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