Fat Chick at a Fitness Conference: Third Time is a Charm

“ You can’t build a house of leaves and live like its an evergreen. Its just a season thing, its just this thing the seasons do. And thats the way this wheel keeps working now….I believe that my life is gonna see…the love I give return back to me. “ -John Mayer, Wheel

Im on a plane watching us line up for take off, out the window.

My heart is full.

I look around at all of my friends, getting settled, laughing and joking. We are as comfortable together as family, and this trip has earned us even more memories, and a deeper appreciation for each other. I take in the moment, knowing this trip has been something special, that I will only ever share with THESE people.

It can’t ever happen again.

Its been raining almost the whole time we’ve been here in Louisville, Kentucky for our annual Anytime Fitness conference. Thick with humid, drizzly, southern weather. A blanket of dark clouds and rain rolled in and settled on top of us that first day while we were in the hotel pool, and stayed the entire time. Though, it only seemed to add more excitement and energetic ambiance to our trip…sprinkling everything with magic, making it all feel more special.

I sit back with my headphones on as we take off, and watch us lift up over all of the wet, green trees of a city that I barely saw…but will be FORVER branded onto my heart.

The plane lifts into the air until we are surrounded by white. Higher and higher we climb, above the rain and clouds. And just as if we were emerging from another world, we rise completely above everything, into a beautifully clear evening sky, and level out onto the flight path that will take us home. Headed back to the west coast, toward a golden sunset that is just starting to show itself, I take in a deep breath of gratitude.

It feels quiet, clean, and crisp…and for whatever reason, this seems to be the moment that all of my emotions, that I’ve kept politely poised in the back of my heart, want to erupt and take over. I realize I am finally alone to feel the weight of everything that has just happened to me this week. I am overwhelmed as my eyes well with tears that I cannot stop. I tuck myself in to hide between my sweatshirt and the window.

“Now?!” I think to myself.

Always on planes.

Planes are holy for me I guess.

Not a distraction in sight to keep me from sorting through my thoughts. My heart swells with gratitude as my heart and mind race through how far I’ve come…and my tears…fall like rain.

The first time I boarded a plane two years ago to attend an Anytime Fitness conference, I was scared to death, but the reward was stepping out and facing my fear to come back stronger.

(The blog post I wrote that year: https://mandimonblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/fat-chick-at-a-fitness-conference/ )

The second year, I was FREE. Confident. Felt I had earned the right to belong there, and jumped in with both feet and was able to completely BE MYSELF.

We came home celebrating our legendary bosses/owners with the O2i, Owner of the Year, award and I truly never thought that anything could come close to how I felt on that plane ride home from Palm Springs!

I was fired up for my LIFE, and ready to take on whatever the next year of leadership would have for me.

(The blog post I wrote last year:

https://mandimonblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/19/attitude-is-everything-fat-chick-at-a-fitness-conference-2-0/ )

Not knowing this last year would be my MOST challenging yet.

Not knowing…I would face doubt, failures, disappointments, and hard and uncomfortable conversations. Being let down and letting other people down myself, then learning how to rebuild again. Earning trust and continuously earning the RIGHT to lead, and be an example, to those who look up to me and believe in me.

Not knowing…my own fitness journey would take a nose dive this year as a result of MANY different factors, that would require DEEP and honest soul searching to salvage. Integrity to KEEP GOING when it got hard, and the DECISION to do WHATEVER I needed to do to keep going in the right direction.

Not knowing…the amount of perseverance I would have to muster this past year, to survive and thrive in this season of GROWTH, would be SO hard to find and hold onto.

True growth is HARD y’all. Just like when you start working out in the gym! You want certain results, but when it gets hard, and you’re forced to truly meet yourself…you have to DECIDE to stay in the discomfort and push through…or walk away…and thankfully, I am surrounded by people who wont let me walk away.

And certainly NOT knowing…the next time I’d board a plane to head to our conference, I’d be coming home with the award for H2i (manager) of the year.

Represent a possibility.

That is a note I wrote to myself last year after conference. And I believe that is exactly what I get to do everyday.

Tess Holiday is a plus size model who was on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine two weeks ago, in a swimsuit. It was VERY controversial because of her size. All kinds of arguments were stirred up online. How/why should she be celebrated on the cover of a major magazine being THAT overweight? What about her health? While I definitely have strong reservations about certain aspects of the “body positivity movement” as a whole, (that is a completely different blog post!) I thought it was VERY cool that someone my size could represent the possibility that fashion and beauty can be for everyBODY. That, no matter your size or where you are at in your journey, you have the right to feel and look beautiful.

On a much smaller scale…I have the absolute honor of working for Anytime Fitness, where my journey represents fitness for everyBODY.

My journey, and MANY OTHERS, represents that IT IS POSSIBLE. Even when it seems too hard!!! No matter your size, or where you are at in your journey. You have the RIGHT to feel safe from judgement, supported and LOVED. You have the RIGHT to discover what your body CAN do and how much better you can FEEL, so that you can live your life to the fullest!! You have the RIGHT to take up space and BELONG in our clubs, so that we can help you MAKE HEALTHY HAPPEN!

I am not just in the fitness business, I am in the self esteem business.

I am in the love business.

The love that I have been lucky enough to give out freely and passionately to my members and loved ones is because that is the SAME love that has pushed ME!!!

And I felt it all return back to me…on that stage in Louisville, KY.

Being honored with this award, with my entire team by my side, after this crazy journey I’ve been on…is nothing short of a miracle. And, it’s only the beginning.

I am so, extremely honored and grateful for this recognition, and I will strive and continue to PERSIST and earn this, every damn day.

THANK YOU. 💜

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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!

It’s gonna be a good year 

Last year around my birthday I wrote a poem called “Reining it in”.  
I remember exactly how I felt writing it. I had just returned from working at church camp and had gone from feeling pretty good about myself for getting through it, to spiraling into self loathing. My binge eating was out of control and my weight was the highest it had ever been in my life.  
My body was in pain, everything hurt and the only thing that was consistent was the urge to sleep.  

I could feel myself slipping back into a dark place of depression and I was trying really hard to be strong and pull back. I thought making myself sit down and be intentional about writing down how it felt would help me and be cathartic. This poem emerged and was an honest look at myself inside and out.  

 I didn’t know it then, but this was the beginning of “thinking about what I was thinking about” and changing the way I live my life.  
Here is an excerpt from that poem: 

“The hardest thing about being a realist is that you’re really only a pessimist in disguise.
To halt myself from traveling down the familiar gloomy tracks and force instead a stroll down a brighter path…
Well, I’m more comfortable sitting in the shade.
My disappointment hangs from my body,
heavy and always inconvenient.
Protecting me from pain but hard to
ignore…and if I’m being honest it only makes it worse.
But I am told to be in the light as He is in the light…
and I was.
Spent the fullness of time feeling welcomed and alive.
Now here we are again, and back to being the last resort.
Wasn’t quite ready to come home to the norm.
I have amends to make and bridges to burn, like calories…and we all know how good I am at that.
Frames and galleries of words that crowd my heart, and the space is getting limited in these chambers.
Bolted with hardware and welded to my arteries. 
This kind of blockage requires a skilled surgeon. 


Blood pumping through paths I’ve carved out to survive.
A masterpiece.

A bypass of emotion.
Today is a new day that has been made for my gain,
taking a new route and a fresh way.
I will choose gratitude.
What other choice do I have?” 

The heaviness and “congestion” I was suffering from was physical, mental and spiritual. I had spent a lifetime “eating” up my emotions and trying not to FEEL THE FEELINGS. I really had reached my bottom. I felt like I was either going to make a change or die this way. 

Since last summer my life has shifted dramatically, but it didn’t seem that way every day, until looking back on it now.  
Every day I was (and am still!) presented with a choice: believe in the commitment I made to myself and my family? 
Believe I could change and WAS changing?  
Believe that where I had no strength to continue, God would give it to me? 
Believe that when I fell off the wagon, He would set me back on? 
Believe that my body was strong and getting stronger, even when it felt like I could NOT do more? 

Or…

Believe it was impossible and slip back into what I’d always done? Numbing myself with food and trying desperately to not feel all the pain I was causing myself? 
  

Today is my birthday and I have had the rare privilege of being able to say that I have been given a second chance at living life. The life I was meant to live. I’m officially down 60 pounds. I work out 6 days a week and I actually enjoy being there and seeing my hard work pay off and my body gain strength and endurance. I’ve been allowed to start and lead a support group at my amazing gym, to build community with people who are starting their own health journey.  
I’ve been back to camp and was amazed by how much more I could do and how much more like myself I felt, not being at war against my body anymore. I’ve had the honor of being an example to not only my own children but also to youth kids who’ve seen me make a change over this past year. It feels amazing to be able to show them that this kind of freedom is possible.  
Freedom from self abuse and self hate. Freedom to FEEL THE FEELINGS! I’ve learned that being sad, or disappointed or stressed won’t kill me. It’s how we manage and deal with the feelings that makes us or breaks us.
Looking forward to what this next year has for me! From where I’m sitting, it can only get better and better! 

Progress Report

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Are you living in a whirlwind right now like I am?

There has been so much going on in our life lately. Much of which, unfortunately, I can’t share to protect the anonymity of a couple of beloved peeps. That said, we have been in the thick of some hard stuff.

But aren’t we all?

Life is busy with constant conflicts, complications and stresses. I’ve learned to observe the practice of slowing down to appreciate the constant undertow of blessing that is always lying beneath the flurry. If you don’t stop and still yourself, you’ll miss it and its life giving power.

I feel like my writing has been a little evasive the past week.
Therapeutic for MY soul…but evasive nonetheless. Whatever the case, writing has been my life raft keeping me afloat. Keeping me close to the pulse of God at work in my life and the lives around me. Even if it sucks, I know that my writing has been a gift and a prayer closet. Feeding my spiritual self has to be and is becoming more important than feeding my physical self.

I remind myself each day that my commitment to Realology is to BE REAL. To face the truth as best I can, and write about it with honesty and heart.
My prayer in this blogging project has always been to pursue peace with myself from the inside out and let that it would be contagious to the women around me (most importantly, my daughter).

So, a progress report is in order.
Since I first began this blog in February, I’ve lost 25 pounds (from my highest weight ever that I’ll share someday). Well, actually I’ve actually lost the same 25 pounds two times. Right now I find myself in that weird place of being down 25 pounds and being fearful of not getting past it again. It’s crucial to be one step ahead of myself right now with positive thoughts so that I don’t get into that old familiar trap of listening to old lies.

I have been introduced to a vitamin supplement called Plexus that you drink once in the morning. It was originally formulated for people with type 2 diabetes to help regulate their blood sugar and it was found to have a profound effect on people who needed to lose weight as well.

I’m not going to turn my blog into a sales pitch, but this little pink drink in the morning seems to have muted the ravenous beast that is my appetite. I was VERY skeptical at first, seeing as how I’ve tried EVERYTHING that seemed as though it would magically help me. This is no magic, I still have to make good choices, but I feel like its enabling me to make better choices and definitely helping me with consuming smaller portions. I’ve only been drinking it for 4 weeks. I have found that being consistent with that and with drinking LOTS of water has helped me feel great! Lots of energy and of course, 25 pounds down. Now I just gotta keep going. Here’s the link if you’re interested, http://mandiholden.myplexusopportunity.com/.

Most importantly I have been continuing with working though the 12 steps and making sure that I’m taking the recovery process very seriously. Continuous study on the topic keeps me one step ahead of myself and proactive against my food addiction. I’m reading a book right now (amongst many!) called “Love Hunger”. It’s boring and clinical but I’m getting some good nuggets out of it with regards to food addiction. I know I’m not alone in this battle and I’m glad to share whatever I’ve been learning along the way.

The other thing is I’ve been making an extra effort to wear makeup more regularly. It makes me FEEL better about myself and makes me feel pretty. Even if I’m only staying at my house, it seems to give me a little boost of confidence that I have been enjoying. Not every single day…but when I feel like it, it’s fun.

Well, that’s that.

Hope you are all thriving and living life to the absolute fullest!!!

Boomshakalaka.

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#Repost @anytimefitness_northreno with @get_repost ・・・ Dig DEEP!! 💪🏽🔥 WHAT is the PURPOSE behind each key swipe into the gym? Each minute you push yourself through your cardio instead of letting yourself off easy and stopping. Each rep you lift with weights, even when it burns and you’re sore? WHY did you decide to start this journey in the first place? WHAT is the reason you got up and DID THE THING, when your alarm went off today? What is your WHY? . . Maybe it’s more than your pant size or a number on the scale? Maybe its because you KNOW those pants feel and look better when you’re wearing them with confidence? Maybe its because you no longer have to be embarrassed of being winded when you’re out being active with your family? Maybe its because you have things you LOVE to do that you weren’t able to do before...but have been able to work hard and give that back to yourself? Maybe its because you haven’t able to fully look in the mirror and like you what you see...but something about keeping your promise to yourself and finishing each work out is getting you closer and closer to be being able to? Find the REASON. Find your why. FIND YOUR PURPOSE and you will will AMAZE yourself at how far you can go! 🔥💪🏽 Share yours and tag someone below who will remind you! . . “What makes you special is your ability to discover and THRIVE in your purpose, despite your past hurts, pain and disappointments.” -Mastin Kipp, “Claim Your Power” . . #whatisyourwhywednesday #letsmakehealthyhappen #teamborden
>>New adventure<<

&andshelivedhappilyeverafter

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