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MARCH Warrior of the Month - Mandi Smallwood

Hi my name is Mandi Smallwood and my Journey at PFP started three years ago this month.  For the first two and a half years I sat on a chair twice a week watching my daughter work out and being proud of the strong, healthy young lady she was becoming.  As I sat in that chair I met some great parents, shared funny stories, made friends and bonded with Tanya. Let's be honest who can't bond with Tanya? We even had a running joke if Grace ever quit PFP I would still come every Monday and Wednesday just to get my Tanya fix. Sitting in that chair for two and a half years my weight steadily increased.  Food has always been my drug of choice whether I am happy, sad, depressed, angry, stressed or joyful I ate. I remember getting to a point where I started getting embarrassed to come inside and sit while Grace worked out. I even asked Grace at one point if I embarrassed her coming inside because I would wait in the car if she was. Of course she said no, even if she wasn't embarrassed I knew I was.  That’s when I started paying more attention to the adult classes thinking I would die five minutes into that class. I could never handle that.  Tanya always so graciously in my ear whenever you are ready to start you know we are here for you.  I would laugh it off and say ok one day.

I have been overweight my entire life. I don't remember one time in 41 years ever being comfortable in my body. I hated gym class in school. I was usually one of those last kids to be picked when we broke into teams. I hated running the mile every year. I can still hear Donna Howard yelling "come on ladies".  I did cheer middle and high school, I was the chubby cheerleader. I was always a base and every year I would stress that the uniform still fit from the year before, football season I would squeeze into the only 13 they had. I would stretch that ugly itchy sweater so it wasn't clinging to me and I couldn't wait for basketball season because there was a size 15 and it was more comfortable.

In April of this past year my husband and I decided to divorce. With the stress of the divorce and having been told I was pre-diabetic floating in the back of my head instead of stress eating I stopped eating. I dropped 40 pounds like nothing. My joints and knees felt better that's when I had my “What’s Your Why" moment. I was like if I don't change my life now I am never going to find the courage again to change. So I went to Tanya and said it's time. I was scared and embarrassed I didn't know even how to exercise. So I started one on ones twice a week with Stephanie at beginning of July this year. My first session the anxiety I had to even walk through the door, I knew I was going to embarrass myself or just not be able to do it.  I remember the first warm up Stephanie and I were doing high knees down the turf to "warm up" I was already out of breath and she is just chatting away asking me 10000 questions and I am thinking in my head lady I can't even breathe and you are asking me what my favorite movie is? I said Grease, only because for whatever reason it was the first thing that popped in my head. I mean I like Grease but it's not my favorite. That first session was the longest and hardest 30 minutes of my life but at the end I was proud of myself and that's not a feeling I had had in a very long time.  Each session got less scary and I really started to enjoy it. PFP became my safe place, they all became my supportive family. They knew what was going on in my outside life but when I walk through those doors that life is put on hold and for 30 minutes or now the hour adult groups that I have joined I focus on me. I have enjoyed the adult classes the people are wonderful and it was a whole new group of support.

PFP came into my life three years ago via Grace. It's changed both of our lives. They are family to us. They have been there every step of the way on my journey to guide me, support me, push me and love me. It's funny how you can have the worst year of your life and the best year of your life happening at the exact same time.  In April at my heaviest I started out at 318 pounds today I weigh 200.8 pounds. I walked into my first session in July at 277 pounds. I have lost 38.5 total inches off my body. My journey is far from over and I surly don't have everything figured out. I learn something new every time I am at the gym. The PFP team believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.

Andrew Simpson

Chief Vision Officer
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