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Bliss Life

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Redefining Fitness...with Mandi Holden

Apr 24, 2019 05:41PM ● By Kristy McLean

“It doesn’t look like SHE works out very much!” 

These are the words that Mandi Holden, Club Manager for Anytime Fitness – North Reno, overheard a potential member say about her on May 12, 2018. Having fought obesity her entire life, it wasn’t the first time she had overheard such fat-shaming mutterings nor does she presume it will be the last. But the difference on this particular occasion is that Mandi took to Facebook to not only vent and caution the haters, but also offer words of hope and encouragement to ANYONE who has ever felt unsure of themselves and doesn’t know where to start.  

Mandi’s video went viral and now has over 300,000 views, 4,000 likes, 3,000 shares, and 1,000 comments and growing... 

With over 3000 shares, these numbers are conservative and the reach is undoubtedly far greater. It is clear that Mandi’s message is one that needs to be heard. 

What did she say?  

Let’s let Mandi speak for herself... 

“I want you to know...if you see someone in the gym and they look like they don’t know what they’re doing, or it looks like they’re just starting out...or they don’t look the don’t know their story, you don’t know how far they’ve been, you don’t know what they’ve accomplished, you don’t know what they’re dealing I beg you, please, show kindness, show empathy, you just don’t know. I just guarantee you that Team Borden fitness clubs are going to be a safe place for you and I’m proud to represent that.”  

You don’t know how far they’ve been... 

In 2013, though Mandi was happily married to her husband, Michael, and proud of her family (son Bradley, now 13, and daughter, Amelia, now 10), she was on the verge of depression, “morbidly obese,” and knew she needed to change. She began a blog,, and appropriately titled her first entry, “Waking up,” as if she intuitively knew what was about to unfold over the course of the next 5 years.  

Inspired by her 5-year-old daughter’s no fear approach to tackling the first day of kindergarten, she decided to conquer her own fears and walk into the gym.  

Mandi weighed 420 pounds when she took that first step into Anytime Fitness. She was welcomed with open arms and never looked back. She has since lost over 125 pounds and has gained renewed confidence, hope, and a fierce passion for helping others. 

“Team Borden fitness clubs” that Mandi refers to in her viral Facebook post is collectively Amber and Brandon Borden, owners and operators of four Anytime Fitness locations in the Reno-Sparks area, and their amazing team of coaches. Mandi cannot say enough good things about Amber and Brandon Borden and their relentless support.  

“Everyone could see my determination and they believed in me. When I was ready the right people were there to support me.”  

And, it’s not just Mandi who sings the praises of “Team Borden.” Anytime Fitness has over 4000 clubs worldwide and in 2017, Amber and Brandon Borden were recognized as Anytime Fitness Owners of the Year! It’s no wonder Mandi felt so at home. Mandi paid it forward by starting a support group at Anytime Fitness with 20-30 regular members which she now continues online in a private Facebook group with over 200 members. Recognizing Mandi’s leadership skills, magnetic personality, and relatable charm, the Bordens hired Mandi on as their Club Manager at the North Reno location where Mandi first began her journey. At 295 pounds, Mandi may not yet be at her goal weight, but she has proven that perfection is not what inspires others. Commitment, progress, enthusiasm, empathy, and just being real; these are the qualities that inspire club members to keep coming back for more.  

Mandi was recently recognized as the 2018 Anytime Fitness Manager of the Year! 

Excuse me? A 300 lb. woman is Fitness Manager of the Year?! How can that be?  

Mandi would tell you that it’s all about...FITNESS MAGIC. 

We have been trained by the media and social norms to believe that fitness is defined by the size of your body. Mandi and her many supporters would beg to differ. Mandi has coined the term, “Fitness Magic,” to refer to what happens to you and your overall fitness when you know you are taking care of yourself, doing the right activities, fueling your body with the right foods, affirming yourself with positive self-talk, being your own best friend. Fitness is just as much what is happening on the inside as what it looks like on the outside...perhaps even more. According to Mandi, “believing in yourself is like a drug! I LOVE my life, I LOVE my job!” 

THAT is Fitness Magic. 

What’s Next... 

Mandi is still on her weight loss journey and realizes she still has challenges ahead. That being said, she is grateful for the public platform she has earned since posting her viral video in May 2018. She has a couple of topics that she feels compelled to tackle in the near future; the glamorization of obesity and the stigma of surgery. 

The Glamorization of Obesity 

Having weighed over 400 pounds herself, Mandi knows first-hand what it feels like and she absolutely despises the growing trend of glamorizing obesity. Shaming the beauty industry and touting that big is beautiful does not change the facts. Obesity is unhealthy, life threatening, and debilitating. “If you weigh over 400 pounds, you are NOT happy and you are NOT healthy,” asserts Mandi. Regardless of size, Mandi encourages everyone to take ownership of their own health by doing their best to eat clean and exercise. Only when you are making healthy choices can you find your fitness magic and self-confidence. 

The Stigma of Surgery 

Is weight loss surgery an easy way out or a useful tool on the path to healing? Well, it all depends. Mandi previously had a very negative, judgmental view of weight loss surgery. She viewed it as a short cut because she was working so hard to do it the right way. Then, she began educating herself and opening her mind to the possibility of surgery and her perspective has drastically changed. She now believes that if you have well established healthy habits and you choose surgery more as a tool than a crutch it will not only be effective in weight loss but your recovery will be fast and your results long lasting. 

Surgery is a very personal decision and there are different types of surgery for different purposes. After much research, consultation, and preparation through diet and exercise, Mandi decided to undergo Vertical Gastronomy Sleeve (VSG) Surgery with Dr. Kent Sasse in the summer of 2018. She describes VSG as simply making your stomach smaller as opposed to “rerouting the plumbing” as she claims is done in Gastric Bypass surgery. Surgery has helped Mandi take her fitness to the next level and she is happy with the results thus far. Only time will tell, but, for now, Mandi is happy to have a more open mind about surgical options. Though she would never recommend surgery to someone who is not already making healthy lifestyle choices, she maintains her belief that everyone should take ownership of their own health and do what they need to do to find their own fitness magic. 


As 2019 drew near, Mandi encouraged her team of coaches to choose a word that would drive their behavior in the new year. She believes that choosing a word as a theme for the year ahead helps keep you focused on your goal. Mandi has done a lot of hard work to improve her fitness in the past 5 years. As it is for many of us, her road to fitness is winding with many peaks and valleys. She chose “EMBRACE” as her word for 2019 and seeks to embrace the highs, embrace the lows, continue to push forward...when it gets tempting to retreat, hide, or take the easy way not make the bold statement, to not post the video that will inspire thousands of people...push past it, EMBRACE your opportunities, EMBRACE your successes AND your failures, EMBRACE all that is you! 

What’s YOUR word for 2019? Mandi Holden would love to know! Find her online or at Anytime Fitness – North Reno...and get ready for her to EMBRACE you and help you find your fitness magic. 

Mandi Holden's viral video warns fat shaming bullies to be more sensitive about meeting people where they are and encourages those on their weight loss journey to keep going strong.