Hello all. I’ve had a thrilling day. Why? because The Reinvented Lass sent me a message this morning. Apparently on her blog she mentioned a recent change I made on the blog, namely that it is now known as “Biggest Girl In The Ballroom” instead of “Dancing With Stefanie.” It bothered her a little bit, enough that she commented about it here and then reached out to me to see if I wanted to do a guest post in response which was all totally awesome.
So you can go to her great blog and read her original post and soon my guest post response to gain some insight on why I made this change if you like. In any case, It was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on some things as well as to connect with The Reinvented Lass, which I love to get to do. And, interestingly enough, it all kind of ties into what’s been on my mind the past few days.
You see, I think Ivan is really puzzled about how someone so fat happened, namely me.
He wonders how a person could allow themselves to balloon up to over 300 pounds. He mentioned it at the end of a lesson in a round-about way because I’d shown him and Marietta pictures of me when I was a more normal weight when they came over for dinner about a month ago and it made quite an impression on both of them. So much so that they talked about it on their way home. As I’ve been more focused on my lessons and showing him more and more of what I can do, of my potential, it becomes all the more palpable the fact that being so dang big is really impeding me. Ivan is like, “You can’t even imagine what you could do when you lose the weight.” It’s imperative that I handle this, and I find it incredibly motivating, exciting to know that I could actually become the dancer I dream about being – that it is something I am willing to work and fight for.
But how do I find myself in this position where I have over 100 extra pounds on my frame in the first place? The interesting thing is that from my perspective, in my mind, I always felt as large as I actually am now. Even when I was at my smallest, a mere 116 pounds in high school, I still never felt thin enough. I always felt huge, fat, bigger than all the other girls, especially when standing next to them side-by-side in leotards in dance class. But in college when I really began to pack on the pounds it feels like I went to sleep and suddenly woke up, strangely finding myself a size 3x woman, unable to fit on roller coasters, unable to wrap a towel around my mass, having difficulty keeping up with my husband walking around Berlin, Germany, and dreading asking for a seatbelt extender on the plane ride to get there. This wasn’t me…but it was.
After all the years of misery struggling to maintain my weight I realize that there was a point where I finally just gave up and gave in. I allowed myself to eat all the things I would absolutely deny myself in the past and of course the pendulum swung from extreme restriction to extreme abandon with all things food.
Add in a little trauma, which we all experience at some point in our life, add in giving up my passion and love for dance, add in feeling the need to grow up and abandon childhood things, well, it was a perfect storm.
So now I’m here on the other side, and yes, I began dancing again, and though down 45 pounds from my largest, I’m still far from even a healthy weight, much less the body size expected of a ballroom dancer. But the thing is, I’m still a dancer and I’m actually pretty darn good.
But, as Ivan says, “The baba metza is killing you. You have everything, the emotion, the movement, the rhythm, the connection, but the fat grandmom bear is killing you. You don’t even look like the same person as in those pictures. You totally different. More than just about the dancing, it’s killing your life. You so stupid guska! Tuppa guska! You have to loosing the weight. You have to. I want to dance with you when you are feeling so good about yourself, when you feelling so sexy, when you walking in the mall and people will just notice and turn to see you because you so pretty. I want to dance with you anyway, but I want to dance with you like this too.”
I want to dance with me like that as well! It seems like an impossible dream to actually sculpt my body into something I love and that feels good to live in. Self-loathing, especially in the context of body-hate has been the miserable struggle I’ve had with me as far back as I can remember. I can remember feeling extreme shame about the fact that pants that fell off my friend didn’t close around my waist at the age of 7 or 8. I remember promising myself I’d only eat chicken for dinner at age 9 because I could see my arms were fatter than the other girls on the dance team. I remember feeling that there was something so very wrong with me and I felt powerless to change it.
So to shed the weight, and, more importantly, to give up this dark, hateful relationship with myself, is to let go of something that has been with me from the start. I will have to find a way to accept myself as is and to love me at all stages of my transformation. I refuse at this point to withhold love from myself until I realize a “perfect” body. I’ve been withholding it all this time trying to force myself to become something different, to be beautiful as society defines it and thus acceptable and valuable, but it hasn’t worked.
I can’t exactly articulate how I went from slightly pudgy to clinically obese. Obviously I ate more and I became less active. But these are the mechanics of how it happened, not the why behind it.
I think I felt the need to hide and cover myself up. For protection, as armor, to keep people at a distance, to disappear and fade into the background, unnoticeable, unremarkable. Why exactly this was so, I can’t say except that on a deep level I felt like I was forgettable and unremarkable and un-special. Simply put, I was ashamed to be me, to even exist. I know it sounds depressing, because it is depressing. But as much as I put on a brave face and did what was expected of me and showed up to class and performed well, inside I felt empty. Perhaps the food was an attempt to fill me up. I had no authentic outlet to express myself and felt very dissatisfied with myself and my life. I was doing all the things I was “supposed” to do, but I was not doing anything to nourish my heart or soul. And my flesh told the story for me. It silently screamed, “I’m incredibly unhappy! I hate myself! Please don’t look at me, I’m so ugly!” I made myself “right” about all the lies I told myself about myself.
I wish losing the weight could be as unconscious as putting it on. I suspect this will not be the case, however. I suspect it will take extreme attention and focus and will involve making conscious choices to choose different activities and to create new habits. I’ve been somewhat successful at a snail’s pace over the last 3 years, but I want more. I want a significant change. I want to to reclaim my true self – the one who lives inside me, who revels in being sexy and feminine, and who is bold and free-spirited. I see flashes of her here and there when I’m dancing. She finally is beginning to feel strong enough to reveal herself completely.
So Ivan thinks I’m Tuppa Guska, which essentially translates to silly goose as far as I can tell, because I gained so much weight. But I don’t think it was quite so simple as that. It wasn’t like I said to myself one day that I want to be fat…it was more that I didn’t know how to be me, when being me wasn’t okay.
But dancing has been bringing me back to life. It has taken a few years to land in a place where I actually believe I could be the dancer of my dreams. I had to go through two previous instructors and find one who was a dancer himself, not just a technician, and I had to get connected to the ballroom community, and to feel supported in my endeavor. I finally believe in myself as a dancer. I believe that I am a beautiful dancer. I believe that it is important that I dance. Big or small that isn’t going to change. And just you watch, this tuppa guska is growing into the swan she was born to be.
By LaSylphide at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
I love this post… I struggle through a lot of the same troubles and have recently managed to lose some of my weight but I realized… Through dancing… That most of the time I’m afraid to break through… Afraid to execute the move to its full potential… Afraid to be sexy at risk of bein judged but in reality I’m the biggest critic of all… We all are. When I watch you dance I’m inspired… Not because I your size… But because of the passion in your movement… Your connection to the dance. In fact… I showed my instructor the video of your showcase and told him I wanted to dance like that. It’s not easy to feel like you should dance when you’re not the perfect body type… You’re constantly at risk of being judged based solely on your body and not on your movements. But I know and you know that we have to dance… It’s an expression like no other. And to dance half-heartedly would not be the catharthis that dance should be to us. So when you’re second guessing you’re dancing… Just remember that I used you as an example of the dancer I want to be… So beautifully expressive
It seems that healthy emotions are critical to a healthy body. From what I’ve heard, things like over-eating and addiction become coping mechanisms to numb the pain the individual feels. But, dancing really does seem to help you deal with life’s pains in a healthy way. I wish you the best.
Your soul speaks volumes to the world. There are many that connect to the inner you because they are you. I have loss over 44lbs this year; however, I may never have the beauty and grace that you have on the dance floor. I remember when I first saw you dance, I was thrilled, I wanted to have your spirit, your moves, your style, you were outstanding. You inspired me to keep going even if I did not have a “dancer’s body”. I continue to this day on my weight loss goals and I have refocused on bettering my “technique”. I understand how hard it is to accept our bodies sometime, but a dance coach at the studio told me that I have a very “earthy style and DO NOT lose it”, to work on improving my foot work, timinng and styling, but DO NOT lose what makes me different.
Steph, and anyone reading this who struggles with weight: – I’m having 8 people over for dinner tonight, so am busy – but not too busy to offer a holiday gift: I’ve mentioned Energy Psychology to Steph before – she knows I used it to drop 55 lbs. and continue to use it to keep those pounds off . It’s way outside the allopathic paradigm in which Steph and I were educated and I know the word energy will put some of you off, but… the research on its efficacy becomes more compelling by the week and the American Psychological Association now grants CEUs for attendance at EP workshops. They fought EP for 15 years, but so many psychologists are incorporating it into their practices that they’ve had to relent. EP can remove the programming (in one’s subconscious mind) that established and is maintaining excess weight. Forget the word energy, which is so difficult for people, and think of EP as a debugging device for the subconscious mind. Think of the subconcious mind as a computer infested with fat-making malware. EP can identify and uninstall that programming. It will take time and quite a few sessions, but, people can use it on their own, too, in order to hasten their progress. If anyone wishes to check the EP world out, go to http://www.energypsych.org and also to http://www.emofree.com, on which Gary Craig has made his basic EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) free and available to anyone. I am taking the EFT professional certification training and am seeing it benefit the people I practice on, even though I am still a novice. Of course, I use it daily on myself to keep my own weight from returning and to take the sting out of the various unpleasantries of life. Happy Holidays to all!
Just popped in after seeing a comment you left on Jen’s blog (over at See Jen Dance) – wanted to say, I love how bold, direct and (in my opinion) self-confident your blog’s name is. Ballroom’s absolutely brutal about going off of looks – I like that you’re calling it out. 🙂
Hello Anonymous Lurker! Thank you for not staying a lurker and making this awesome comment! I appreciate it.
Hi Stefanie. I just found your blog yesterday. I’m very moved by what you talked about in your last couple of posts. (I’ve only had time to read a few so far.) And I found the video you mention. I’m also a big girl who dances. I don’t look quite as lovely as you do when I dance. I think I’m still very self conscious. Not so much about my body image, although that’s ever present, but more about my lack of confidence that I’m even doing the correct steps and holding my frame correctly, so I can’t quite get relaxed enough to be very graceful just yet. I know I just need more practice to be able to feel more comfortable. I’ve been very lucky. The studio I go to is full of wonderful people who make me feel really good about myself, even though I’m larger than most of the other people. Plus, I’m having a ton of fun and meeting a lot of awesome people!
Welcome MizzSmartyPants! I’m so glad to hear from you! Thanks you for the kind words and I’m touched that you were moved by my writing. I’m so glad you found such a wonderful and encouraging dance “home,” that is wonderful. How long have you been dancing? I’ve found so many layers to dancing and the rabbit hole just keeps getting deeper! At first it is all.about simply learning the mechanics of steps so give yourself time to figure it out. The more you do it, and the more you practice, the more natural it will become. A friend once told me we gain confidence by doing, and to a point I believe it to be true. Plus, as long as you are loving the dancing, you can’t really go wrong. Well, thanks again for stopping by the blog! I’m glad you came!
I started dancing by taking some lessons from someone with my (then future) husband so we could look nice at our wedding. That was in 2006. We only learned a super simple Rumba routine and a couple Hustle steps so that we could at least do something to other songs. My favorite movie has always been Dirty Dancing and I always wanted to learn how to dance, so once I got a taste, I didn’t want to stop. In the summer of 2007, my husband and I found the Arthur Murray studio I’m still at now. I’ve taken long breaks here and there due to life getting busy, losing my job and being paranoid about spending all that money, etc. But I enjoy it so much that I know I’ll never stay away too long. I don’t really blog or anything because I just can’t seem to find interesting things to say often enough to stick with it. But I’ve been posting my dance videos on YouTube and putting them on my Facebook page. If you are interested, you can see my dancing playlist here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL857C2A82BA5EF281 I really like having the videos so I can see what I think I need to work on and also so I can see my progress. I wish I had done more videos during the earlier years, but there’s not much I can do now but try to tape everything from here on out. 🙂
Hey MizzSmartyPants – I finally had a moment so I went to check out your videos and I love your sassy attitude, grace, and beautiful, colorful dresses! Thanks for stopping by here and I’m so glad you are still dancing and if you are ever interested in writing a guest blog post, consider this an official invitation! I’d love to feature you and maybe share one of your favorite videoes!