It All Begins And Ends With Fat

I had a really great double lesson with Ivan this morning. This is the difference having a solid goal and time frame in place makes. Because I’ve put the down payment on participating in 80 heats in People’s Choice, I know I’m going. Because I know I’m going, I know I need to do whatever I can to prepare myself in the short 4 weeks before the competition.

In only four weeks there is only so much you can do. Even while I work at it, I’m not going to lose a significant percentage of my body fat in that short of a time. However, even dropping just 5 pounds will make a difference I can feel on my body. I’m determined to be spot on with the plan my nutritionist sets forth for me. I can be motivated for one week at a time, especially with the competition looming. There is a purpose, and an urgent one, that will be behind all my choices and struggles. I need that.

And I’m determined to not lose any momentum afterwards like has happened in the past. I’ve already gotten the days off work for Desert Classic, which is also just a short time away. But the thing is, as soon as I am complete with People’s Choice, I will have another goalpost on the horizon to focus upon. This is so important for me. I will have my next competition planned before I complete Desert Classic to keep the cycle going.

Also, I probably can’t improve my cardio to where it really needs to be, but I do believe in a month’s time, especially combined with even a modest weight loss, I can make a difference. So what I need to do is practice exactly the task I need to accomplish while in the competition itself. We’ve been lazy on our lessons in this regard, indulging in long chats, stopping when it becomes a moderate effort, not doing rounds. I’ve talked in the past about making a playlist of songs for rounds of American and Latin styles with songs 1:30 each, but today I finally showed up prepared. I directed the lesson. I had an agenda. Because we have little time and I have to do what I can.

Before I fully committed to People’s Choice, I didn’t have a solid idea of what I was working toward…the vague goals of “getting better” and “losing weight” just weren’t moving me forward in any directed fashion. So I’d show up on a lesson and, as Ivan put it, say “Let’s do a Foxtrot. I’m fat.” He said I just moved and complained. That I wasn’t really dancing or doing anything.

So anyways, today I came in with a list of songs to warm up with. During this time we focused on connection. It was the perfect place to start and I told Ivan that this is how lessons need to look for a while – come in, warm up, focus on connection, then cardio, cardio, cardio doing rounds.

And guess what. It kicked my butt. I thought maybe I’d do okay since I did okay with the showcase number and that dance was pretty long. But nope. After swing I was kaput. And there are two more dances to complete. Because I was dancing full-out, pushing it during the beginning. Because that is my potential and capacity to dance like that, but I can’t sustain it. My body stops me. The asthma problems don’t help, but I honestly and truly believe that my body and physicality and lack of cardiovascular fitness are the biggest things holding me back right now. Anyways, I’m going to push during these next four weeks, doing rounds on every lesson and I do think it will get better. Oh, and it will probably feel better anyway because most likely the dances will only be 1 minute to 1 minute 20 seconds at the most and I’m intentionally making it longer for conditioning.

But even with the reality of how exhausted I was after Swing, it still felt really good to be working on exactly what I need to work on and to be directed and focused. I didn’t have time to go all “poor me” and get in my head. And I have to say, for the first time, I had this moment of really being excited. I love the shapes I’m making, in Samba especially, and I could, for an instant, imagine how fierce it will be when I’m 100 pounds lighter.

And there were some funny moments that had me in stitches and it felt good to be happy and laughing on a lesson, even if my shortcomings were right in front of me. For instance, we were doing this move in Samba and I was really getting into it and so was Ivan. He wanted to spread his arms open wide, his chest puffed out like an eagle, presenting himself as very manly and strong. At the same time I was to step backwards behind, cross my feet, put one arm up in the air and the other one on his chest. We both went at it full force…but instead of connecting with his chest, my arm hit is wrist with a loud “smack!” and he was like, “Oww!” and withdrew his paw like a wounded kitten. It was so funny! Sometimes it feels good to hit your teacher, you know! lol.

And then there was some typical Ivan inappropriateness. On one step he told me to shut my clam. No, he didn’t mean for me to stop talking. He meant my, ahem, other clam, as in, keep your legs crossed daintly like a lady and don’t dance like a cowboy. Oh Ivan!

But mostly the lesson felt good because we were productive, focused, and clear. And while working on connection, I was able to control, direct, and project my energy such that at one point Ivan got goosebumps which is the ultimate in knowing I’m doing something right. I love it!

Which brings up another thing I’ve been pondering. I’ve been going to all these group classes that really emphasize technique, with Inna and Rado, and that is great. I love these classes and learning all this amazing information. However, there comes a time when you just have to dance. And that’s what I’ve got to focus on during my (expensive) time with Ivan. We have to focus on connection and actually dancing.

Ivan was so funny on our last lesson. I was telling him about what we talked about on Rado’s lesson and asking him for his take on it, thinking that I wanted him to tell me what I needed to do to “fix” things. But he basically said, “This so good you going to these classes. You learning all the different techniques but it is different with everybody. I think you open. I think your mind is open and you can listen to all these things and understand there is no one right way. Many people is wanting this, right and wrong way. So go, and learn, and now use this information. You not stupid. You no need me to tell you what to doing wrong or how to fixing it. You can do this yourself. You just need to do your routines by yourself step by step.”

Well, dang if that isn’t taking responsiblity for my own dancing on a new level, I don’t know what is. And that is another thing I was reflecting on…how much responsiblity I’ve been taking for my dancing, especially since Desert Classic last year. It is a good thing.

Anyways, getting back to how Ivan was being so funny. So he was basically saying, yes, technique is important but it’s not everything and you have to dance, like really dance, if you know what I mean – the difference between “doing” the steps, passing through the movements and “being” the dance. It’s kind of hard to explain but when you experience it or feel it, you can tell the difference. Really dancing involves, for me, like actually hearing the music (like I used to before I learned the importance of counting) instead of just saying the numbers in my head. Like actually seeing Ivan, not just blankly staring at him. Like being playful and in the moment and responding to my partner, the crowd, what feels right inside.

And so we have this conversation about technique and dancing, and Ivan slaps my butt when we are doing our Mambo routine and he says, “See! This is not technique.” And then we do rumba and he keeps me in this one position longer than unusual, and I go nuts wiggling my hips and he’s like, “Yeahhhh! See! This is not technique! But it looking so good!” I have these moments when there isn’t a conscious thought, and I just move like I feel like I should, and it is amazing…it is really dancing.

Because my truth is, I am a dancer. We know this. Everyone can see it. I’ve finally admitted to myself and I finally believe it to be true about me.

The other reality is, I’m fat. Everyone can see it. I never needed to admit it to myself, it is what it is, it is the truth about me.

I thought there was perhaps a way to see the dancing beyond the fat, but not so much. They are intimately intertwined. As Ivan told me, “It always begins or ends with fat.” You see, people know me because I move so well and it’s pretty unexpected because I’m extra large. So people will ask him, “Oh, who do you have a lesson with next?” “Stefanie,” he’ll say, and they will reply, “Oh the big one. She’s so good!” or “She’s so good! Isn’t she the fat one?”

People can’t just see me as a good dancer. They see me as a fat good dancer. Kind of like most people don’t see just a man, they see an Asian man. Or they don’t just see a woman, they see a woman with Cerebral Palsy. The fat is part of the picture, inseparable from me as being Asian or having a debilitating disease. Of course I can change this…I’m in the process of doing so…but this isn’t the point I’m making. The point I’m making is that as of this moment in time, this is part of my picture. Period.

So it was with mixed feelings that I read this post from The Reinvented Lass.  I did the showcase Cha Cha and shared the video and it affected her.  She reached out to me and asked me if I minded if she posted it on her blog and talk about how it affected her.  Of course I didn’t mind!  I think it is so amazing she was affected, and that she wanted to share and engage in a conversation.  I love it.  And I really appreciate and honor her honesty.  She was so self-reflective and kind and yet, I have to admit, it still stung.

The Lass wrote that she was proud of me.  That she’d read about my struggles and thought that I was a, wait for it….good dancer, and that she liked how I got into character.

But in my head all this was overshadowed.  She also wrote:

…she did such a great job with it – regardless of her size!

Yes, isn’t that the story of my life.  It all begins and ends with fat.

She continued:

But I started thinking about what things she can do better than me and how much better than me she can move. And to be honest, how much better than me she can move especially considering her size. Petty, right? And then I started to feel bad for myself and started thinking how bad of a dancer I must be. And I felt bad for having such thoughts about her.

All that in about 30 seconds. SIGH.

And reading this, I have compassion for both for her and for me. This stuff isn’t easy.  Petty?  I’m not sure I’d agree.  It’s just true, what she thought, but it does prick the heart.  It goes to my point that there is no way of really seeing just the dancing alone becuase it is embodied by, well, my Rubenesque physique. And still, it pisses me off. Why can’t people just see the dancing?

And it made me think that being fat, letting myself present myself this way, is me handing others a weapon to use against me, keep me down (read – a way for me to keep myself down).  They can always be superior because at least they aren’t fat like that one girl who dances well, for God’s sakes (read – other people are superior to me)!  They may not be able to dance like me, but heck, at least they don’t look like me.  The fact that they have a body fat percentage lower than mine makes them a better, more worthy person somehow. And anyways, they can get better, and at least they don’t look ridiculous trying to be sexy (read – well, you know.  All this crap is just me projecting what I don’t want to own).

How unfair and mean and separating and victim-y is that to think? And all that in about 30 seconds. SIGH.

For me it brings up thoughts of how inappropriate it is to dance in this state. That I shouldn’t dance while fat. But it also makes me think that it is important that I still get out there anyway because the stronger truth is that I am a dancer. I am a dancer now when I am fat and I will still be a dancer in the future when I am thin. Who I am is a dancer, but who I am has nothing to do with how much I weigh….and everything to do with it.

So what is there to do? I’ll take a note from the Lass:

But I also told myself that it’s not a competition. It’s a journey. She’s on her journey, and I’m on mine…

And in the meantime, I can appreciate Stef, her journey, her ability, and her dancing. I can appreciate that we share a passion and that we both think dance is so important to our lives. And I can cheer her on to be the best.

Yes. That’s right. We are on our own journeys and how much better is it to root for one another, remind one another of our greatness, and have open, honest communication, than to get stuck in the mental muck that threatens to separate us? How much better is it to appreciate that we share a passion called dancing that is important to the both of us, and that really, we are more similar than we are different?

So, Lass, I cheer for you, and for us. I appreciate you and know that you do kick-ass swivels (which I suck at!) and turns. I know you are insightful and wise. I am so glad you had the courage to share what you thought. Thank you for being my friend, warts and all.

So maybe the title of this post isn’t quite right.

Maybe it doesn’t really all begin and end with fat.

Maybe, instead, it all begins and ends with compassion and respect for ourselves and others, how we are right now, holding a vision of the best in the future. Maybe it all begins and ends with connection, not separation, recognizing our similarities rather than only seeing outer differences.

Maybe the truth is that it all begins and ends with love.

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10 thoughts on “It All Begins And Ends With Fat

  1. bgballroom says:

    Another stellar post, Stef. Love reading your stuff except for one thing. It always makes me want to have long, in depth, philosophical discussions about life, dance, weight, teachers, music and a dozen or more other things that can’t easily be discussed in blog/comment form. This makes it all the more important to get us together at a comp, doesn’t it? Though how we would ever find chat time in a busy comp, I really don’t know:-)

    Just one tiny thing today, then. The brain science people say that we categorize and generalize to save space in our brains and save time remembering things. I recently described someone as the tall woman with the stern expression and my friend instantly said “oh, the one with the painted on eyebrows?” Our brains categorized them differently, but we each chose a prominent physical characteristic to quickly memorize this person.

    And along this line (I know I said one, but this is a cute kid story) a little girl at our daycare was having trouble getting her dad to figure out who her friend Robert was. She explained that he had a blue coat and that he rode the bikes all the time and that he played with another child who was a mutual friend. Dad was stumped. When he finally asked the staff who Robert was, we all had a laugh because he was very obviously the only child of colour on our playground that term. The 4 year old daughter wasn’t being politically correct, she just didn’t see this very clear physical attribute, or at least her brain didn’t categorize it that way. Wonderful to be 4 years old, eh?

    Enjoy your pre-comp practice. Tough but fun!

    • loveablestef says:

      Ha ha! I love it! I would love to have long, in depth, philosophical discussions with you in person, for sure! Yes – we WILL get together at a comp and there is totally a way to create time together while there.

      Thank you for this interesting information about categorizing people with characteristics. And that is a darling story. I’m trying to be more and more like my inner four year old every day :).

      Thanks for everything, really. You rock. Can’t wait to “really” meet you… Emerald Ball next year is my goal so if you can get there, we will plan it all out! Let me know your anticipated comp schedule and I will see what I might be able to come to in your neck of the woods….

      XOXO! -Stef

  2. bgballroom says:

    Here are some photos that might inspire you: http://www.dancesportimages.com/DanceSport-Competitions/2013-IFB-Latin/29100609_7BjnPp#!i=2479202759&k=k8XNJx4&lb=1&s=L
    This lovely young woman brought the house down with her Pro-Am Latin. I think her jive might have been one of the biggest ovations of the comp:-) doesn’t she look just like Katie Perry?

    http://www.dancesportimages.com/DanceSport-Competitions/2013-IFB-Latin/29100609_7BjnPp#!i=2479202780&k=Ps6hFHs&lb=1&s=L

    And yes, she is wearing fringes, thank you very much!

    http://www.dancesportimages.com/DanceSport-Competitions/2013-IFB-Standard/29065267_kR4mHR#!i=2474822749&k=8JfgGpB&lb=1&s=A And white with nude patches!

    http://www.dancesportimages.com/DanceSport-Competitions/2013-IFB-Latin/29100609_7BjnPp#!i=2478566579&k=F925gMK&lb=1&s=A My friend Debi:-) I had to sew her into this gown when the zipper refused to budge on Saturday night. Sunday morning it apparently worked like a charm. Weird.

  3. You’re amazing. You really are. I hope you know the main thing I was trying to convey was how great I thought you are! I think I had lower expectations because of how down I hear you talk about yourself and your dancing. Not because of your size.

    I’m so proud of you and how far you’ve come on your journey and how determined you are to complete it. Take it one day, one meal at a time, and you’ll get there. 🙂

    Someday, you should do a comp in Minnesota. I’d love to talk in person sometime! 🙂

    xoxo Cathy

  4. Very inspirational!! From one Rubenesque to another, I commend you. Glad I found your blog. 🙂

  5. What an amazing post. Thank you so much for sharing. Your honesty is so refreshing. I’m not alone!

  6. Montanita says:

    Good luck with the Comp and thanks for visiting my blog!

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