothing is wasted.

Because, its always the coldest…just before sunrise.

You cant appreciate freedom without knowing the pain of bondage…and sometimes we all feel bound in bodies that we dont feel free to love.

It takes intentional WORK to appreciate what our bodies DO for us everyday, despite what they LOOK like. But that consistent work, leads to freedom.

When I first began this blog, I had no idea the journey I was starting. I had no idea fitness and exercise would become a LOVE and passion. I had no idea that I could be so surprised and honored by what my body was capable of. I had no idea how that would begin to build a magical, force-field of confidence that would spill over into all the areas of my life. It has changed me as a mom, a wife, sister, daughter and friend. It has changed my heart and my mind. It has given me the courage to take care of myself, and put myself and my health FIRST, in ways I never have before. Which is how I ended up choosing to have a drastic surgery, that would restore my stomach back to a size its supposed to be.

Of course, as I completed all the steps, and jumped through all the hoops required by my insurance and the reality of this surgery drew nearer, I prayed for confirmation that I was making the right decision. It came in an email that I received saying I was approved for surgery on my birthday, July 6th.

BIRTHday.

This whole process has been labor. Making a life change IS hard work. Changing the way you eat is hard. Starting to workout and exercise is HARD. And if you dont quit when it gets hard, you’ll find that it is A LOT like laboring and birthing a new YOU.

My surgery was a success. My surgeon said it only took 30 min to complete the procedure, and told us that he believed I did and would do SO well because of all the hard work Ive already done over these years, and will continue to do.

The biggest judgment and misconception I had about the surgery before, and the stigma I will fight now, (and probably fight forever!) is that this choice was a “cheat” or “cop out”. That could NOT be further from the truth. This has been WAY harder than I ever thought, and the next phase of work is JUST beginning!! I still have to WORK in order to continue towards my goals, despite what most people think. It has been a long journey to get here…but I do feel like the sun is starting to rise now.

*****THANK YOU******

To my Husband, squad, family and friends who have been here for me during this past 6 months….you’ll never know the depth of my gratitude, and what it has meant to me to have the unwavering support I’ve had to be able to do this. You KNOW who you are. Thank you.

Begin Again

It’s November in Northern Nevada and the weather has just started getting wet and cranky.  I’m standing outside my gym in the rain.  My body is hot, and I can see steam floating up off my arms as I lean against the wet wall and let allow myself 1 minute to cry.  I had been pushing all of my built up emotions down and down and down, as far as I could, throughout the whole workout.  I finally had to step out so that I wouldn’t choke on my own feelings lodged in my throat.  “1 minute, that’s all you get.” I tell myself.

Pushing yourself physically in a workout will ALWAYS break down those walls we work so hard to put up.  It exposes you, makes you feel vulnerable and you cannot hide.  That is part of why working out is so uncomfortable for most people at first, and we don’t like to do it!   But eventually, it turns into a magical, victorious, HIGH, that us weird fitness people chase like a drug.  That feeling when you’ve conquered the initial discomfort and you start to feel stronger, faster, BETTER. Suddenly there is NOTHING you cant face out in the world, once you’ve faced yourself in the gym.

Fitness magic.

But…starting over is SO HARD.

“I am so tired of feeling this way.  Is this ALWAYS going to be how it feels?  Why did I do this to myself? Why did I stop??!  Will I ever get where I want to be?” I think to myself, as I struggle to catch my breath.

So MANY valid excuses…that mean absolutely NOTHING in this moment, because I feel defeated and robbed of all my confidence I had worked so hard for.    I lean over with my hands on my knees. I take in deep breaths and let the rain fall on my back, and my mind race.  Tears rolling down my face.   “Here I am, eating my own words.” I say out loud to no one, and laugh.

I stand up, wipe my face with shirt and head back in to the session to finish, because even though I fell off my wagon for a bit, I CANNOT quit.  Too many people are counting on me to BELIEVE in what I talk about everyday.

So here I am, walking my talk.

My 9 year old daughter has been asking everyone in our family if she is fat.

It’s been very subtle, but I have discovered that she has been privately polling multiple family members at different times and it shatters my heart.  She is NOT fat, though I know there have been kids at school who have called her fat, and she has become sensitive to it.  I recognize those feeling all too well.

I worry, is it because of ME? Because her mom is in THIS body? And her mom was in another body before that? And working on another body still?  Has she, despite my best efforts, inherited my shame?  Has her being present and aware of my weight loss journey/body image journey/self acceptance journey, done the opposite of what I had hoped? I wanted to show her that despite everything and ANYTHING, I am capable of AWESOME…so that she could KNOW that she is too?

Even just typing this, I can feel my insides start to ache with the thoughts of her not knowing how beautiful and magical she is.

I watch her when she doesn’t know I’m  looking, and wonder how I made this human.  Her little 9 year old girl face. Her nose is freckled like mine.  Her hair is thick, blond and short. She likes it just long enough to tuck behind her ears.  She is a tomboy who loves to fight and wrestle and get dirty.  She LOVES karate.  She hates pink and loves black and green.  But she also thinks boys are SO CUTE (especially Justin Bieber and her 20 year old karate instructor, AJ).

She is in love with love.  She thinks shes going to grow up and marry her dad.  She loves to hug and kiss and crawl ALL over us, and declare her love for everyone, much to the dismay of her big brother.  She’s obsessed with all kinds of animals (except creepy crawly ones) and her heart is so tender,  she cries instantly if an animal is lost, hurt or wounded in movies.  She loves to crank her music up and sing at the top of her lungs…but gets embarrassed and shrinks all the way down to the floor if she catches us listening.  She loves to laugh.  Once she starts up its hard to get her to settle down.

She is our favorite girl in the world!! My ladybug.

And some asshole kid called her fat?

Who could ever know the depths of how wonderful she is just by looking at her?

But isn’t that true for all of us? How do we so quickly forget that we are harboring all the BEST parts of ourselves inside of these bodies, and not the other way around??

Coming home from our conference in September was a climatic whirlwind. There was an overload of praise, contentment, pride and satisfaction with ALL THE THINGS!! And there was also recovery from being dehydrated,  and off of my regular routine of steady workouts and usual diet.   I happily let myself enjoy it ALL, and honestly never quite made it back to “normal” before going on another trip and adding insult to injury.  Slowly and surely I started to make excuse after excuse and feel like crap.  Days turned into weeks, weeks turn into months and lbs turn into more lbs. I gained some weight back, and started to spiral downward and feel out of control and lose heart.

The good news is, it is my job everyday at my club, to convince people that no matter how far they have fallen off the wagon…they can get back up and try again. It is my job to assure people that even though it SUCKS in the beginning…it turns into magic when you start to love yourself.  It is also my job to continue to KEEP IT REAL. All along, sharing this journey, with all of its ups and downs.

And my most IMPORTANT job, is showing my little girl that my value as a woman is not defined by the state of my body, but the state of my heart!

So, I had to begin again.

And, however many times I have to start over, I will. Again and again, I HAVE TO. Because I have to show my girl that there is so much more that makes a person special than what their body looks like!!

And, for those of us who continue to get back up and keep trying, despite seeing the results we want to see immediately, and despite all of the doubts, fears and setbacks…KEEP GOING.

Push through, until it is magic again.

Reblog: Water Weight

This was a post from last summer. I found that revisiting it this afternoon put a little bounce in my step and reminded me that big girls are allowed to enjoy summer too. Check out my point of view:

https://mandimonblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/water-weight/

A Summer Prayer

 

If fire is honor, then we’ll stand and let it burn.

Hot and loud as it calms into a deep burning midnight.

Popping and clapping its truths.

Glowing red and warm; a blanket of appreciation.

Shadows of flames dancing on our faces as we gather around and listen.

 

If water is pure,

let us strip off these pretenses and plunge in.

Washing away all of the expectations.

Easing the heavy weight from our bones, bathing us fresh and new.

 

If the earth is nakedness,

let us run.

Let us take to the fields and carry ourselves to the edges of sight.

Let us stomp our feet in the dust,
to the sound of drums.
Dancing unashamed.

Like the children who still live hidden away
under the layers piled on our hearts.

Let us uncover these wounds and expose them to the open air for healing.

 

If the stars are mystery,

let us follow their lead.

Surrendering our proud explanations and false humility.

Gazing upon the vastness and treasuring the wonder that we are so eager to dismiss.

 

If the moon is lonely,

let us be a friend.

Let us set ourselves aside and turn our faces toward each other.

Let us see what we don’t want to see.

Let us forgive and be forgiven.

 

If the sun is victory,

let it burn brilliant and forever.

Let us turn our faces upward in unison to soak up the radiance that is promised.

Let us lift our hands together in thanks.

Like warriors,
moments away from an earned homecoming.

Finishing strong and whole.

 

 

 

Artistry

So jealous of your art.

Your music.

Your fashion and style.

Artistry.

Creating.

Beautiful people are everywhere.

Very, everywhere.

I want to join you.

Strumming heartache.

Painting wanting.

Writing courage.

Dancing victory.

Singing regret.

Created for expression, but I’m only good at watching.

So, watch I will and learn how to report what I’ve seen.

What I’ve learned.

What I’ve lost.

What I’ve dreamed.

These are all offerings,

of moments that only exist in our hearts now.

They can never happen again.

There is only today.

So throw open the windows and draw in deep.

The day the Lord has made is yours and free for the taking.

Take it and run like hell.

Like hell is chasing you down and grabbing for your clothes.

Just behind you, with the proof of your failure in its clutches.

Talons of doubts swiping at your back.

Running still.

This will be the chapter of persistence.

And the art it will inspire will be worth the pain.

 

 

 

 

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New landscapes

There is much to be said about clutter and disorganization in your home having a direct correlation to your physical and mental health.  The internet is ripe with articles and testimonials about this phenomenon. Today, I was sitting in my backyard trying to have a clear and meditative moment when I decided that this was true.

My back yard looks like a desert wasteland.  You almost expect to see Mel Gibson dressed as Mad Max come walking around the corner of the house, covered with dust and scouring the land for supplies.  It’s embarrassing.   My husband and I joke about this to our friends but it is mostly to cover up the shame we both feel about having let it all go back there.  We have kids and a dog and Game of Thrones, obviously making yard work low on our priority list.  Its more like we warn people before they peek out the window.  We care about what our space and habitat looks like because it says a lot about who we are.  We are FAR from fancy but we try to make a good impression by sprucing and cleaning.  We want anyone who comes into our home to feel comfortable and welcome.  The success of Pinterest proves that we are a generation obsessed with cheap and easy DIY fixes for the home. We want to paint and spruce and decorate so that we feel “acceptable”.

It’s not that different from how we dress ourselves.   We primp and fuss with our hair and makeup, especially if we have somewhere special to be.  Clothes, shoes, bags and other accessories.  Women are known for paying attention to detail.  Lots of men are just as fussy about the way they look as us ladies are.  It’s just a necessary evil right?  We spend so much time showering, sugar scrubbing, shaving, lotioning and dressing.  Brushing, curling, straightening and spraying.  Blending, concealing, highlighting, and glossing.  Finally, we look in the mirror and survey if we are ready to leave the house.  Are we acceptable to be seen?  To step out in the marketplace and participate in life?   Even though these painted versions of ourselves aren’t truly who we are, they make us feel good enough about ourselves to go ahead and try.  We head out the door to conquer our day and the first time someone tells us we look nice we immediately say,”NOOOOOOOOOOOO.  No I don’t, I’m gross. But thank you.”  We mustn’t believe anyone when they actually compliment us, right?

If you busted your ass gutting out your back yard and pulling weeds and planting new sod you wouldn’t dismiss someone telling you how great it looked!  Why?!  Because you KNOW IT LOOKS GOOD GURRRL.  YOU WORKED HARD! It paid of and now you can take a deep breath, open a cold bottle of beer and enjoy.  Doesn’t that feel good?  To have gratitude for a nice space to sit and make memories in?  What in THE WORLD would happen if we treated our bodies the same way?  Like a sacred space, to enjoy sitting in and making memories with?

Looking around my yard and then my home I realized that in the same way I had kind of given up on my appearance because of not feeling good about myself…I had kind of done the same to my space.   Why has this evaded me?  Has there just been a massive point of no return?  Where I have given up caring about not only my body and how I can dress it…but it seems also my home and yard with it?

What would happen if I gave up fighting with myself this summer about how much I weigh, how I look or what im gonna wear and devoted all of that energy instead to rolling up my sleeves and cleaning up and fussing on this home that I have been graciously given?  What if my physical, emotional and spiritual self transformed in direct correlation to my feeling good about my living space as it had the other way around?

Am I crazy?

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Let’s dig deeper?

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“Confidence is the only key. I know a lot of people who aren’t traditionally ‘beautiful’ — not symmetrical or perfect-bodied or perfect-skinned. But none of that matters because all that shines through is their confidence, humor and comfort with themselves. I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself.” –Emma Stone

Unafraid to be herself?

When I read this quote it really struck me. I love Emma Stone. She is so cute and funny, it seemed perfect that she was the one who had said these words. This in fact is the one thing almost everyone agrees is the single thing that is attractive in another human being. Seemingly, not directly based directly on how someone looks. Is confidence REALLY the key?

What about the very fine line between confidence and arrogance? When is it genuine vs. put on? How do we learn these things, then teach them to our kids?

Confidence?

I guess today I’m not writing a blog post as much as I feel I might be researching for a juicy one!

What makes you feel confident?

Is there a time when your confidence was shining through?

How do we gain this?

What are your thoughts??

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Water weight

I don’t know any large people who enjoy summer.

I make a genuine attempt but it might be in vain.

For most of us, there is the issue of clothing. Some people are trapped in long shirts and pants all summer long because they don’t feel comfortable enough to wear shorts (luckily for me, I have no shame when it comes to this and wear shorts despite the way my legs look. I choose comfort!). This is problematic because of sweating and general discomfort. Also, shorts require shaved legs…this can be quite the arobic activity. Figure that one out.

With big heavy clothes covering a big heavy body you become a walking furnace…beading constantly with sweat. Any attempts at fixing hair or make-up is futile. All efforts are guaranteed to melt away. A fat woman in the summer lives in a constant dampened state where her hair and face are in danger of becoming a frizzy and smeared mess. Making dressing up for a date night or wedding a nightmare to be avoided at all costs.

Then there is the bathing suit dilemma…this seems to be a hot button issue for all human beings but particularly for the over-weight person. Is there anything more exposing than what you wear to go swimming? I’m of the t-shirt/sports-bra/cotton shorts camp. It “suits” me well. (Yikes! I couldn’t help myself.)

Summer isn’t ALL bad !? There is the upside of summer fruit. I love the endless options of ice cold watermelon, berries, pineapple, grapes…WHATEVER. I love them all. I buy so much fruit in the summer I feel like a roman empress. It’s almost shameful.

But there is something very magical that happens in the life of every over-weight person in the summer (if they are comfortable enough to allow themselves to GET IN and enjoy it). A single activity that we can participate in during the HOT summer months that allows the body to feel free and light.

Swimming. It is glorious.

I have spent the weekend swimming with my husband and siblings and playing non-stop with my kids.
Our skin is tight, toasted and freckled from the sun.
Our eyes are tender, recovering from all the chlorine exposure.
Our hair is a mess of tangles.
Our sleep has been deep. The kind of sweet sleep that only comes from very hard work or play.

Summer for this family is in full swing. Despite spending another summer being big…feeling miserably hot and sweaty I want to make the most of it. I want to have all my weekends leaving me feeling this abundantly full and blessed. Drowsy from fun with loved ones. Laughing and playing.

So often, I am watching them and cheering on from the sidelines…so when I get to be in the pool with them, I feel like the best mother in America. Like I get to make up for all the other times I’m not able to.

I can feel and bend and maneuver myself in ways that are near impossible outside of the water. It brings so much relief. An escape, albeit short-lived, from bearing the literal weight of myself.

Now, back to the Monday morning grind…learning how to unload the weight of my figurative self. I wish it were as easy as slipping into a pool of cool water.

From the mouths of babes…

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Yesterday I was informed that an article I was interviewed for was published. This is supposed to be GOOD news right? I found myself with a mixture of emotions.
My husband insisted that we pick up actual copies. Reluctantly I surrendered. He came home with the newspapers and I was nervous as I picked one up to flip to the story I was a part of.
Stopped immediately to notice a thumbnail photo of me standing between the other two ladies was on the COVER.
Heart sinking.
Flipping to the feature, I was met with a large, round familiar face staring up at me from the pages. The article is huge. Which should be a celebration. Two pages filled with wonderful content about the workshop I got to be part of and even a little shout out to my blog. All of this new, fresh and exciting to which I exclaimed,” Ugh. Nasty.”
My husband rolled his eyes. He is used to my self abuse.
But then something worse happened.
My son came up to me from the other room with his eyes fixed on my picture on the paper page and yelled,” Wow! My mommy is on a magazine! Why is it nasty mom?”

Stunned.

What is wrong with me?!

I pulled myself together and smoothed it over so that he didn’t know that I was referring to my picture. I wanted to let him be proud of me. That is an appropriate response. I am the one who is sick and insecure. I wrestled with it all night. Back and fourth. Imagining the comments that might be said when people look upon my picture. Kind of regretting ever have posing for it. Praying to just go ahead and let what is, be.

I woke up this morning and I BELIEVE God put this blog post on my news feed. It speaks for itself…PLEASE READ. It says everything.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/wellbeing/8760102/When-your-mother-says-shes-fat

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