Mandisa’s Climbing Up the Charts and Down the Scale!

The day Mandisa was scheduled to go into the studio to record her hit single Strongershe was anything but strong. The former American Idol finalist knew she had been gradually re-gaining weight and when she stepped on the scale and found she had actually gained over 20 pounds she was devastated. In fact she did everything she could to try to cancel. But her producer refused to let her out of the session.
Little did Mandisa know that her own words would eventually renew her hope for the next phase of her journey.  The day the song was released in February 2011 she stepped on the scale and found that she had lost her 100th pound!
Having climbed the charts to the number one spot and having shed 120 pounds (and counting), the GRAMMY® nominee has a goal of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for the rest of her life.
Mandisa recently shared with me about her “journey to 100” and how the changes she’s made to create a lifetime lifestyle resonate in her music.
Tonja Ward: Just how long has your weight been a concern?
Mandisa: I feel like it’s been something I have dealt with my entire life. My Dad moved away when I was 10 and I was molested around that age as well. That’s when I started picking up weight as kind of a coping mechanism.
TW: What was your initial concern about the weight? Appearance? Health?
M: When you are a kid, I don’t know if concerned is the word. Now I can say I am concerned just because of health reasons when you get older. But when you are a kid you just want a boyfriend.  I would say that I was insecure and it made me very unhappy. But it was all cosmetic back then.
That’s the difference between then and now. It is less about how I look because I have learned about true beauty and where it comes from and it is more about being healthy than anything else.
TW: When did you move from thinking about it and actually starting your journey?
M: It’s not as cut and dry as I’d like to say. It would be great if I could say that I started this journey on this date in two thousand- whatever. The fact is that because it has been a struggle my entire life, it has been a journey my entire life.  I’ve dieted and I’ve binged, and I have lost weight and I’ve gained weight.
It would be great if the Lord miraculously delivered me and I never was tempted with chocolate again, but I still think that is going to be my story. I think it’s going to be more like Paul where this is the thorn in my flesh. I am learning that it is because of this thorn that I have understood that God’s grace is sufficient and that His power is made perfect in my weakness.
TW: This is so helpful because we tend to expect for there to be an exact start date and from there you never turn back, but that’s just not real life.
M: No, in fact, I am just getting off a period a couple of days ago to be honest where I realized it’s very easy for me to slip back into my old ways unless I am constantly clinging to the Lord, really turning to Him to help me with my temptation. It’s very easy for me to go back into bingeing. It’s what I’ve done my entire life to deal with my emotions, in order to fill this void that’s been there from a very early age.
It’s very easy for me to go back and eat a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts in one sitting. I guess I never want to lose sight of how easy it would be for me to go back to where I was before.
I guess it’s helping me to understand every single day that I have to give this to the Lord.
TW: Sounds like you go by the “give me my daily bread” philosophy.
M: Absolutely.  You know I love those verses that talk about the Israelites that were in the valley and they could not collect enough manna for the next day and when they did that manna got rotten they had to collect it for that day and that day alone. So I believe that is such a lesson in scripture for us. Don’t look at yesterday, don’t look at tomorrow but just today ask for your daily bread and really depend on the Lord just today.
TW: So can you give us the secret to your weight loss and lifetime lifestyle?
M: I quote a lot of scripture when I am tempted. I do a lot of praying when I am tempted. That’s why I feel that I have gained much more than I have lost. Because of that I have an intimacy with the Lord more than I did before I started this journey. So I think a Spiritual part of the journey is very important.
I think most people know what is actually healthy for them. But I think what a lot of people don’t think about is the Spiritual part of this journey as well as the emotional part.
I work with a great Christian Counselor who has helped me to deal with some emotional issues that I have never dealt with before. I always stuffed down my emotions with food. Actually learning to deal with those has been a big part of the journey, I guess that would be a secret as well, to really focus on that.
And the other secret for me is not to diet.  The way to do that is to just adopt healthier eating habits and not to necessarily turn to the things that promise a quick weight loss. To find an eating plan that you can live with forever and not just temporarily to lose weight then going back to your old eating habits and gaining all the weight back.
TW: Are you still into ZUMBA®® or what are you doing for your physical activity these days in addition to cutting a rug on stage?
M: I AM! I love ZUMBA®.  It has changed my life. Because I love dancing ZUMBA® has been amazing for me.  So I ZUMBA® as often as I can.  Whenever I am in town is when I try to go to my ZUMBA® classes.  I get cardio with ZUMBA®, and with my personal trainer, we do weight training which helps me to tone my muscles as well, which is just as important as the cardio is.
When I’m on the road, most hotels have a great work out room that I use the cardio equipment there, the treadmill and elliptical.  I also travel with my elastic bands so just in case they don’t have weights I can still get in my weight training there.
And when I am at home when I can’t get to ZUMBA®, I have an elliptical and a treadmill and lots of videos that I do to get my workout at home as well.

TW: You know, folks might argue that you can do that because you are Mandisa and they are regular people just trying to make it, what do you say?
M: There is always something we can do. You can always go walking in your neighborhood. That costs absolutely nothing.
We focus so much on health care reform. I really believe the prevention is a big part of health care reform. Because I think we would be preventing a lot of diseases if we focused on our health before we get those diseases. A lot of that is our lifestyle.
So I do believe that it’s a great investment.  And even if you’ve got no money whatsoever push-ups are free, squats are free and lunges are free and you can do all that at home.
The key is finding something that you actually enjoy or learn to enjoy.  Because I can’t say that I enjoyed exercise when I first started but I actually do now because my body craves it after a certain while.
TW: This album is full of anthems to our lives, so what was the inspiration behind Stronger?
M: For me, my inspiration is just knowing that if I walk the most difficult things in my life with the Lord one that he’ll get glory for Himself but that He’ll also bring me out stronger than when I went in. I love that the song has resonated with so many people and that they are seeing the same things in their own life.
No wonder Stronger was a #1 hit. My favorite song is Good Morning but I’ve got the entire What if We Were Realalbum downloaded in my iPod. You are amazing! God bless you as you tour. Thank you so much Mandisa for inspiring us with your life and your work.  

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