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Mandisa: 'Weight Jokes Make Me Feel Less Than a Human Being'

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See photos of Mandisa's weight loss journey »

Biggest loser Tamara Harbison: 'I lost 125 lbs. in 9 months!' »

Simon Cowell should know that some things are worth the weight. Too bad the "American Idol" creator and resident hater couldn't see that when he made a disparaging comment about Mandisa Hundley 's plus-size frame after her audition for season 5 of the hit show.

"My heart broke when I saw the show and Simon said that they'd need to build a bigger stage for me," explains Mandisa, who has lost 80 pounds after hiring a personal trainer last  August. "I was watching the auditions with my friends and was so humiliated and hurt, but my friends prayed that God would have mercy on him and help me forgive him before I returned to move on to the next competition, and I did."

Still it wasn't until a July 2007 trip to Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota when a trail hike left Mandisa nearly breathless that she decided to make some changes. The Tennessee native was scared straight and began tackling her issue pound for pound. She knew she needed to break a 20-year cycle of extreme yo-yo dieting and binging.

"I was molested when I was a child and then raped when I was older," she explains. "Subconsciously I associated beauty with danger, so I figured the more weight I gained the less men would find me desirable." 

Fortunately, Mandisa's unwavering faith and activism through music with the Women of Faith conference and 20-city concert tour helped prepare her to let go and experience true freedom through healthy living. Nowadays, the Ashley Stewart spokesmodel and Grammy- and Dove-award nominated chanteuse has made a commitment to healthy living for the long haul.

"I still have a long way to go, but this isn't about looks," she assures as she continues to promote her album, "Freedom.'" "It's about letting go and living a healthier lifestyle."  

Check out Mandisa at www.myspace/mandisa

To learn more about Women of Faith visit www.womenoffaith.com

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