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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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. 💜

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.

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!

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!!!

Jumping into Focus 

When I first started working out, everything hurt SO BAD and I hardly felt like I could get through 30 minutes of exercise. 

Everything made me winded.  

Everything seemed awkward.

Everything seemed uncomfortable, physically and emotionally.  

I was constantly tugging my shirt down, or pulling my pants up. Rigidly self-conscious and nervous, on top of physically uncomfortable. I understand on a deep and personal level why people join a gym and never want to step back in there…because I lived it. It is terrifying and humiliating. Even if you are fortunate enough to be surrounded by the right people who won’t let you quit or give up, it’s such an exhausting experience for your body and your heart, and it takes guts to keep going despite it all.  

One of the first movements my trainer introduced me to was step ups. I had to hold onto TRX straps to help me step up onto the single step, and then back down to the turf.  20 steps on each side got my heart rate up instantly and it took awhile for that to get easier for me. Now that I am a couple years into my journey, those first fundamental movements I learned have gotten MUCH easier, and I’ve moved on to more and more things that I am able to do.  

Last week I discovered that I am capable of jumping!!  For anyone who is overweight, especially “morbidly obese” as I have been, we know that JUMPING is not on the menu.  
Like, ever.
And if I’m being honest, I have avoided jumping movements for a long time out of fear.  
We had some box jumps to do during our new group training sessions, and I didn’t want to let all the other peeps down in the group by not even trying to see if I could do the jump. It was low enough to the ground where I didn’t feel like if I failed, I couldn’t recover gracefully.  
So, I did it.  
I jumped. I landed on the thing. Hopped down, and did it again.  
It was SO FUN!!! I will NEVER grow tired of learning what more and more I am capable of. Being able to LIVE life and do these things is why I have fallen in love with this process.  

That is the magic of fitness.   

BEING ABLE.

But sometimes I forget that.  

Sometimes that gets blurred by something negative, dark and gross that sneaks into my head and clouds my vision, and I lose focus. 

Today, while getting to workout with one of my favorite peeps, I was trying to show off my box jumps! I did 4-5 in a row and he challenged me to add on one more level. I knew I could do it, so I did! He filmed it for me because I wanted to share my newfound skill with the world! 

We finished our workout and I headed to my car to watch the video, anxious to put it on my Instagram as my new NSV (non scale victory).  
My heart sank.  
All I could see was my body through polluted vision.  I watched it 2-3 times and thought, “Well, I can’t put this up. I look so BIG, my skin is all loose, jiggly and hanging. Is this what I REALLY look like? Ugh. Nope.” And I threw my phone in my purse.  

I ran around and did some grocery shopping and errands and before I headed back home, I checked my phone and low and behold, my camera roll popped up. The last picture that I took on my phone before my box jump video this morning, was of an affirmation that my support group ladies had come up with last week as our mantra. I had posted it as an encouragement and reminder to everyone:

“I have one body and I am worth the effort.”

But as I sat I my car, the message pierced my heart and  hit home once again…FOR ME.   

Everything came right back into sharp focus.
That knee jerk reaction we have as women to see ourselves and instantly cringe and HATE what we see is what fogs our joy. 

 Here I am, with this strong, amazing body that has been through hell and carries me every day through my life, jumping with ease and landing on things like a boss…and I’ve got the audacity to think it ugly?! 

No.

I will not lose focus. 
 Just because I don’t “look a certain way” yet, does not mean I haven’t changed. Just because my body jiggles doesn’t mean I’m not fit.  Just because I’m not a certain size or weight doesn’t mean I’m not successful.  Just because I’m not where I want to be yet, doesn’t mean I can’t be proud.  

I refuse to continue to do this to myself. 

For those of you who are just starting and everything seems to hurt, and feel pointless…please don’t give up. Please don’t allow that darkness to creep in. I promise if you keep going, it will get better and better and BETTER.  
As a reminder to myself, I looked up my post from when I first started my journey,
(https://mandimonblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/update-of-the-year/).
And I will continue to remind myself how far I’ve come, because I have one body! And, it is worth the effort! 

Insomnia 

Mother’s Day this last weekend has left me feeling some feelings.  
Heavy feelings.  
Deep thoughts.  
If you’re not in the mood for some ponderous musings and reflection, move along. Im sorry to be the one to tell you this, but I’m not ALWAYS the, 100% gym rat/beast mode babe, slaying workouts and personal goals, striving for justice and equality amongst all the fitness levels and body types across the land, urging women of all ages to love themselves and promote genuine confidence all day long, chick.  
At times I have been known to be a very sensitive, and poetic Sally…and sometimes I must emote. So, turn on your Mumford and Sons Spotify station and enjoy this ride.  

There’s been LOTS going on for us, which is true for everyone it seems.  Adjusting to life as a full time working mom has been fun and thrilling, but also a huge adjustment for all of us. 
 And on Mothers Day, I found myself thinking about how rapidly my kids are growing, and how I’m running out of time to get it right for them. Knowing a thing and doing a thing are drastically different, and there’s always so much to DO.  I made the mistake of looking at their baby pictures and it sliced me open with nowhere to hide but here, in my words and sentences that always seem to somehow bring healing. 

Tonight, I find myself alone in my house with a soundly sleeping hubby, kids, and lazy dog. The washing machine is working away on dirty towels. No tv or music. Just an open window in my bedroom as I stare into the glow of my phone and type to clear my busy mind.  

This is one of my favorite times of year…when I can crack a window open at night and hear the sound of all the frogs by the little pond, way out beyond the houses in my neighborhood. I look forward to hearing them, as a reminder that warmer weather is on its way here again.  
I feel peaceful now, and weirdly emotional because I know that I haven’t sat down alone to write in so long, that I’m actually afraid of what might come through.  I had a friend at the gym ask me why I haven’t done a blog post in awhile, and I had to really think about it?  My life is FULL, and I have no complaints, but sometimes little crap builds up and makes your heart heavy. And when the mood strikes me to write it out, I’ve learned to surrender to it because telling the truth always sets you free.  

So here it is.  

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately.  
How your whole life is just traveling from the most current cluster of people in a moment in time to the next.  

Family, friends and acquaintances. Weaving in and out, overlapping. Mingling and vanishing. Reunited, reminiscing, disappearing. Sometimes reappearing…sometimes forgotten completely. People leaving impressions, memories and scars. Influencing and cautioning. Defending and betraying. Trust and disbelief. Loving and hating. Leaving and staying. Messy. Complicated. Devastated. Loyal. Devoted. Powerful.  

Relationships are everything.  

Lately, I have seen close friendships all around me, whom were thought to be foundational, split and fracture over technicalities. I’m so disappointed in the way we all proclaim to love, but when it’s tested we freeze up, and break off.  

Cold, iced conversations and miscommunications in rooms and across tables, where life was once shared together. But continue to pretend to be friends online? Why? 

Hardened.

Winter.

Lately, I have watched siblings step into being adults and pull away to build their own lives and stories that don’t include me. It’s selfish I know. Bittersweet, to watch something grow on its own that doesn’t require any pruning or help from you anymore. Little shoots of life and strength sprouting up, and thriving in the sunshine…NEED ROOM to grow. 

So I’m learning to let go. 

Spring.

Lately, I have been surprised and energized by the new relationships in my life. New people everywhere! New job, new surroundings, new routines, new jokes, new perspectives, new goals, new encouragement. New experiences. Fresh chances. Fresh opinions. Fresh AIR. Giving me opportunities, life and HOPE.  

It’s been amazing and I want it to stay this way forever. 

Summer.

Lately, I have been anchored by what HOME really means. My children, showered and jammied will sometimes still let me smell them and kiss them in exchange for a few more minutes before bed. They are growing into real people, but for these little moments they are still my littles…wrapped in blankets. My husband, the only person to VOW to stay by my side, and he has. He is faithful. He is constant. Cozy and comforting. Safe and warm. My one true love. My fruitful harvest. 

Fall.

And if you blink, the season spent with people has changed.  

This compels me to STOP and breathe in every moment.  

Take NO person I love for granted, despite disagreements.  

Be in each moment, with no distractions. 

Give my full attention and respect. 

Do my best to fully live the life I’m supposed to live.  

And LOVE people even when they are unloveable.  

If you have been in my life throughout different seasons, I thank you. I know time does not permit for all the people I have loved to exist all at once, in the same time and space, but I am grateful for each of you. 

Restroom of Reverence 

The day I signed up for my gym membership I couldn’t get back in my car and drive away fast enough. I actually told the woman behind the desk (who has since become a dear friend) to hurry, before I changed my mind! I knew the next day would be the real test…to actually come into the gym with the intention to exercise.  
The next morning, I went back and forth between groaning with fear or yelling affirmations at myself while driving in my truck, in an attempt to get hyped enough to actually go inside. My plan was to walk for 30 minutes on the treadmill. That would be easy enough, right? I’ve walked longer than that at Disneyland, this would be an easy way to start. I can do 30 minutes! 

I walked for ALMOST 11 minutes.  

At a 2.0 mph pace, it was agony. My feet were swollen and felt heavy. My shirt kept riding up my belly and I was tugging it down and wrangling with it every 15 seconds, making me wildly agitated and self-conscious. My chest burned immediately from the activity, 395 pounds pounding down with each step took its toll. In that moment, I was faced with the reality of what I had let myself become and how HARD this was actually going to be. I was already winded, sweaty and beet red.
Those eleven minutes felt like an eternity.  
I pushed the “pause” button on the treadmill and let it slow to a stop. As calmly and casually as I could, I walked over to the restroom and couldn’t wait to hide behind the sanctuary of the closed and locked door (we have private bathrooms/showers at my gym). I sank down onto the bench against the wall and burst into tears while pulling out my phone to call my husband at work.  
“Hello?” He answered. 
“Omg. Babe. I cannot do this. What have I done? I’m so embarrassed. I only did 10 minutes, I hurt so bad…I don’t belong here…I don’t know what I was thinking………” 
He listened to me, and let me cry. Let me spiral. Then he responded with tenderness and encouragement, and kept reminding me over and over that I HAD to start somewhere. He was proud of me for going. Tomorrow I should try to add one more minute. I did awesome. He would see me after work. He loved me. I had calmed down and caught my breath enough to say goodbye. I loved him too. Thanked him for believing in me. Hung up the phone and wiped my face. Took a few deep breaths to gather the courage I’d need to walk out of that bathroom and through the gym to get to my truck. 

Today I cleaned that same bathroom as an employee of Anytime Fitness. 
  

 I am honored to report that after a year and a half of dedication to my workouts, falling in love with the staff and trainers of my gym, being allowed to start and lead a support group to empower myself and other members on similar journeys, I have been officially hired, part time, as a part of the team. 
 UN. REAL. 
This first week has been all about training and those “first week” things that you typically learn when you start a new job, like the cleaning procedures. But my experience as I cleaned that bathroom today was not typical.  
It was…almost…holy.
I was in absolute awe of how far I’ve come since that first eleven minutes on the treadmill. I just stopped and thanked God. Gratitude is all I have. As I sit here writing this I can’t even gather the words. It would sound redundant anyway. I’ve said it hundreds of times, I’ve lost weight, but I have gained the world. And I still have an uncharted journey ahead! 

My life has changed this week. My family’s life has changed. In the state I was in before, I could not even be considered for a job. This is a new chapter. I am beyond thrilled and excited for what it will bring. I am honored to be joining a team of people who truly care about impacting and changing people’s lives. I look forward to someday sitting across the desk from someone who is scared to death to sign up and take that first step toward new life, and tell them my story.  
In the meantime, while I’m cleaning bathrooms, it won’t be lost on me what a sacred space they are.  

A private refuge where some come face to face with themselves, for the first time like I did. Taking a moment to catch their breath or battle doubts and limitations…maybe even crying, then gathering the courage and determination to go back out and finish. I know it sounds lame, but I’m convinced that I’m not the only person who has let themselves unravel behind those doors. It’s a sacred place in there.

Moral of the story? NEVER GIVE UP.   
To those of you who’ve been reading along on my blog and following my journey this long…thank you from the bottom of my heart. The support and accountability this has been for me is priceless.  
 

When in doubt…

  
I’ve lost 72 pounds so far.  

It has been hard, slow, grueling and laden with ups and downs. There are times I feel I’ve reached a stand still because my expectations for where I’d be by now have not been met. 
I have had great days. Amazing days!!! I have had awesome workouts and have enjoyed perfectly clean and homemade healthy meals.  
I have also had crappy days, embarrassing and sluggish workouts. And I admit, in moments of weakness, I’ve stuffed my face with cheap pizza and cake and crap more times than I wanna say. It happens. This is real life. 

It feels like with every victory I have in this season, I self sabotage twice as hard. I still doubt myself and underestimate my worthiness and capability.  

But, each time I fall, I seem to learn a bit more, gain something new and just keep pressing forward. There is no other option at this point. I’ve tasted the life I’m chasing after, and I will not be stopped.  

The discipline I have had to learn and apply in fitness, carries over into the rest of my life as a wife and mom. In running our family and household, I am more active, more involved and more ALIVE.  

There is a certain kind of confidence that is built in training that cannot be earned anywhere else. I didn’t understand this mindset from the outside. I used to make fun of people like me. Roll my eyes and call them “obsessed”.  

But I get it now.  

It isn’t until you step into it and commit, that you realize that others who’ve made a commitment to health and fitness aren’t just “health freaks” or “gym rats”.  

It’s about embracing a wholistic wellness as a human being. Taking care of the one body you have.  Learning to love yourself and care for yourself as a person, as you learn to take care of your body. So that you may be the best you can be for your friends and family. Living life to the fullest. 

 It’s about believing you can do hard things, and endure hard things, and stand being uncomfortable for awhile when things get hard. It’s about the accomplishment and relief and power that washes over you at the end of each workout that has you leaving the gym ready to conquer whatever life will bring your way next.  
There are no short cuts. The struggle cannot be skipped or avoided. It hurts, and most of the time just plain sucks. But I’m not watching life happen around me anymore.  

I’m trying things. 

I’m doing things. 

I’m learning to push past fear. 

I know I am not the same.  

Fat chick attempting to kayak

Even after a life changing year, huge strides in my physical abilities and strength, 70 pounds lost (so far) and a new lease on life and fitness gained…I am still fat. 

Yep. Still fat. 

When I leave the comfortable bubble that is my home where my husband loves me and treats me like Beyonce, or my supportive and amazing gym where I am treated like a rock star, I still have to live in the real world where I am still obese and have 100 more pounds to lose. It can be jarring to feel my baby confidence that has just taken flight, crash to the ground where I have to find the will to try and build it up again. The old me never saw the point.  

My pesky social anxiety sneaks back in at times and starts to whisper in my ear…”You’re still the same. You don’t belong here. Who do you think you are?” 

 And the paranoia of wondering if the people at another table are snickering at me and my “bigness” trying desperately to melt into normalcy, praying no one will consider me a target for a good joke? 

Still happens. 

 I’m learning to not let these things be the TRUTH about who I am anymore. Strangers who don’t know me or all I’ve accomplished on my journey do not get to be the “sayers” of who I am.  

The tragedy is when I tear my confidence down MYSELF.  
WHY DO WE SO THIS TO OURSELVES? HOW CAN WE LEARN TO BE KIND TO OUR OWN SELF? 
This is the biggest lesson I’m trying to learn right now.  

Yesterday, I went on a kayaking trip with my gym friends. Having never participated in any “outdoorsy” type of adventure, I took a leap of faith and tried. I was scared to death and exhilarated all at the same time, praying the life jacket would buckle, (check)…praying I would be able to get in the kayak and not break it (check)…praying I wouldn’t slow everyone down and be a terrible nuisance (check, I hope). 
When I finally managed to get the hang of it and not fear wobbling and sinking to my death in the middle of the lake, I silently and privately rejoiced and thanked God. Here I was still 300ish pounds DOING THE DANG THANG. Such a cool feeling, to allow yourself to be proud of what you were able to overcome.

And then….THE PICTURES. 

FML if pictures aren’t gonna be the death of me and all of my efforts.  

How is it that seeing myself in pictures from this beautiful day almost ruined my entire night, and put me in such a funk that I actually had to step back and check myself? 

I was so disappointed that I didn’t look in those pictures the way that I FELT. 

And you know what? 

WHO CARES? 

I have an incredible life. God has given me a second chance at living by blessing me with the strength and dedication to change my life. I’ll get to where I need to be…in the meantime? How dare I have anything but gratitude for this body I have and/or its reflection? 

So here I am, in a kayak. 

  

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