Attitude is Everything: Fat chick at a Fitness Conference 2.0

I just just stuffed my backpack above me, and sank into my plane seat. I take a deep breath and close my eyes with relief. Im ready to head home and see my family.

I’m exhausted.

Sunburned.

Dehydrated.

And definitely, hungover.

But I feel like I just won the lottery.

My heart is full.

My LIFE is full.

I look down at myself and and survey the scene:

Even though I’m still squeezed in close to my favorite travel teammate, I’m buckled into my chair with ease. It just keeps getting easier and easier for me to travel! I say a silent prayer of thanks, knowing how HARD this has all been for me before.

Walking down the isle of the plane, my sides no longer brush and bump the peoples arms, and it feels amazing to not have to apologize for my existence…walking that gauntlet of shame.

I’m wearing pajama pants, a Palm Springs conference tee, purple shoes, and my purple running man, manicured nails are clutching my purple water bottle and brand new copy of “Love Work” by Chuck Runyon. I notice my “persist” running man, flame tattoo on my wrist and wonder if I’ve not just stepped into overkill territory?

I’m a hot-AF-post-conference MESS!!!!! But, I LOVE IT.

You see, last year I struggled.

( You can read all about that here: https://mandimonblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/fat-chick-at-a-fitness-conference/ )

Last year, I was still trying to be invisible. Despite my efforts, I was still battling with shame, discomfort and embarrassment with my body. And, If I’m being completely honest, not much has changed for me physically in a year. I’m down about 30 more pounds from the Lake Placid Conference. I’ve gained muscle and more endurance, but this time the weight I’m most proud of losing, was in my heart and mind.

This year I was was promoted to manager of my Anytime Fitness club, and I took that position of leadership VERY seriously. I have battled with that dark part of myself that felt fearful and unworthy. I finally surrendered to the fact that my value as a leader was NOT based on a certain number on the scale. If that were the case, I wouldn’t have been offered the position, right?

Being FAT is NOT the worst thing a person can be.

Your value and worth as a human is not worth less if you are fat. But being miserable, ashamed, depressed, suffering with pain and barely alive IS the WORST thing a person can be. And THAT is what has changed for me with the magic of fitness. THAT is what I LIVE to show the people who come into my gym everyday. The scale will move…but I must PERSIST.

My value is here NOW. It always HAS BEEN. I decided to OWN the fact that I am “representing a possibility”.

Ive decided to OWN the fact that I actually have an advantage with my size, and that WONT last forever.

I have the ability to say,” Look at me…I work HERE. I workout HERE. I was changed HERE. I found out who I truly am in HERE. I was welcomed and loved HERE…and so are YOU.”

It has been the most powerful year of my life. Realizing that all of the members in my gym, that I have the honor of representing, are looking to me as an example of persistence, and they are proud of me…that is enough to snap me out of any self doubt or sabotage.

There have been MANY struggles and setbacks…and times where my confidence and resolve was shaken, but there has been a permanent shift in me, and it SHOWED itself this week in Palm Springs.

No longer was I desperately trying to blend in and disappear. I just literally, let it all hang out, and allowed myself to just be MYSELF.

Proudly, alongside my team…my family… just like I am everyday in our clubs. Why would I want to come to conference and be anyone other that who I am everyday with my people?? If I’m constantly urging them to step outside of their comfort zone and believe in themselves…shouldn’t I be??!

Last year I was afraid to workout alongside 2,000 people for a world record breaking 3 minute workout. This year, I jumped into a live, 45 minute group session on the purple turf, in the middle of the trade show, with tons of people watching (and the AF corporate head trainer/she-hero herself, Rachel Prairie!) and did NOT CARE. I know what I am capable of.

This is it. This is who I am, and this is who has been given this amazing opportunity to live in the crazy fitness world and grind.

I TRULY was “hired to inspire” and I am so unbelievably grateful.

To my team, each and every one of you has made more of an impact on my life than you will ever know. You have made me one of you since DAY ONE and I am forever thankful for how you have changed my life and never let me give up. I’m so honored to live this life with you guys.

And, to Brandon and Amber Borden, my club owners, who just won the 2017 O2i of the Year Runningman Award…thank you.

Thank you for changing my life, and then taking a crazy risk in hiring me, believing in me and pushing me to be better and better and BETTER. I am so proud and honored to be on #teamborden and am SO EXCITED the whole AF world got to see/hear how amazing and special you two are. Also, I’m sorry I “Kanye-ed” you on stage. With all this new confidence…I do declare, I literally could not help myself. 😜

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Heavy Hearted 


This comparison stopped me in my tracks yesterday, and I was saving it for #facetofacefriday on Instagram. Same picture with my beautiful cousin Maria and I…but with a three year difference and what feels like an emotional lifetime apart.

I was excited about this because rarely do I physically get to see the BIG, “100lbs lost” kinds of changes (since I see my dang self every dang day and I still have some dang weight to lose!!) but this NSV was pretty cool for me! The picture taken in 2013 was just after our family reunion that a bunch of us cousins had worked hard on for months to pull together for our huge, Italian family. It was a big deal! There were about 75 people in attendance. As excited as I was to be a part of such a wonderful family event, deep inside my heart I was mortified that all of my family members were seeing me HUGE and out of control and easily around (or slightly over) 400 pounds. 

Even though I hated having my picture taken, I posed happily with my cousin Maria in my living room as we said goodbye…not knowing when we would get the opportunity again.  

This last weekend we did! 
My whole family threw my dad a surprise 60th birthday party, and when the weekend visits and festivities were all said and done, I found myself once again in my living room saying goodbye to my cousin and her family. We took almost the same exact picture and I was curious to see the difference between the two. I dug through the archives of social media and there it was! I was so blessed to see such evidence of change in my face, and more importantly to KNOW how much my life has changed since 2013. I couldn’t wait to make a side by side to post and share the progress with you, my online “fitfam”! 

And yet today…I’ve struggled to post it. Who cares about my “face to face Friday” pic?!  With all of the bad news on the news every single day…it’s hard to imagine any of this matters.  

I’ve not wanted to be disrespectful of current events by going along with my life as if everything is ok, and act like my weight loss pictures are important.  

Nothing is ok.  

The world has gone mad.  

I was awake most of the night, restless.  

Thinking about everything on the news. Like everyone else, I’m sure. 

Awake with fear and wrestling with all the unknowns. Alert with grief for ALL of the families laying awake out there in the world with shattered hearts. Worried about what might be coming up around the next corner for us all. 

Minnesota, Louisiana, Georgia…and still the aftermath settling in Orlando, Florida. And now, what’s unfolded in Dallas, Texas? I imagine so many more people than I can imagine laid wide awake last night.  

With shattered hearts and numbing disbelief. Living a nightmare.  

Loved ones ripped away from their lives and loved ones with violence.  

I know everyone has something to “say” about this today. Everyone is making “statements” about how they feel, and I guess this is mine, and that in some way pouring out our hearts and thoughts out here is ALL we can do right now to somehow try to connect and comprehend what’s happening? I don’t know. 
There’s no way I can possibly understand the depth of the despair and fear that is growing out there. It has only grazed my life from a safe distance each time I watch the news or scroll through my social media feeds…but it is enough to make me shutter and want to board up my family in our house and never come out again.  

I’m sure that’s how a lot of people feel this morning.  

Weary and wary of other people.  

There’s a heaviness laying right on top of all of us, in every city, as we try to go about our day today.  
It’s almost enough to make you wanna give up hope…but my faith (in God who is the ultimate source of perfect LOVE) showed up in my life today in a thousand different tiny ways and restored, at least for a moment, a tiny glimmer of hope that gave me peace.

Love showed up when I kissed my husband goodbye early this morning and was reminded that I still get one more day with the guy. 
Love showed up when I got up to get my day going and realized that our automatic deposits went through over night, and we are able to pay our bills and feed our kids. Always providing for every need. 
Love showed up when I went to my gym to workout and people were still sincerely smiling at me and wishing me a good morning, despite the sadness we were all feeling.  
Love showed up in multiple, beautifully and thoughtfully written posts from friends, standing firm in love and brotherhood regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or political affiliations. 
Love is everywhere if you stop and look for it. Even in a random little weight loss post. That’s what I’m choosing to look for today. And so, I’m going to share my “#facetofacefriday” post in name of love, because this is my corner of the world and I’m going to try and live it to the fullest while I still can.

I LOVE my life, however long I’ll get to live it, and this picture shows how hard I’ve worked to say that and really mean it. 

In the tiniest way, I hope that putting this out here in the world counteracts some of the negative…as we sift through all this bad news. May God have mercy and lead us all in a better way.  

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. 

Practice What You Preach 

I want to wake up on time. 

The first time my alarm goes off, because I’m just THAT ambitious. 

Not on the ninth snooze. 

I want fresh hot coffee, a warm blanket, and plenty of time to spend in prayer/meditation and journaling before my day begins. Being a woman who is intentional about my thoughts and emotions…and THEN conquering my days responsibilities as an active and healthy working woman, running an orderly and efficient home.  

I want to set a positive tone for my kids and husband’s day and be present and emotionally available to them.  

I want to continue to prioritize the right time to workout and conquer my fitness goals and continue to watch my body change and grow stronger, while also eating food that makes me feel awesome and alive, not heavy and full of guilt.   

I want to continue to grow into my new position at my job with the same fiery passion burning in my heart everyday, that continually builds such a feeling of satisfaction and gratitude of being a part of changing people’s lives, that I CANT WAIT to get back there everyday.  

While somehow creating a sanctuary for my family to come home to, where dinner is planned, prepped and ready. Where laundry is kept up, and everyone knows where their socks and underwear are. Where the homework folders are not lost, but completed and signed and in the backpacks for the next day. Where everyone reads for a leisurely 20 minutes before bed without fighting. Where the sleep we get is deep and restorative because we aren’t worried about finances and repairs, and conflicts with people and obligations and burdens because we are—

Wait.  

Yep.

I basically want to BE Oprah. 

Okay, okay, this is NOT quite my daily reality just yet, but these are truly my personal goals, and adjusting to being a working mom recently, has not come without its wrinkles to iron out. All of my friends who have been working moms this whole time?!?! 

I SALUTE YOU.  

I am lucky and blessed to report that my children are champions and are stepping up to their responsibilities with great effort. I’m so proud of them, and they seem to be really proud of their mom having a job too, which is pretty cool. As well as my husband, who is blowing my mind with his constant support and additional help around our house. He is my biggest fan and am so lucky to have him spurring me on to reach for my goals. 

That being said…this journey is still SO HARD.  It’s hard to not get stuck in my head, with old negative thinking.  Even after a year and half of dedicated exercise and mindful eating, it’s hard to keep focused.   And it will continue to be hard. Because I’m not going back to “easy”.  

THIS is the exact reason I started the support group at our gym, because to stay this course, you need support.  I’m not some chick who has this all figured out!! NO WAY!! I am practicing what I’m preaching, striving to hold onto everything I’m learning, just like everyone else.  We are in this thing together! And I’m glad, without you I would have quit! Lol. 

THIS IS NOT EASY. 

So many women who try to make a healthy change in their lives, get overwhelmed and give up, because somedays you’re just out here trying to survive. Driving little people around to where they need to be, trying to make everything happen for everyone else leaves little time to put toward bettering and being good to yourself. And honestly, most days there’s nothing left over and “easy” is all we’re interested in. I get it! 
But “easy” is a lie. It robbed me of knowing all that I was capable of for a long time. This path I’m on is hard, and some days it feels like it’s all in vain and pointless…but I know it’s not. I am stronger. I see changes. I feel ALIVE. It is absolutely worth it.  
It’s EASY to set ourselves off to the side, especially when life gets crazy, 

But we are worth MORE than what comes easy!! 

So, here’s to all of you lady beasts out there, making it ALL happen in your lives. Doing the hard work, keeping your commitment to yourself, getting back on track after you fall, pushing through even when it hurts, waking up to the first morning alarm…all so that you can be the best version of you you can be, for the people who love and count on you.  

  

 

 

The universal female affliction 

I had the pleasure of being a part of a women’s group called “Sacred Sisterhood” for 8 weeks. It was so special. I got to meet some beautiful women with whom I wouldn’t have crossed paths with otherwise, and I am so grateful. I got slow down and hear their stories and really learn some things from them. One of the topics we discussed was our relationship with our bodies and food. Our “homework” assignment that week was to stand in front of a mirror naked and journal about it. 

I know this sounds crazy! To even participate in this activity at all, and then to post the poem online for the whole internet to read? 
Madness.   

(And I also excuse anyone from reading this, like my dad or brothers, who might be bummed out by my frankness. I won’t be offended if you’d rather pass on this blog post! Lol)  

I’ve thought a lot about it and decided that in the spirit of “keepin it real”, this poem must be shared. I have been on a weight loss journey for years now. Lost 75 pounds, gained fitness and endurance. My relationship with my body is finally changing. I was ready to accept the challenge! But, the craziest thing I’ve learned on this whole journey is that so many women I’ve admired for their beauty or assumed had it easy because of their looks or bodies are suffering just as much (if not more!) than I was, under the curse of self loathing. As I continue to learn to love myself and this body I’ve got, the more my heart breaks for women all around me who don’t SEE how wonderful and beautiful they really are. It truly is the universal female affliction.  

I could definitely look in the mirror naked and see a whole list of things that are gross. My body is never going to be “bikini ready” but it’s mine and it has served me well, especially under years of abuse. I choose instead, to see myself in a different way. The way I hope my daughter chooses to see herself someday and all of you, my brilliant friends and sisters. Look beyond what’s in the mirror.  
This poem is dedicated to my yurt girls!! 😝😍

My body is heavy shades of pinks and whites.
Freckled with brief moments under the sun. 
It hangs heavy with all of my apologies and best intentions.
This suit has always suited me, though I’ve never taken the time to have it tailored, taken in, worked on. 


Only now, as the softness has begun to melt and shrink have my muscles and backbone hardened enough for me to see the point.

My feet, through electric pain, have carried the weight of all of my worlds. Blistered and swollen, they still serve me. 

My legs are pillars of blood, fat and bones that keep me standing tall. 
Though, they have been wrapped under heavy blankets of depression and laziness. 
But, have also been wrapped around love, between sheets.  

Sweaty, sexy and strong. 
 They have trudged through every one of my unknowns. 

My hips are barely trying to emerge. Still hiding.
But when I’m not paying attention, they surprise me with a glimpse of a womanhood I thought girls like me weren’t allowed to enjoy.

My stomach, soft and ribboned with stretch marks, still large in mass.  

You see, it’s taken a long time to store up all of the fears and burdens I’ve pretended not to have.  
But oh…I’m learning to let them go,

and now appreciating how it has ached with hearty laughter. 

Felt the butterflies of new love and excitement.  
And, carried the joy of two healthy, beautiful babies. It gave them shelter, safety and warmth.  

My breasts fed them and have also fed me…the confidence I would need to survive my own nakedness. 
When all else failed, there they were to remind me of my power as a woman. 

My arms have held my husband close, my children, and loved ones while also holding me together in dark closets crying out to God. 
Always gathering, 
always carrying,
all of my strength to wear all of my hats. 

My hands have played songs, 

written poems, 

made meals, 

  They have been raised as high I as could reach outside the window of a rushing car, just to feel the wind.  
I used to see nothing but flaws, failures and disgust. 
Now, I only see gratitude.  

  

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. 

  

I don’t want skinny. I want ABLE.

  
The past couple of weeks I have been in a slump. While I have been keeping up with my workouts, I have been eating out of bounds and those tiny allowances started to stack up and show themselves.  
Pretty soon, I started feeling those old, negative thoughts and feelings start to take over. Not wanting to backslide into my old ways, I did some some soul searching.  
I’ll confess that I had an expectation to be down 100lbs by now, and since I’m only down 65lbs  I started pouting and doubting.  Risking all my progress because I didn’t get what I wanted. Throwing a fit like a big, prideful baby. 

Wtf? 

When I began writing this blog in 2013, it was in “the pursuit of a meaningful makeover”. I wanted to make a change in my life but didn’t know where to start, and I didn’t want it to be focused on JUST a number on a scale.  So I started typing.  Writing has always come naturally to me and been a therapeutic friend.  

I named the blog “Realology” because I wanted to be REAL in the study and discovery of myself, after being lost so long to depression and the LIE of who I thought I was, or was supposed to be.  

I had an EXPECTATION in my mind of what a good Christian woman, wife and mother was supposed to be and look like. After years of “trying” and falling short, (of the EXPECTATION!) and the subsequent feelings of failure and self loathing that led me to gain an extra 200lbs on my body…I reached my bottom. 

Since then, I have struggled to untie spiritual, relational, and personal knots in my heart and focus on my faith instead of all my fears.  

It hasn’t been easy at all. 

This has not been a slow and steady marathon. 

 
This has been a rugged, off road, uphill trek for my life.

 
There has been blood, sweat and many tears.  

Many shameful moments of backsliding and stumbling.  

Moments of pure embarrassment and inadequacy.  

I have also dragged myself through thick fear, doubt, jealousy, pride, and self pity.  

But I didn’t quit. 

By the grace of God, I kept going. 

I’m not at the top. Still climbing. 

Who knows when I will get there? 

Who cares?

“EXPECTATIONS are premeditated disappointments”.

Once again, I find myself surrendering my expectations. Letting go, and trusting LOVE, instead of fear.   

In a few days I will be celebrating my one year of fitness milestone. On August 22nd of last year I walked through the doors of my gym and my life has changed dramatically.

I refuse to be be disappointed because of a number.  What I’ve gained and lost can’t be measured.  

I don’t want skinny. I want able. 

That is my new mantra. My battle cry for the next year ahead of me.   Yes, I want the weight loss, but I want to RUN.  I want to JUMP. I want to DO the things I can’t yet do.  I want to be ABLE. 

I’m already able to do so much more than I thought possible.  I can’t wait to see what’s ahead. 
Thank you for going on this journey with me, and for all of the support.  It has been a true gift. 

#bingealert 

If you know me, you know I love, love, LOVE social media. I tend to over use it almost as much as I over use emoji. WordPress for blogging and Facebook and Instagram for everything else. Social media has been so much fun for an extrovert like me. It has acted as lifeline to the outside adult world a few years ago, when I was doing home daycare and stuck in my home with growing depression. It has helped me get to know and keep in touch with many cousins, friends and acquaintances that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I love that! 
On Instagram and WordPress, I have even bonded with and established genuine friendships with strangers that are on the same journey as me! I have put my heart out here and told the truth and allowed it to be up for public viewing (and scrutiny if need be) and have received nothing but love and encouragement.  

Being a writer type, I found it especially therapeutic to document and work through all the ups and downs of this endeavor through writing. The physical, mental, and spiritual ebb and flow of my my life, available to anyone who cared. I am honored that anyone would want to continue to read it because really, everyone has a story and point of view and mine in not remarkably different than anyone else’s. So, thank you! 

I have been able to celebrate many successes on my weight loss journey here, but there have also been dark days. In the name of staying honest and transparent, today is one of those days that calls for confession. 
I totally lost my mind and had an ugly food binge day today.
I hardly slept. I woke up grumpy.  
The first thing I did when I came downstairs was grab a handful of Hershey chocolate chips out of my freezer and shovel them in my mouth…it was all downhill from there.  
The more I grazed and ate, the worse I felt. 
 Guilty. Lazy. Gross.  
About an hour ago I decided to stop the madness and “feel the feelings” I was trying to ignore with eating all day. I really wanted to get to the root of what triggered me today (besides waking up on the wrong side of the bed!) and share it here.  
THIS is real life. 
I am a real woman, changing my life.  
This isn’t some filtered and cropped social media thread.  
This is real.  
That is the ugly side of social media.  

I’ve learned the right angle to take a picture and like to highlight all the good food choices I make and hard workouts completed. It feels good! It’s cool when you get followers or people “like” your photos.  To be able to show how my life is changing is amazing and I’m proud of myself.  

But it’s too easy to let it go to your head sometimes and WAY TO EASY to leave out the shameful, shoveling my face with food that I don’t need or really want moments.  
To hide feeling bad about myself and letting that be an excuse to eat like a jerk for a few more hours. Then, the temptation to be crazy and come up with ways to “overcompensate” my “bad” behavior.  
That, my friends, is dis-ordered eating.  
I’m here this afternoon to call myself out.  
Just because I have been blessed to enjoy some success on this journey doesn’t mean I’m “in the clear”. I have been fortunate to be able to grab ahold of my life this past year and have some progress to show for it, but by no means am I an expert. I’m not “fixed”. I am just a real person, struggling to be free of food addiction and gain a fit and healthy life.   
I want to enjoy food and not be afraid of it controlling me. I want to workout because I love my body and love how strong I am getting, not because I feel need to punish myself. 
I guess the whole reason I wanted to write this is because, on social media people can really make it look so easy to make theses changes. We all all put our best foot forward and show our best selves and it could be really easy not to post the unflattering pics and unwise choices.  
This will be my struggle for the rest of my life, but everyday I feel stronger and stronger and more able to share the good, bad and ugly.  If you are struggling with these kinds of issues, please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone you trust! You don’t have to hide or punish yourself!  We are strong and capable of so much more than we know! 

So, now I’m gonna have lots of water, something crisp and fresh for dinner that I can feel good about, and maybe go for a walk.  
But, most importantly I am moving on.
    

  

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! 

Girl Empire 

This past Saturday I was invited and challenged to write a poem for a conference here in Reno called Girl Empire.  (Check it out here: http://girlempirecon.com/program/)

It was for girls ages 9-19 to gather together with some of the leading women in our city to learn what it means to be bold, play big and dream big for their future. 

I was absolutely honored to be a part of this day and even more humbled that I was asked to share my writing.

After some deep soul searching and picking the brains of the most brilliant women in my life, it became clear to me that there is SO MUCH we want our young girls to know! I kept asking myself and my friends, “What would you want the 13 year old YOU, to know?”  So many sharp, smart, wise and IMPORTANT things came into laser focus.  Here are just a few of the responses from these ladies that have now become a little treasure trove of girl power that I will save forever. 

“I would tell 13 year old me that she is loved and that no matter what she is going through, no matter how far away an end to the situation seems, tomorrow is always a new day. And I would encourage her to fully apply herself at school and to set goals and believe in them.”

“Always lead by example; if you see something about the world that you don’t like, then don’t allow yourslef to do it.”

“Pay attention in Math class!  You will need it if you want to go anywhere, trust me!  If you can pay attention in Math, the rest will come easy.  If you don’t understand it, get a tutor, stay in at lunch with a teacher, do whatever it takes.”

“No matter how bad it seems at times it’s just a nano second in a long string  of life you have yet to live. So just keep living because the bad doesn’t last forever.”

“There is money to be made off of teaching you to devalue and distrust yourself. You will have to actively push back against this. The good news is learning to sift through all this will make you wise and graceful.”

“Embrace not being good at stuff and failing.  Like, not getting something right the first/millionth time is actually how its suppose to be, so its not that big of deal to not be great at something.  Keep going!”

Never be Jealous of anything or anyone. What you are and what you have is always enough. The right person will come along for you because they will be interested  in who and what YOU are. Never compare yourself to anyone else, not who they are or what they have.”

“I wish my 13-30 year old self knew that she was not obligated to please ANYONE.  That it isn’t selfish to follow her own dreams/desires.  Being liked and approved of isn’t life’s ultimate goal.”

“Guard your body and protect your heart. That’s the advice I would have given to my 13 yr old self. I was raped when I was 13. It changed my life forever.”

Not everyone needs to go to college, but college is never a waste. You need to understand math if you ever want to be independent. If you want to be an artist or run any kind of business – math. Want to get a good deal – math. Want a marriage of equals – math. Politics, poetry, technology, math will help you with it all. I wish I’d paid more attention to math.”

I would tell my young self to love yourself and don’t let people influence you to do harm to yourself and others. Accept who you are. Look inward for acceptance, believe in yourself.”

Laugh at yourself. Not only because we are all ridiculous but because it disarms bullies and makes your enemies look like asshats.”

You are not what other people say you are. If people treat you poorly that is a commentary on them, not you. You are valuable and unique.”

I wish I could post ALL of the wisdoms I have heard in the past week.  I wish I could encapsulate it in some sort of multi vitamin and make my daughter take it every single morning with breakfast. I wish I could carry all of these and the experiences gained under my belt, back in time and show my 13 year old self that we end up kind of awesome. 

In the end, I wrote from the heart.  Here is the poem I shared. 

“We are Girl Empire”  
By: Mandi Holden 


When they put my newborn daughter into my arms for the first time, 
I was instantly in love 
and instantly terrified. 
I studied her face 
and her fat little hands. 
I was frightened she would forget that she was galactic, 

like I almost did. 


A girl. 
A galaxy, 
a canvas huge and vast. 
One of us. 
Beaming with brilliance. 
Made of Stardust. 
Fibers, minerals, 
skin and bones. 
Heart of the earth,
wrapped in a blanket and sent home. 
I read her face, and saw myself. 
I remember you.   
I remember you well. 
I remember and I pray that you’ll remember to:
find the time to learn. 
Find the time to twirl.
Find the time to build.  
Find the time for YOU.

And in the perfect and lonely moments of pretend,
while you’re still content with being your own friend, 
Enjoy! 
And remember the way it feels…
so that you will know that it’s okay 
to take pleasure in your own company. 

When you’re deep in play and everything is just so, 
and no one else gets a say…
Will you remember? 

The satisfaction. 

So when people call you bossy, 
you can assure them they’ve come to the right place. 
Birthright capabilities, 
replaced with 
inherited insecurities.
 
Growing up and growing taller.

Do not trade in your backbone 
when you need it the most.
Shooting up through the cracks. 
Breaking free from expectations. 
Unfolding our fears away from our hearts and blooming. 

Faces toward the sun. 
Alive with possibilities 
and blanketing the world with our beauty. 
And here we are, 
sleeves pulled up-
ready to lift the rug of the world
and peek underneath. 

Because we are not afraid. 

We remember who we are. 



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