I am 38 years young. I’m a Christian, a mother, business woman, cancer survivor, and since my weight loss, a physique competitor and a model/actress with a local talent agency. I’ve gone from 162 pounds to 124 pounds and a size 12-14 to a size 4-6. These are my big and small statistics… but I want to tell you about the journey in between. What I learned in recovering from cancer, divorce and low self-esteem is that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. You can too.
During my childhood, I was always the chubby sister. They called my sister “stringbean” and called me “butterbean”. I had a love affair with rice and potatoes. Growing up, we always had chips with sandwiches, fries with hamburgers, etc. It became a habitual thing for me. My grandfather was an ice cream and candy vendor, so that didn’t help any.
I played outside a lot and stayed active, and went through stages of being average in weight, but for most of my teenage years, I was above average in weight. Not necessarily overweight, but always self conscious and disliked being in a bikini in front of anyone or even wearing shorts. Into my adult years, I was the typical yo-yo dieter.
Because I didn’t have the time to play sports in high school, I decided to take Weightlifting as an elective my Junior year. I realized right off that I was strong and I was good at it. I took it again my Senior year and once out of high school, it was my main source of exercise in the gym. Shortly after that, I attended my first bodybuilding show as a spectator and fell in love with the sport. My goal was to compete one day.
Bodybuilding was no longer just exercise, it became my hobby. The sport of competing was a little harder to grasp. Although I was disciplined for the hard and rigorous workouts, my discipline in the area of food was not so strong. Beginning in my college years, I would have episodes of binging (no purging, just binging). Food was my stress relief and my emotional crutch. The way I celebrated and the way I was comforted.
Sometimes I would sit and eat thousands of calories at a time, as if I couldn’t control myself. It was an eating disorder. No one saw me do it and I was always so embarrassed afterwards. Like “what is wrong with me”? This is why no matter how much I exercised, I couldn’t lose or maintain weight. All I did was gain. There were good years and there were bad years, the typical master of Yo-Yo dieting.
At the age of 29, I started having very bad lower abdominal cramping and other symptoms related to pain. I started seeing multiple specialists and being tested for every abdominal illness imaginable. In February 2004, I had a colonoscopy performed and that’s when they found a tumor in my colon (unrelated to the real source of pain which was later diagnosed as Interstitial Cystitis).
I was referred to a surgeon and he told me he was pretty certain it was cancer. I cannot explain to you what that moment felt like…numbness and tears overflowing. My first surgery to remove the tumor was within a week of that visit and it was then confirmed as cancer (non-hodgkins lymphoma). Two months later, April 2004, I had my second surgery to remove the remaining cancerous tissue.
Praise God, I have been in remission now for 7 years. But I’ll never forget, being told that I would have to put off having children at least until I was 2 years into remission. I’ll never forget all the tests and scans and moments of uncertainty. I’ll never forget the day I got pregnant and praying that I would not pass this on to my child. To this day, if I feel a swollen lymph node, if I have a night-sweat, if I just don’t feel well in general, it brings it all back as if it were yesterday.
That being said, if it were to come back, I have total faith and I do not fear it. It’s hard for people to understand how I can say cancer was a blessing, but it absolutely was. It opened my eyes to what was important in my life and my spiritual faith became stronger than ever, relying on God solely for peace and guidance.
After I had my daughter in June 2007, I found myself going through what many new mom’s go through. I lost my sense of self. Every moment was dedicated to my baby. I even quit going to the gym. I worked full time and I immediately wanted to come home to her every night. I ballooned to my highest weight of 162 lbs. A year later, August 2008, I went through a separation/divorce. I was now a single mom of a 1 year old.
That was one of the most emotional and trying times in my life. So what did I do? Instead of emotional binging as I would have done before, I decided to take control. Knowing that this little girl was relying on me to be a good role model and to be around to watch her grow up, I knew I had to take control of my body, my physical and spiritual health and my household. I was in charge and no one was going to do it for me. In March of 2009, at 162 lbs (5’4”) I decided, it was time to set a goal, live one of my dreams and finally compete.
I got back in the gym and later met with a trainer who helped me with my diet. At the age of 36, after 5 months of dieting and a lot of prayer, I lost a total of 44 lbs and I competed in my first NPC bikini competition and my first OCB figure competition at 118 lbs. and placing top 5 in both. I always tell people about the times I would be doing my cardio, all the while praying that God would help me get through the last 5 minutes…and He did. You don’t just pray to God about the big things in your life. He’s there at every step of your journey, big or small.
Constantly in prayer for God to reveal purpose in my travels, in late 2009, I became Founder/Director of a Christian charity for babies, which I focused all my energy on. It was a rewarding experience in my life to know that God was using the gifts he equipped me with to spread His love and do His work reaching mothers and children in my local area. Working fulltime, running a charity and being a single mom, I unfortunately lost focus on my nutrition by not making the best food choices again.
Although I was in the gym 4 days a week, in general good health and I was stronger than ever (ex. mastering a 185 lb dead-lift), I had gained some of the weight back. In January 2011, I took control and set a goal to compete again. I know that my body is a temple and I had to treat it as such. After 5 months of super clean eating and disciplined workouts, I lost 33 lbs and competed in 2 physique competitions. I also started modeling with local photographers and was picked up by Hutson Talent Agency.
The modeling and acting came out of nowhere, so I’m not really pursuing it, I’m letting it happen. It has resulted from my physical transformation and from the confidence that has been built from it. Doors are opening and it’s like living a dream I didn’t even know I had. I’m really excited to see where the journey leads. I’d like to one day combine my passions for fitness, modeling and helping needy children. Unable to keep my own charity going due to monetary needs and scheduling conflicts, God continues to place these children in my heart and I know that He has a greater plan for me in this capacity. Now it’s time for me to wait on His ultimate plan.
So what’s different about my weight loss this time? I’ve been able to keep the 30 lbs off. At the age of 38, I have finally figured out my body and what foods work for me and which ones do not. Clean eating not just for weight management but for health in general.
My faith in God who provided strength and refuge, and my daughter gave me the joy to keep going. Needless to say, I’m teaching her at an early age the importance of nutrition and exercise as well as being strong in the Lord! I also had an amazing support system through my sister, my friends and the people in the gym that were watching me melt the pounds away.
I realized that my body is a science. Everyone is different and will react differently to the various regimens, so you have to really understand your body and listen to it. Until you understand your own body, you should rely on someone trained and certified in fitness and nutrition to help you. Remember to use prayer as your source of strength. Talk to God about everything!
Clean eating takes planning and preparation. Cook enough meals to last you 3 days. This way you don’t spend every waking minute in the kitchen. Make a schedule to eat every 2.5 to 3 hours. Keep healthy snacks with you so you don’t indulge when you’re not supposed to.
Don’t be afraid to eat and don’t be afraid to lift weights! There are so many ways to eat healthy and still enjoy delicious foods. Yes it takes some sacrifice, but when you’re healthy physically, mentally and spiritually, your life feels complete.
Clean eating helps me manage my weight, keeps my joints feeling their best, and helps me build lean muscle. Clean eating also helps manage my cholesterol, control my Interstitial Cystitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome all without medication, and keep my colon healthy. At the age of 38, I am healthier, stronger and more driven than ever. Clean eating is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.
My life verse: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 I said it every day during my battle with cancer and throughout my journey to be fit in body and spirit.
By: Sandra Goode of Faith & Fitness Magazine
* Did you enjoy this article? Or did I miss something? If so, Id love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. There’s lots more where this came from! Walk in His glory!