Big Girl Job

When I started my blog five years ago, I never would’ve dreamed my writing would be lucky enough to be featured on anything bigger than my own dang Facebook page, let alone shared by anyone else!

This month I got the honor and privilege of getting to write for the Anytime Fitness employee dashboard about what it might be like for those who may have just started their fitness journeys in January. To help give coaches a peek at what its like on the “other side”.

HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!! 😍💘

Of course, my post was LONG WINDED.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I get REAL passionate, and my posts can be long. On a personal blog where I have no boundaries, its easy to do! So I got to learn how/practice how to take my idea and condense it in a way that was easier for peeps to read and apply. It was such an amazing opportunity to have a “big girl” writing assignment about something I’m passionate about, for a company Im obsessed to be working for.

So I thought I would still post my original piece here, in my own little blog world, where it can live forever as a part of my writing/fitness journey, forever and ever, amen.

“A Gym Newbie’s Perspective”

I was asked recently, “What was the ONE THING you experienced in the gym that made you keep coming back after you first joined?” After some thought I replied, “a sense of belonging.”

Despite the obvious feels that we know a newbie might have their first few weeks in the gym, there’s one feeling that stands out to me as being the most crippling to someone who is trying to embark on a healthy lifestyle change; and that is loneliness.

For someone like me who had 100+ pounds to lose, or someone who might have other health concerns that seem overwhelming, feeling alone can make a hard job seem impossible. I truly believe it is the most important thing to remember when you’re sitting across the table from a new member, for the first time.

In the Gym

The first way people can feel lonely is just learning how to navigate inside the gym! This one is obvious, but even if they’ve had a detailed tour and amazing FC with their new coach, new members can still feel unsure of where to begin and probably won’t ask until they feel “safe”.

They will stick with what is the least likely to draw any attention or eyeballs.

One of my biggest fears when I joined was that someone was going to be filming me and my body, without my knowledge and post it online. I was terrified to become a “gym fail” video. That is a very REAL fear for new peeps, and something that I try hard not to re-post or give a spotlight to on my social media, no matter how funny they are.

Working hard to create a club culture that is warm, welcoming, and inclusive to everyone is what makes Anytime Fitness so special! The community vibe we all strive for is what helps people feel like they are in a safe place and that they belong…and when they relax in that, they can get to work!

In Their Social Circle

The second way people can feel lonely as they embark on their new health and fitness journey, is within their social groups and families.

Breaking away from bad habits and trying to create a new heathy lifestyle can feel ESPECIALLY lonesome if you’re the only one in your family or friend group committed to making changes. It can feel overwhelming and exhausting to stay strong when the people you love can be sabotaging you, without even realizing it.

From time to time, it’s easy to identify an unsupportive spouse, or jealous and nay-saying friends. But one of the hardest things new peeps will have to learn to face is themselves. Often, eating and sharing a meal with loved ones is THE last social activity overweight and/or obese people can participate in. It’s MORE than just food. If someone has reached a point, like I had, where they cannot join in many of the other activities that make them feel connected to others as a human…breaking bread is all they feel they’ve got left.  This has been the hardest part for me to re-learn.  Giving up certain foods or learning moderation does not affect my connection with others, but this takes time, practice and climbing back up on the wagon…again and again.

In Their Own Skin

The last and most important way people can feel lonely as they start their fitness journey is actually in their own skin.  I had spent so much time disconnecting my mind from my body, trying to ignore how bad I had allowed myself to become. When I finally began to workout with my trainer, having to learn how to connect with and be aware of my body to move it was painfully humiliating at first! Being the size that I was, and not knowing how to properly dress my body for the work I was asking it to do, took time and confidence. There were many times my shirt would roll up and my belly would be exposed, or my pants wouldn’t cooperate and roll down…I was a hot mess.  Luckily, she was always quick to modify what she was asking me to do so that I wouldn’t get frustrated and want to quit. Over time, I lost some weight and built the confidence that I needed to finally start to feel comfortable and less lonely in my skin.  I’m so grateful for those who took the time to care, coach and connect with me.  It changed my life forever!

So, if there’s one thing I hope you can take away from my experiences, as your schedule is likely filled with back to back appointments, consultations, and sessions and you feel your energy starting to dip…please remember that the person sitting across from you might be feeling the loneliest they’ve ever felt in their whole life, but have been brave enough to show up.  Giving you the opportunity of a lifetime!

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Trolled

After Thanksgiving, and a string of crappy weeks in the fall, I decided to climb back onto the wagon with a BANG, and challenge myself to finish 2017 stronger than ever!

I started a “35 days of gainz” challenge on social media, and invited my Anytime Fitness members to join me, (as well as my coworkers and friends and anybody else who was feeling inspired) to try to attempt to complete one work out a day, every day, until the very end of the year.

It could be as little as taking a quick walk around the block with your dog, or a full on, metabolic “burn-down-the-house” kind of workout! Either way, I was committing to making sure that my body was up, moving around, being active, every single day…till the new year.

It has been an amazing, but challenging feat, but as I write this I am proud to say that I have already done my workout for day 22, of 35. (With 13 days left to go!) I have lost 7 pounds, but the greatest part of all, is that I feel BACK in action!! My slump that I fell into is ancient history, and I love feeling active, and alive again! #FitnessMagic!

Amiright?!??

LOSING weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas??

Cray.

Im feeling myself.

Im walking taller.

Ive got my bounce back in my step.

Im feeling strong, and confident once more, trusting this darn process, and chasing after my best self.

And then it happened.

One of my amazing Team Mates posted a VERY sweet shout out to me on our gym Facebook page, and within seconds, some random dude (not even a member) had posted this comment.

I quickly hid it so that no one could see it, and think that this was how anyone at our gyms behaves or treats people. (Because its 1,000% NOT!)

Now I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. For the first few seconds it literally stung my face as I read it, but I let it dissolve and I just shook my head, because unfortunately this is the kind of thing that happens to us big girls (and dudes!)

All. The. Time.

You CAN NOT POSSIBLY assume to know what kind of journey someone is on, just by looking at them. In fact, one of the MOST wild things I have learned on my fitness journey, is that no matter what size you are, (whether you’re starting out 200lbs overweight like me, or you’re looking like the most fit person in the gym, cutting weight for a bodybuilding show) we all struggle with the very same exact body image issues, fears and doubts in our minds.

The reason I decided to share this here on my blog, is because I want you guys to know that we CANNOT be derailed by ANYTHING or ANYONE.

This could have triggered me, and set me on a downward spiral for weeks if I had allowed it to plant a seed in my heart, and let that old voice start to speak to me again.

Instead, I TOLD myself the TRUTH:

*I have just worked out 22 days in a row!

*I’ve lost over hundred pounds, and and am working on at least 80 more to lose! While getting stronger and faster every damn day.

*I’m actually the CLUB MANAGER of one of the best Anytime Fitness locations in the whole country, on the baddest ass team of people, (who LOST IT when they saw this comment…let me tell you) who have my back and wont EVER let me quit!

*I have the most wonderful, loving husband who has loved me even before I could love myself. We have a beautiful, active family! I am richly blessed!

*I REPRESENT SO MANY OF MY BEAUTIFUL MEMBERS. I can NOT allow one ignorant comment to wilt my resolve. My people are counting on me to show them that we are strong enough to withstand any road block, even fat shaming!

We are NOT what others THINK we are.

Do NOT listen to the voices of fear and doubt.

SPEAK truth to yourself instead.

Raise your forks with me, to 2018!!!!

Its going to be a HELL of a year!!!

Fat Chick at a Fitness Conference 

Last week I was on a once in a lifetime trip to New York for the annual Anytime Fitness conference.

I say again, F-I-T-N-E-S-S conference.

Never in my wildest daydreams would I have ever thought that this would be my life. And certainly people who’ve known me a long time would agree. It’s wild times for me, for sure. When I first started this blog in 2013 I was so lost. I had no ideas about where I was headed. All I knew is that I was in pain and writing helped. I knew I needed to change, but I did not know how or where to start.
Fast forward to September 2016, and here is my view from the lodge I stayed at in Lake Placid…as a fitness professional.

What do I want to say about my experience last week?
How do I begin? Where do I start?
Do I start with the amazing and surreal sights and sounds of my 24 hours in New York City, before we headed up state?
Do I dig deep into my wanna-be-writer soul and try to describe how magical and soul stirring it was to be in the Olympic village at Lake Placid, where our conference was held? In the actual ice rink where the “miracle on ice” happened in 1980, one of the biggest sports upsets of all time?
Do I start with the intense gratitude I have for my boss’s, my team, my gym members, my friends, my family, my babies and my husband??? For everything everyone’s done to provide for me, inspire me, push me and encourage me to get to this awesome point in time of my life?
No.
I’ll start with the REAL, less impressive, corners of my heart. That place deep down in the bellows of your guts that threatens to show up and ruin everything you’ve worked hard for with just a few seeds of doubt and shame. Yes, I’ll start there. Because it doesn’t matter where I’m at, or what I’m doing…when the mind starts traveling down that road of negative thinking, nothing else matters. And I know we’ve all been there.

You see, I’m still fat. Forget that I’ve lost 111lbs. To people who don’t know me, I’m still obese. 310 pounds is still ALOT. And that’s the number I carried around with me, and stuffed into airplane seats and restaurant chairs and yoga workout pants while I was gone.
My body is in this weird, middle earth realm of being smaller, stronger and more effiencient…but also (with weight still to lose) still big, and jiggly.  And with the weight loss I’ve had, I’m starting to have skin droop and sag. It’s just the way it is.  There’s no getting around that, I’d rather have that to deal with then where I was at before.

I know it’s TMI, but I’m just keeping it real people. This is the real life account of my “extreme weight loss” and it’s not all unicorns and rainbows!! Some of this is really weird and hard and I understand now why it must take so long to truly transform!! It is a grueling process and the mind takes time to catch up with the changes of your body and vice versa.

Ultimately, my goal is health and FEELING good, and be able to actively live my life.  So, the cosmetic stuff doesn’t really bother me.  Especially when I’m in my bubble where everyone knows me!

Here at home, everyone at our gyms knows ME. They know my story.  They’ve seen me work out.  They know what I’m capable of, and I walk around with complete confidence in my leadership there.  That is why I was unprepared for how my insecurity would start to creep in and feel at our conference.

Being in a group of hundreds (at least 1,000?) trainers and fitness professionals who didn’t know me left me feeling pretty vulnerable.  But I know better!!! I kept telling myself that this is what all of these people are passionate about! Not one person was rude to me or weird to me! The battle was all within my head.  Which leads me to my triumphant moment friends.  You knew there would be one!

The Saturday afternoon before we left, there was a group workout planned so that we could attempt to break three world records. The records we attempted were the most people doing a simultaneous 1 minute plank, 1 minute of squats and 1 minute of jumping jacks.  The squats and the planks I was not worried about.  But I have NEVER done unmodofied jumping jacks becuase I can’t jump on my feet! The pounding is too hard and my body so heavy.  But, in order to qualify for the world record, each person has to do a perfect, unmodofied version of each exercise without stopping for the full minute.

It was a conundrum.

I DID NOT WANT TO DO THIS.  I was silently agonizing over having to do it.  Worried I would fail miserably.  Do I sit out? Do I let my team down and refuse to do this workout that will surely end in my shame and humiliation? Do I surrender to that nagging negative voice that had been pestering me the whole time we were there, saying you DONT BELONG HERE?

Well first of all, my team wouldn’t have let me sit out so that wasn’t an option.  And secondly, I thought about all of my people!! All of my members at my gym at home who love me and whom I feel in some small way I represent.  I decided I’d try my best for THEM.  And so I did. And you know what? I was able to do all three.


LONGEST three minutes of my life, but I did it.  I could do it all along.  And in that three minutes it didn’t matter what my body looks like or all my dumb feelings…all I knew is that I had DONE THE THING.

One of the best feelings of my life, I’ll never forget it.  I was so proud of myself for not surrending to that old mindset that would have robbed me of being a part of breaking world records with my team.  After the workout, the trainer who was leading us from up front ran down to the grass and created a huddle with us all around.  He yelled,”Do you feel that?! This is why we do what we do. It’s magical! It’s tangible!” And I broke down and finally cried.

But, tears of joy!

It doesn’t matter who knows what about me.  I know how far I’ve come and am excited about where I’m going.  And it’s been announced that next years conference is in Palm Springs. 🙂

Fat Chick Attempting Yoga: Part 2

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I just mopped my kitchen floor without having to take a break. Just months ago it hurt my lower back so bad I would have to sit and rest. As would doing a full sink of dishes, or chopping onions, garlic and veggies for meals. I somehow managed to get stuff done, but I was a hot mess, constantly covered in sweat and headed for bigger disaster.

Confession: during this dark season, I squandered my time home with my baby girl before she began kindergarten. (That’s probably why the day she started school was such a turning point for me.) I would bustle about half asleep making breakfast and lunches and send my son off to school, only to close the door and let Disney Junior raise her for a few hours while I flopped myself onto the couch under a blanket to sleep until lunchtime. I will regret it for the rest of my life, the time I robbed myself and my kids from having a functional mommy. The time I robbed from my husband, being lazy while he had no choice but to go to work to provide for us, trusting that I was holding down the fort.

My everyday life was plagued with pain and feelings of despair. I truly hated who I was and what I had become. I began this blog as a means to sift through my feelings of depression and DO SOMETHING about it. I also wanted people to know that this is REAL life…let’s be honest about this stuff!! Why are we all pretending to have it together???! My blog became my prayer journal. I’ve wrestled through a lot on these pages…I never thought I’d really see a day when the energy would shift.

Two years ago I tried yoga for the first time and the experience was…well…memorable.

(you can read that post here: https://mandimonblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/fat-chick-attempting-yoga-part-1/ )

But now, after 5 months of balanced eating (still learning!) and almost daily workouts, I’ve been feeling so good…I decided to try it again.

40 pounds lost sure doesn’t seem to be showing quite yet on my body, but I tell you it CERTAINLY does on a yoga mat!
I was able to do the entire hour session and even though I had to modify some moves, it felt amazing.

Unlike the first time, when I was so ashamed and disgusted, I was free. Before, I was desperate to be in any other body than my own. This time, I felt strong, proud and willing to push myself. (And, I am still OVER 300 pounds! Whew, that was scary to type! But it’s REAL.) The instructor kept saying, “This is about acceptance…accepting your body as it is, and appreciating it.”

For the first time in my life, I can honestly say that is true. I appreciate this body. It has worked hard for me even under abuse and distress. I am learning to accept who I am and am learning what I am capable of. My mantra has become, “if I don’t lose another pound or inch…as long as I keep doing what I’m doing, I’m successful!”

For those of you who are like I was, and are thinking you don’t have the time, or don’t think you’re worth the time…thinking maybe it would be robbing your kids, family or job of your attention…or setting this time aside for yourself is being selfish or vain, consider this:

You are robbing them NOW.
You are cheating them NOW.
You’re ABUSING yourself and cheating yourself, RIGHT NOW! And its not how we’re meant to live!

The time you spend devoted, dedicated and committed to hating yourself is the SAME time and energy that becomes devoted, dedicated and committed to loving yourself.
Which only benefits and blesses those that you love.

The way our babies watch us hate ourselves is tragic. They are watching and listening. Learning from us how to care for themselves. I can’t turn back time and erase it, but I have changed the course we were on.

This is more than attaining a certain pant size, it is getting my life back. It is mopping my floor and playing with my kids. It is being able to hold a warrior pose when I couldn’t before.

It is being able to honor all those days I robbed from myself and my family, and making the most of the ones ahead.

Balance

For someone who is a self-realized extremist, an “all or nothing” mentality has been the way I’ve approached most things. Nothing being the most common outcome, at least as far as my health and fitness was concerned.

Its been easy to get stoked and declare big plans in the past only to fizzle out quickly. It’s just not realistic to live the rest of your life eating nuts and leaves or consuming only juiced vegetables and fruits. I am the person who watched “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” and immediately declared a 30 day juice fast that lasted about 9 hours. I am the guy that has tried to cut out whole entire food groups and expected miracles. I have mixed drinks and shakes and supplements of every kind, variety and flavor. Every effort was made to cut through the lengthy process that would be inevitable to reach extreme results. All attempts ending in the same way, disappointment and eventual surrender. This time feels different because it is different.

If there was one word that I had to choose to sum up what I’ve had to keep learning over and over and OVER, and repeat as a sort of mantra the past 4 months, it would be BALANCE.

“Balance” has been the hardest concept to embrace and put into practice and is probably why all of my previous attempts at a life change were fleeting. Consistency requires balance. It’s my trainer, Rachel’s favorite word. She reminds me constantly that this whole thing is all about balance. It’s the only way I survived the holidays without throwing in the towel.

There are going to be chocolate days. There are going to be stay in jammies and watch endless movie days. But now there are also work out days, and clean eating days. Cardio days and strength training days.

And this is my life now. No more going from one extreme to the other.

Just like I’m learning to eat the proper balance of macro-nutrients (fats, carbs, proteins) for the results I want, I’m also learning the proper balance between the physical effort, spiritual effort and soul effort that this journey requires. It is just as important for me to enjoy a meal cooked with love and butter and a glass of wine with friends, as it is to have a protein shake on a weekday morning. It is just as important for me to make time for writing, art and expression as it is to make time for prayer and meditation. Self-care is HUGELY important and may actually be the key to all that I’m accomplishing. And isn’t that so hard for us?? To take proper care of ourselves without feeling selfish or vain?

Every time I feel myself getting hyper about the scale not budging as quickly as I’d like it to, or the size of my pants not dropping dramatically, I am reminded that I’m learning balance and self care. It restores my focus. Even if I never lose another pound, if I can continue to practice balance, there’s no way I can lose.

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