Purging My Past

I don’t think I’ve ever felt my body shake as much as it was at that very moment. I was having an ‘out-of-body’ experience to it’s highest degree. I was up on a stage, in front of hundreds of people including my closest friends and family wearing…….gulp…..a bikini about the size of a slice of bread.

How many of you have ever thought you needed to lose weight before you could be happy? How many thought you needed to lose weight before you would find a man to love you? How many have ever thought you needed to be a certain size to represent the woman you think you should be? Have bought certain clothes, styled your hair, and wore certain make-up to fit into that role? Have changed anything about your appearance in order to “dress the part” of the person you thought you should be?

Well, me, up on a stage, in some stripper high heals, wearing a bikini the size of a thumb nail, loaded with tons of make-up and shaking like a leaf in a hurricane is the ultimate version of me trying to “dress the part” of the person I thought I was supposed to be.

To literally set the stage, we need to back-up in time just a bit.

It was about 6-months prior to this moment, I was beginning to experience a significant shift in my life. I decided I was going to pursue my passion of being a nutritionist and personal trainer in addition to my regular full-time job. The opportunity had presented itself at my favorite gym (Bodies by Perseverance in Denver, CO) and it was all clicking into place, the way all good things tend to do. I felt God had led me to that very point and I was nervously anticipating the fun I was going to have seeking a vocation from this passion. I felt strongly that there was a purpose behind this passion.

Along with that feeling of purpose, however, it also evoked a lot of the long held fears of mine including body image issues, insecurities, feeling good enough, smart enough, likable enough…..I mean, enough!

We all deal with body image issues at some point. But it is important to remember that if there is something about your appearance that you would like to change, there are solutions out there to give your confidence a boost. One of my friends who lives in chicago recently had a mommy makeover after visiting a plastic surgeon and has never felt better. Life is all about finding what makes you happy after all.

However, as for me, those fears I felt weren’t about IF I was going to move forward (I was committed!), it was more about HOW I was supposed to move forward. Unsure of what path I should take to be “successful.”

Should. It’s just a bad word.

But, instead of waiting and listening, I was off and running! Naturally I am a “DO-er” in life. If I commit to something, I’m ALL-IN and I follow through! Both a great character strength and flaw and you’ll see why.

After seeing dozens of fellow gym-mates, mentors and friends compete in body building competitions I decided that the best way to dive head first into the nutrition field would be to “test my body” on the diets necessary to get ultra lean.

However, not long after I had made my grand announcement and already had my plan in place, I had this nagging in my head. Something, or more accurately, someone, was telling me that I didn’t have to do this show to prove anything. I can still picture exactly where I was when I felt this voice from within. I know now this was the voice of God or what some may call my divine intuition.

The problem was that the FEAR in me shouted louder. As I said, since I’m a person who follows-through, I quite naturally was not about to quit, especially once I made the grand announcement.

Also, I felt enormous self-pressure to look the part of a trainer and nutritionist if I expected anyone to pay for my services. The health and fitness industry very clearly has a “look.” After all, as many clients will remind me, if you don’t look in shape yourself, how are you expected to sell your services? What does that say about your technique? I don’t disagree there.

But that pressure to “look the part” intensifies when you combine it with an already competitive personality and the repetitive FEAR in my head. I didn’t just want to look fit, I wanted to look the fittest. I was determining what “fit” meant by comparing myself to all the other trainers and health enthusiasts out there, which there are thousands of course.

Alas, I entered a bikini competition as a way to really push me to get to where I thought I should to go. It is no small undertaking. In addition to my full-time job, my gym teaching schedule, and my somewhat sad dating and social life, I was working out 2-3 hours per day, 6 days a week. Since my body does not naturally get very lean or lose weight, I had to take some more drastic cuts to certain food groups (ie. carbs) and spent over 5 months in training before I was ready. Going five-months on a strict diet without cheating one time is HARD.

But, I was very driven. I was fueled by this need to prove that I could do it. I was consumed thinking not about the present tense, but about the day of the show and how great I was going to feel in my new body. All the respect and business it would give me!

But that’s ALL I could think about. Forget hearing my intuition at that point. Forget being there for anyone else. I was completely submerged into myself and the show. That was it.

The day of the show, as the other 20 contestants and I all walked off the stage, all of the girls where exhaling and smiling from the nerves and the obvious “rush” of excitement they were feeling.

I was not feeling a rush of excitement. I was feeling morose, sad, lonely, and beyond uncomfortable in my own skin. It wasn’t just because I was literally starving, although that would clearly cause a whole host of negative emotions. No, it was because I thought that this was going to be that peak of greatness, accomplishment and success I had set out to achieve. I finally looked the part!

Instead, I realized that the hill I thought I was climbing was more aptly a hole I was digging. Instead of going higher and higher to my Greater Purpose, I was actually going deeper and deeper away from it.

That is the thing about our Greater Purpose. It is not defined in the ways we think it is defined. We think of ourselves as these soldiers that have to go out and fight for what God wants us to do, but that is not necessarily right. I believe so often, the Good path means that we actually slow down. Listen to Him and check-in with Him. What He might be saying is to do nothing at all. Just BE.

The severe disappointment I felt was not because I didn’t “win” (I was thrilled with 5th place) or because I wasn’t proud of all the work I had done and the courage it took to get up on that stage. I felt all of those things.

No, the disappointment was because I had heard the voice beforehand and I knew better. I knew better than to think this was going to magically prove anything by getting up on that stage. I knew better than to think that by being “skinny” I would be happy! I certainly did not feel skinny at all and I certainly was NOT happy. Let me tell you, backstage at that show, I did not feel skinny. Even at 12% body fat, I felt huge compared to all the other girls there. That was a severe sign that I was not mentally healthy at all!

That was just it. I put so much attention on my outward appearance and “looking healthy” I endured an incredibly unhealthy mind and spirit. I felt horrible about myself and frankly embarrassed. Such that to be completely honest, I have struggled immensely with how to share this story. It causes some significant tinges of guilt for me.

But it must be shared because it is a very valuable part of my story. The lessons I learned from going so far in the WRONG direction were absolutely what I needed at this time.

Let me be very clear, the problem was not that I chose to do a bikini competition. I’m not knocking anyone who has done a competition or intends to do one. I have clients that I take through the process of preparing for a show as long as I know that they are doing it for the right reasons.

The reason WHY you do anything for your body is incredibly important in determining if you can meet a body goal without compromising your mind’s health and your spiritual health.

The problem for me was my WHY. Because my why ultimately came from a place of insecurity. And once you give into that insecurity, that insecurity grows. That’s how FEAR works.

So it meant that this competition and my training superseded everything in my life! It was the only thing I could think about, which meant I was worshiping it more than I was worshiping God. My body had become my idol.

I think most people can see that doing a competition such as this is an extreme exploitation of what it means to be “healthy.” But what if it’s not so obvious and extreme? What it you are compromising your mind and spiritual health in exchange for your body’s health without even knowing it?

There are so many ways that it has become very normal in society worry about our appearance. But the act of “worrying” about fitting-in is the very essence that drives us in FEAR and toward unhealthy goals. While yours might not be as extreme as a body building competition, it could be just as damaging mentally or spiritually. Something very subtle or not-so-subtle things like agonizing over the mirror about your looks; isolating yourself at home because you’re ashamed of how you look; skipping meals or building up eating disorders to cover up guilt; refusing to date until you lose 20lbs; diets, diet pills, and plastic surgery… etc! Our society is taking more and more extreme measures trying to be good enough and we are ignoring our own divine intuition on a daily basis!

By God’s grace, I thankfully came to realize the consequences of not listening to my divine intuition and how far that could take my mind away from a healthy mindset about my health. God took me by my Right hand and helped me navigate my way back to True Health. A journey I am still on and a journey I am called to share with you.

He was always ready for when I was ready.

Today, out of remembrance of this story that I hate to share, and in the interest of continuing to Purge My Past, I did something else that was very good for my mind and soul—I purged the past of my CLOSET!

I realized when looking at ALL the clothes I have, that I often times was shopping for this person that I thought I should be. I was shopping for a body that was not mine. I was also holding onto a lot of clothes that don’t fit me now (a lot of the ones that I was wearing when I was down to 12% body fat). Don’t get me wrong, I loved the fact that I could find Black Friday promotions to lower the cost of clothes, but I wasn’t helping myself.

It struck me today, that while I’m purging this story up and trying to focus on my future walk, it would make sense to also purge ALL the ways I had tried to play the role of someone I wasn’t. As you can see by this massive pile of clothes, there was a lot of old ways of thinking and old versions of me that needed to go! I have never felt more free from the burden of being anything other than ME!

Pile of Clothes

It’s time to move beyond the person I thought I “should” be. It’s time to just be me.

JOURNALING QUESTIONS:

What are some of the ways that you tell yourself you have to play the role of a certain person in order to be happy or to be someone you think you should be?

Is there a feeling of divine intuition regarding your appearance that has been nagging at you but you’ve been ignoring? I encourage you to quiet your mind and heart and listen. Write down whatever you hear and if it comes to you, why you think you feel it? If you don’t know why, I encourage you to sit and wait for a while before you move. More will be revealed.

Find a way to purge your past today! Whether it’s throwing out old clothes, burning up old stories, or cutting ties to places or even people that don’t represent the person you ARE.

REFOCUS: Once you have taken the time to purge the past, I encourage you to then reframe your mind back to the present by focusing back on God’s love for you. You don’t need to live in the past of your regrets. Come back to the presence of God’s love.

I dont have time to maintain these regrets, when I think about the way He Loves Me.
Oh How He Loves Us, by

In Good Health,

Mandi

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