What’s Up Buttercup?

Heya!  I know I’ve been gone a while but I’m still alive and still dancing.

I guess I just don’t feel like I have all that much to share lately.  There is no definite competition on the horizon and my lessons are pleasant and fun but I still feel like I have to be in better cardiovascular shape and to have lost significantly more fat before I get on the competitive floor again.  Truly those are the things that are holding me back.

Thankfully Ivan is pleased with the quality of my dancing lately and even saying he’s excited to compete with me when the time comes.

I’ll be excited too.  It’s just that I want to have completely transformed and I want new dresses.  Period.  I just don’t want to compromise on this and I’m sick of being the fat one.

So, it’s really the same old same old.  Boring.  Who wants to hear about that?  It’s a broken record.

So I’ve not been writing.

On the up side, I feel like I’ve found my confidence in my dancing.  I believe I am a good dancer and can own it.  That’s a huge victory.  In fact, I was even shocked today in group class as I was asked to do the one and only demonstration in Jive.  Pretty cool to be recognized.

I’m still a little shy about it, and kind of try to hide and look at my fingernails between rounds of practice and stand to the sides or not in the front row.  I don’t feel 100% confident nor do I feel the need to pretend I’m a diva.  But there is some level of feeling like I’m somewhat competent at what I’m doing, even if there is still room for improvement.

Because, let’s face it, there’s always room for growth, with Ivan too.  But, for me, the deal is, the more confident I feel, the better I dance.  And being confident, for me, comes from practice, preparation, and the body-image stuff.  The smaller I am, the better I feel, the easier it is to move, the more I move, the better I can cope with the physical demands.  It all goes together – it’s kind of like which came first, the chicken or the egg.  All parts of me from the mental to the physical and emotional are interconnected and affect one another.  I can’t wait to feel so wonderful about how I look and have that reflect in my dancing.  I can’t wait to actually create a “look” to present on the competitive floor.  I can’t wait to really love my new dress and how it flatters me.

But all that’s old news.  Now it’s about being consistent, being as active as I can, and putting in the time and effort to drive the transformation.  It’s gonna take time.

Three interesting things of note have happened, though.  The first was Tony Meredith came into town and I was lucky enough to get a coaching with him.  He created a new Mambo routine for Ivan and I.

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The second thing is that on my last lesson Ivan and I had a grand old time just goofing around toward the end of the lesson.  I put on music I enjoy and he tried to whip me around like crazy, pretending like he was “Michael Malitowski.”  He tried to spin me all these directions and then he went to drag me, so I grabbed around his neck and he began to spin at the end of the drag.  And I don’t know why, but it just felt like the natural thing to do, so I lifted my legs up!  He spun me and I was completely off the floor.  I haven’t felt like that since I was probably 8 years old.  I was flying!  It was truly incredible and I can’t wait to see all the cool stuff we might be able to do when I’m lighter.  Because I’m strong under here!  And I can’t tell you what a phobia I’ve overcome with this because even when I was in high school and 80 pounds lighter, I was terrified of how heavy I was and convinced no guy could lift me.  I had to partner with this senior guy in the school musical and he even dropped me in one of the performances, proving me right in my mind!  So anyways, I can fly and the possibilities are exciting.

And the third thing is that I’ve been going to Orange Theory.  It’s great for me because it gets my cardio in, I’ve never burned less than 540 calories in a bout, and it keeps me interested so the time goes pretty quickly – much better than hopping on the stair machine for 45 minutes (which is tedious and boring and takes a lot of mental convincing to do).  And hey, I was pretty proud of myself when I first went because I was able to hang with the crowd.  Sure I might have had a higher heart rate, and maybe I wasn’t as fast as other people, but I was stronger and faster than others and I began to think, maybe I’m in better comparative shape than I thought.  There is no way 6 months ago I would have been able to perform this well.  It was also a pretty crappy reality check because my heart rate was so high (they track it throughout the workout).  I was working really hard, ergo, I am still fat, sick and out of shape.  But I was also thinking to myself during moments, “I am magnificent!” because I’m there, I’m sucking it up, I’m doing it, I’m pushing hard because that’s how things change.

And speaking of pushing hard, I had probably the most difficult and miserable hike of my life last weekend!  It was way too hot out, there were thick, icky swarms of gnats that plagued us from our first steps to our last steps,  and I’m fat, sick, and out of shape!  My heart rate was around 174 for most of the incline during the 3.4 miles.  I wanted to give up most of the time because it was so uncomfortable, and I made a pact with myself not to do that damn hike again until I’m under 200 pounds.  It is so much work to move my mass uphill and people just have no idea what it’s like for us fatties.  For example, my husband also tracked his workout and he burned 250 calories on the way up while I burned 3 times that amount, 750 calories.  Mostly it just makes me mad and that motivates me to keep working at it.  I made a pact with myself to be as active as I can this week and to get under 200 pounds once and for all.  I’ve been playing with the same 10 pounds for 2 months – stupid “social events” and “real life” – like Easter, family obligations.  I do great when I’m in my own little bubble during the week.  Weekends and any social obligations are much more difficult.  And my stupid body is so efficient if I give it any extra, it gloms onto it.

Anyways, I’m focused and fired up and while I was suffering on the peak I really concentrated on how awful it felt.  I wish sometimes I could bottle that misery up so any time I even want to think about going off plan I can take a little sip of it and instantly I’ll know what choice I really want to make.  I guess the next best thing is to go on miserable hikes and do horrendous workouts that feel awful so I am constantly reminded of why I want to change.  For the moment it is fresh in my mind.

So that’s the deal folks.  I’m still struggling with being consistent but I’m also still plugging along, I haven’t given up or given in, I’m resolved to be as active as necessary, and I’m gunning for the 199 pound mark in the next 3 weeks.

Oh, and I was sad to hear that my ballet class on Mondays will be cancelled.  I have to find a substitute activity and I’m thinking yoga.  But I’ll miss the ballet – the people, the exercises, the balance and leg strength it’s given me.  I will be sad to lose the progress but I don’t think there is another class nearby.  Yoga seems like the next best thing, maybe it will be better, who knows.

So now you are all caught up!

Until next time, Stef

Back To Real Life…And Beyond

There is always a bit of a transition coming back down to earth after a competition. But I must say, the pace has not lessened one iota since I’ve been home. I was right back to ballet Monday evening the day after I got home, and the rest of my week went as planned with work outs at the gym, Inna’s class, the eating plan, and fitting in some dance lessons with Ivan. Actually, there was even more activity this week because it was Imperial’s annual showcase/masquerade gala Friday night, and over at EuroRhythm Saturday morning after my double lesson with Ivan I was blessed to have attended a workshop with Latin couple Andrej Skufca & Melinda Torokgyorgy, who, according to DanceSportInfo.net are positioned 5 in the world and 1 in Slovenia.

It’s honestly been a very, very good week. I’m am clear and focused and determined. This feels really wonderful and like I have some forward momentum propelling me towards my goals. There is a fire in my belly that hasn’t been there before to power me. And I’m so grateful for all the experiences I’ve had, even the difficult ones, for they have brought me to this point.

Earlier in the week I had a nice lesson with Ivan where we focused on American Rhythm technique. I love getting back to the basics and still feel like I have so much work to do to truly demonstrate the proper movements. Especially since I do bronze, I want to be clear, prescise, and spot on with the basics. For me, the more clear and detailed and specific I can be, the more that I know what I am doing, the more confident I feel and the better I dance. I am happy we are taking some steps back to see the bigger picture and re-align. This includes finding our connection, which was the bigger issue we worked on today and Saturday. For certain Ivan and I felt disjointed at Holiday, like we were not dancing together. Well, Saturday morning, it was better. It was more about the energy and connecting properly and that always feels so much nicer and generates/allows more dancing and expression.

And we had some time to communicate and talk about how we both showed up on the dancefloor and at the competition. We discussed better ways to handle things and lessons to learn from the mistakes I made. It is such an all-around journey with opportunities for growth on all levels. And as much as I’ve grown, there is still so much more inside me. And I was actually happy when I felt uncomfortable on the lesson because it was out of my comfort zone.

It’s all tied to confidence. Confidence that I know what I am doing physically. Confidence in myself, which for me is tethered to my body and body image. Confidence in my connection to Ivan. I feel like everything will change as the fat suit comes off. For certain I will feel more beautiful, it will be easier to move, it will be less taxing, and that is why it is my primary focus at the moment, even as I continue to devour as much information about dancing as I can.

So it was a good lesson Saturday morning and we cleared the air and all that, and still it is difficult. We are two different people and sometimes we are not on the same page. It’s a challenge to come together and make it work. But I love it, and we know it’s possible. Again, on both sides of the equation, it depends more on how we feel about ourselves as a couple and what we are presenting than anything else.

So anyways, Friday I was able to attend the showcase at Imperial which was pretty fun and wonderful. But I ended up leaving early before the professional show because it was getting so late. They played a lot of games which were fun but I knew I needed to get some sleep for my big day the next morning.

So after my lesson with Ivan, I made my way to the workshop and it was awesome. It was awesome to be in the presence of these professionals. They shared so much information that my head was spinning! It was amazing to just watch them move which was a lesson in itself. They also gave specific corrections to specific people, which I thought was really wonderful. I even got one on my Samba! Woo!

We started with Rumba and the biggest takeaway I had was that the front foot is actually parallel when doing Rumba walks. It is the back foot, leg, and hip that rotate outward to create the Latin position which is turned out. I never, ever would have thought that, however, it made more biomechanical sense, and freed the hips, and I felt so much more stable walking that way. Also important was the timing. They got so specific 1 and 2 and 3 and a 4 ah! Each count = a specific movement. I am truly learning to love counting, and as Andrej said, there is something really beautiful about being exactly on the beat, not a little behind or ahead. My impression was that the extra counting made the music and movement more gooey, stretching it longer, and it again made so much sense for the release/recoil which propels the next movement, usually a step forward. They talked about torsion around the spine, especially in the upper body, which I find pretty difficult to execute. I wish I could just stand side-by-side with Melinda and do the steps over and over with specific corrections. Latin technique is just as detailed as ballet, if not more so, in my opinion. And the more I learn, the more I see how important it is to be aware and accountable for each and every little ticky-tah of movement. It’s mind-altering.

After a little break we changed to Samba. The biggest takeaway for me here was the importance of both the footwork, which involves a lot of ankle, foot, and calf strength, as well as the forward crunch/scooping of the hips forward to create the bounce. Again, when broken down, it makes more biomechanical sense, but these are details I’d never think of. From what Andrej shared you are supposed to actually begin to lift your heel even while your leg is bent during a whisk to create the movement of the back leg and when done correctly it actually causes the back leg to be placed in the right spot. It also allows a person to squeeze a tiny bit of extra movement forward into the hips to increase range of motion. Whomever sat down and figured all this out was a genius. I am very impressed with how clearly Andrej and Melinda were able to express concepts and ideas and how detailed they were.

In fact, they shared so much information, there is no way I absorbed it all! So I made up my mind to just focus on one or two tidbits in each dance and to work on those in the future.

So that brings us to Sunday which didn’t involve any dancing but does involve an interesting personal revelation about how very, very far I’ve come. You see, one of my friends from high school came into town with his adorable fat-cheeked baby and new wife and we met up to catch up. We had a wonderful visit but of course he asked about all this ballroom stuff he’s seeing on Facebook. And I realized, perhaps he didn’t know I danced in high school. He didn’t have a clue.

How strange!! It was a big part of my life, but I never really shared it. I danced outside of school hours and wasn’t confident enough to proclaim that I was a dancer. Here was this person who knew me since 7th grade, who I was next to in practically every class because of our last names and alphabetical seating, and he had no idea I danced during all that time. I am sad for the 12-16 year-old me. Sad, because I was so insecure about sharing who I was. On the flip side, I’m pretty amazed at myself because here I am now, blogging about and sharing my journey, broadcasting it to the world, all while having a body that is far from ideal and much worse than it was back in high school when I hated it even more than I do now! Actually, things have shifted around that issue as well. I’m finally, finally finding some peace in my relationship with my body. I am even grateful for all it has done and continues to do for me. And I had this weird revelation on my lesson with Ivan on Saturday. This may perhaps be a tangent off into La La land but bear with me. This is how I understand it.

I believe that dancing involves enregies. I think most people would agree it certainly involves emotional energies, which are invisible but very real. Well, anyways, when I dance with Ivan we throw and catch different energies toward one another. Well we were doing a Mambo, which involves a lot of booty shaking, and Ivan was being all interested in my ample, womanly behind, and I realized, my butt liked it! LOL! It really did. It was all happy and proud and I thought, wow, I should really take advantage of this and let my body parts enjoy this energy and attention. I mean, if I can’t give it to them, maybe this will help.

So anyways, those were some interesting realizations and now my wooojy woo tangent is complete.

And all that leaves to talk about is my lesson this morning. It was awesome. I found my mojo once again. No fear, just moving, just letting my body do what it wants to do, feeling the music, feeling good about being me. And Ivan got goosebumps and he loved the lesson and we both felt good. Even better than that was working on our connection. We had great communication around the connection and found a new one. It allows both of us to be more accountable for ourselves. Ivan realized the importance of backing off and even letting me fail so we can find the right placement for both of us. I desperately need the feedback of when I am using him too much or too little but I can’t get that if he always takes care of me (and Marieta) and neglects himself. And when it works like this, it is so nice, it feels so good! And Ivan was all, you dance the best when you just feel, why ever dance any other way? And yeah, he’s right. It’s meant to enjoy. Not to get all caught up in the right and wrong ways of doing things, – at the core dancing is actually not about “doing” anything – it’s really about “being” – being loving, and joyful, and open to sharing, connecting, growing, and evolving.

I’m energized and focused and excited about the coming year. And I want to thank you, dear readers and supporters for the part you play in that. You encourage me more than you will ever know. I appreciate you and I’m grateful to get to share my journey with you. A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. Cheers to us all as we embrace the new year! I have a feeling it’s going to be very sparkly!

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Clean Eating, Challenge, Change, Consistency, Commitment

I am extremely grateful to find myself in a most clear, determined, and single-minded space after a week laden with emotional turmoil (as well as a little bit of humor.) As I continue this journey, which in my mind began three years ago, I am surprised and delighted with how much more quickly I can get through “the muck” back into a neutral or even positive mental place. Back when I was at my largest, it could days or even weeks of staying stuck, wallowing in my despair, anguish, anger, or resentment. I’d done a lot of work internally before I was ready to accept the help of a nutritionist and though my external results have been frustratingly slow (in my mind, at least), the deep roots of new coping skills and healthy tools I’ve cultivated continue to serve me well as I chip, chip, chip away at my own personal face of Mount Rushmore. Dang I wish I had some stinking dynamite!

Another reason I’ve been able to switch so quickly out of overwhelm and sadness, I believe, has been the support I am now able to receive from “my team.” No one officially signed up to be on my “team” – it’s just my own idea of people who are helping me get to where I want to go. This includes, of course, first and foremost, my awesome nutritionist, Chelle, owner of Recipe For Fitness, who wrote an amazing response to my Dear Body Letter. Seriously, go read Chelle’s blog post! I totally believe she’s got my back and that she’ll stick it out with me until I’m done. She’s the “coach” of my team….maybe I should get her a whistle! 🙂

My “team” also includes, Ivan, he’d be the artistic director (hee hee), as well as my new trainer, Allison, who is so much better than my previous gal. I finally feel like I have a trainer who actually cares about me and my progress, and I appreciate it so much, especially with all the crap I’ve had to go through with trainers recently! Plus she, herself, trains as a MMA fighter, has 12 years of personal training experience, and is generally just a pretty awesome person.

And beyond that, I also consider you readers as part of my team. You encourage me and inspire me to keep going, even when the going gets tough. Fitocracy, a social media platform that is kinda like Facebook for people into fitness, is another resource I’ve used that is a postitive, encouraging outlet – you can find me under “loveablestef” if you ever decide to join.

Finally, many times I have people supporting me and encouraging me that I don’t even know! Like Tabitha – I’ve never met her, but she took the time to write me a powerful letter which helped me move forward, and from the feedback I’ve received, I’m not the only one she helped.

I must admit, however, that even though I understand and believe what Tabitha/my body had to say, I am still in slight resistance to certain portions of it. Rather than considering this a bad thing, I think having a little resistance is good, because it means I’m on the edge pushing against a limitation. Soon enough things will shift and I will have grown. If I had absolutely no resistance, then I’d already be done with the portion of “the work” she suggests and wouldn’t be any challenge! But, yeah, that’s not the case.

For instance, I still have a hard time swallowing the idea that my body is on my side. I’ve lived for 27 years considering my body to be a problem. It has never been a beautiful body in my eyes and it is frustratingly stubborn. It is limited in many ways and can’t do all the things I want or expect it to do. I experience it as being untrustworthy and I think of it as something that is sub-par and needs to be fixed but that it is so messed up that it’s a lost cause. Confusingly, it is also an ally in many regards, the most important of which are that it allows me to dance and to walk in this world, and sometimes it surprises me doing things beyond my expectations. Clearly my relationship with my body isn’t 100% in alignment, but I have faith that it can be.

I am also frustrated with the idea my body put forth about having to get internal affairs in order before seeing outward change. I feel like, egad! Haven’t I already done somuch?! I have been working at it for three years to get internal affairs in order but still I wait, wait, wait for the outside to match with the inside (yeah, it’s a little victim-y, I know. I’ll get over it). I am dumbfounded time and again at how very different my internal image of who I am and how I see myself in a fit, healthy body, and the reality of my current obese body are. It is beyond words the amount of internal work I’ve done and annoying that there is still more to go! Plus it is just plain incongruent with the external state of affairs. Like, last week I was eating my fish, brown rice, and asparagus, all portioned and measured, cooked clean after 90 minutes of ballet and I’m thinking to myself, “A person who eats this dinner doesn’t have a body like mine.” But I do.

I’m also in resistance to my body’s message to push and push hard. It’s not because I won’t or don’t push hard already, it’s because I’m sick of hearing it and I’m sick of having to dig down deep just to make it through Latin class with Inna or Mountain climbers with Allison, or planks on a ball with Chelle, or doing the stairstepper with asthma and my heart rate at 175 and me wanting to quit, having to talk myself into each and every step. I admit that here and there I am finally, finally, noticing small changes in the ability to do more. But again, I think it is good to be a little in resistance because it means I’m butting up against my limits and my job is to notice them and burst beyond them. Trust me, it is not in my nature to not push! If my trainer has a weight too low or I don’t feel like I’m being challenged enough I speak up! Usually, though, it’s the other edge I experience – the one where I’m being challenged beyond my perceived capacity – the place where I panic and get emotional and have to fight. I don’t enjoy that fight but again, discovering (finally, after hearing about it for so long) how to channel and transmute my negative feelings into pushing myself, has been a step forward. It may still suck at times, like when I was on my last set of mountain climber burpee thingies and Allison was like, “Go at your own pace. We can modify if you need to,” And I was like, “No!” and got I emotional, angry, teary-eyed, and grunted and groaned but I banged those bitches out, using that emotional angst instead of letting it defeat me. And there have even been moments when I’ve been up for more, that internally a desire to push myself a bit harder when working out on my own bubbled up from somewhere. Again, progress, but not the tangible, visual kind I want to see with a smaller butt, gut, and bat wings, with muscle definition and tone, seeing the definition of muscle working under the skin.

I am also in resistance to the idea that I shouldn’t use the scale. This is because I absolutely, as part of my goals, want and need to be lighter. If that means at some point I lose some muscle, so be it. To be the dancer I want to become I must be smaller, more compact, lean, and weigh significantly less. Period. I cannot stand the idea of living the rest of my life obese, over 200 pounds! Yes, I’m open to the possibility that I will look fantastic at a higher weight than most my competitors who weigh like 110 pounds, but I’m not willing to weigh over 200 pounds. This shit needs to come off. Anyways, for the sake of sanity and also to see a more complete picture, not just the one told by the scale, I’m considering getting some measurements in a Bod Pod, the gold standard for body composition testing.

As for the rest of the letter from my body, I’m totally on board with it. As you can see from the title of my post, especially for the days leading up to Galaxy, (and beyond I hope) I’m in RockStar mode. I am a clean-eating, ready-for-challenge, changing, consistent, and committed woman. This is how I am showing up in my life right now, ready to demolish this portion of the journey set before me. Like no kidding. Because I am hungry, starving, ravenous, for dramatic, transformational change in my body. I have been for a while. I’m so ready for new clothes, ones that I actually like! There is no going back and I still want more, so very much more.

To that end, I’ve made a little sign for myself that I’m hanging above my work computer so I will be staring at it for 8 hours a day to continually reinforce my committment. I have to say, however, that the decision has already strongly been made in my mind. Chelle created a new plan with lower calories and I’m following it to the letter. We also renegotiated a work out plan with cardio and weights. I’ve already been hungrier than before but thanks to the internal work I’ve already done, I’m able to weather it well. On other plans, more geared toward cultivating a healthy lifestyle, I felt over-full or would get hungry maybe once or twice near time to the next meal time. This time around, I get hungry 5 or 6 times before the next time to eat, most especially earlier in the day, but I have the skills to handle it. I can tolerate a few signals from my body where three years ago I would never even allow myself to get hungry, and if I did it was binge time. It may not be completely comfortable to experience a little hunger but I don’t care! I’m committed. And it’s a normal physiological function. I have 17 days now in which to make as much a change as possible before I step onto the ballroom again. I would rather accept the pain of discipline now than suffer the pain of regret at Galaxy, and I know that being in integrity with this plan will give me the best chance of feeling like I am awesome when it’s time to dance.

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Already I’ve had these little victories like yesterday I went to visit a friend and stayed longer than I anticipated so I was quite late for dinner and really hungry. But did I grab the first most convenient thing? No! I grabbed a cucumber, a totally free food on my plan, quickly cut some slices, and nibbled on them as I prepared my dinner. To me that was proving to myself just how very committed I am. No straying from the plan even when things don’t go perfectly. No excuses!

I also made a point to steer clear of my husband’s Fantasy Football draft party. We had over 20 men at our house, eating pizza, drinking beer and other hard libations and I didn’t even want to be around it so I volunteered to housesit for my in-laws. Truth be told, I wasn’t even tempted with the debauchery before me! In years past this would have been as irresistible as a siren’s call and laced with a dose of guilt, remorse, and recovery the following day. And I was even more pleased with my decision when I saw how annihilated my husband and his buds were the next morning.

In addition, I’ve already talked about how I’m going to handle an upcomming trip with my husband. We have a kitchen where we are staying so first priority the morning after we arrive will be to get groceries and cook! I’ll bring my breakfast along with me. He knows I’m not going to bend at this time with the eating, even though we will be around many restaurants and bars. It won’t be like this forever, but for now this is the way it has to be.

So now I guess the biggest struggle isn’t the eating, or even the exercise since I’m clear on what I’m accountable for with that, but rather the biggest battle is waiting patiently and having faith that this change I’m seeking in my body will actually happen. I still don’t entirely trust that it is possible for me to have a gorgeous body, one that I love and would be proud to show off. I still feel like I will be pudgy and that I am not ever really going to be lean. But I do believe it can be better and I know I will not to back. The only path is to push forward. I wish it were happening faster, oh God do I ever! But since I have no fairy godmother to instantly transform my adipose into thin air, I’ll have to burn it off myself.

Results

First thing Saturday morning was the time I’d decided upon. My feet shuffled over tan stone tiles as bright sunshine lit every corner of the bathroom. I gently tapped the glass rectangle to awaken the machine and stepped up. The grey numbers flashed once to lock in my weight measurement for the week.
 
My throat tightened and my vision blurred as fat liquid drops fell downward. This was not the result I wanted.
 
Emotionally I was wrecked….part of why I knew it would be prudent to only weigh myself periodically because mentally I can only take so much discouragement. I’m telling you, eating on the plan is easy. It’s the emotions that come up, it’s my strong attachment to how I want my results to look, and it’s the negative patterns of thinking, those are the hard parts. I will say that perhaps a few months ago the plan and food part would have been more of a struggle. I was pretty much convinced I was just not a person who could be disciplined around food. But I’ve discovered that’s not true. At this point it’s actually becoming more about disciplining my thoughts than anything else.
 
So in this state I did the best thing I could think of which was to reach out for support. I emailed Chelle, my nutritionist because she’s made it clear she’s available to me since I’m a client on the personalized meal plan. She only takes on like 3 clients with personalized plans at a time because she puts so much time and energy into them. I consider myself extremely blessed to be one such client because having Chelle’s expertise and perspective is making all the difference in helping me to finally succeed at this battle of the bulge I’ve been waging (and losing) for as long as I can remember.
 
 
Hi Chelle,
I just wanted to reach out because I’m kinda having a tough day. I weighed myself today and had a loss of 1.8 pounds for the week.
 
I just feel….disappointed.
 
I logically know this is just about on target of a slow weight loss of 2 pounds weekly. I am just really struggling with eating so much food, feeling so full, and the weight loss being so slow. I am so sick of being fat, really I am, and it is just so sucky to be so big. I know, logically, that I’m doing the right things, but I want more. Emotionally, I’m a mess. Immediately my mind goes to what else can I be doing?
 
I do think adding one more weight training session a week is a reasonable thing to do…I only go twice weekly for a mere 30 minutes each session. I understand I burn the most calories while at rest and that re-compositioning my body to have more lean tissue which is more metabolically active is a good thing.
 
I am just feeling like I’m wading through a swamp of muck up to my chest. I’m making progress, yes, and it is slow going. I’m so hungry for those moments that are not happening just yet – when my clothes fall off, when it is finally easier to dance, when everything isn’t so hard, when I wake up and look in the mirror which is right by my bed and actually like what I see and am not horrified and depressed by it. I am so so so sick of being so large and I just want this off.
 
I’m especially struggling because my competition is so soon and I really look pretty much the same as the last time I danced. I am sad by this lack of results and am trying to find a way to still be confident and happy when I dance while inside I feel exactly the opposite. I’m so embarrassed to be this way. I don’t feel proud of where I am.
 
I promise I’m still eating on my plan. I have every intention of following through and will be going to to the store today and cooking tomorrow for the upcoming week. This isn’t going to be some excuse to derail me, I just feel like crap about it. Looking at about 8 pounds in an entire month, while staring down the barrel of obesity, and 98 pounds to get off, means it will take 3 months to even get of 10% of what I weigh now and I find that incredibly depressing.
 
I have a motto I learned, that results are often harsh but always fair. Well, this week I made modest progress. And…I don’t understand why my body which has so much extra fuel isn’t dropping pounds like crazy especially since we are feeding it properly and especially since I’m so active, yesterday notwithstanding. I can feel this fit muscular girl inside me and it just sucks so bad to be wearing the fat suit on top of her. How come other people can drop 6 or 10 or 12 pounds in a week that are my size? Why doesn’t my body respond like this?
 
I just need some help to shift out of this sucky place because I have a dance comp in a little over a week and a half and I need to be in my RockStar space by then…meaning I realize outwardly not a lot will probably change from now to then but internally I want to feel confident, strong, proud, and happy.
 
Any words of advice or encouragement are welcome.
 
-Stef
 
Chelle got right back to me:
 
I know it’s frustrating, I know it’s discouraging, but it’s temporary. There will be weeks when you drop larger numbers, weeks when you don’t. It’s not an indication of failure. It’s just part of the process. And yes, it sucks. I’m sorry. I know how hard it is. I think adding a weight day is a good, productive step. If you can, add two. If you can, make them 45-60 min instead of 30. If you can. And no extra cardio. Your body is still adjusting to the new food routines… you’re in flux, that’s normal. Stay mentally in the game, and maintain your course. Let’s see what the scale says next week… and the week after. I think you’ll see larger changes over the next couple weeks as your body begins to conform to your will.
 
 Hang in and hang on. You are doing great! You’re making progress, no matter what the scale says. And…. fyi… your weight loss this week is awesome!!!!! You are to be commended, not beaten up. Appreciate what you accomplished and know that I’m really, really proud of you.
 
If there is one thing I’ve learned it is that taking proactive action can be very empowering. So I resolved to workout on my own at the gym that afternoon and that is what I did. It helped somewhat, but I was still processing everything. And Chelle cares enough about me that she followed up with me a few days later.
 
How are you feeling today? Where’s your head at?
 
I replied:
 
Hi Chelle,
 
How am I doing? I’d say neutral. I’m not in a torrent of self-pity and despair but I’m not 100% carefree and happy either. Basically, I’m in this and committed and that is the most important thing. I’m doing what I need to do. I’m adhering to the plan and eating according to the plan. I actually enjoy the cooking and food prep. I enjoy eating the food. And the cooking/prep is relaxing in a way and I’m much more active physically just doing that. I laugh because I bought puzzles thinking I’d have to distract myself in the evenings, but it turns out my evenings are full of prep and I like it. I’m feeling more productive and organized in other areas of my life as well and this is a nice feeling. I am doing well with the schedule, the regularity, the consistency. I haven’t had that, especially around food, for a long, long time.
 
But the deal is, the moment I see myself in the mirror, the moment I touch my gargantuan fat arms, or look down and see my belly, it just bums me out so bad. I am SO big! I know I’ve been big for a long while so why is it bothering me so much now? Well because I had resigned to it. I put up the white flag and put on the blinders and gave in just thinking that I will always be fat. But now I’m fighting. I’m committed and taking the proper steps and I am only two weeks in. I look the same and what do you expect after two measly weeks? And it’s still painful just the same to see my body. I do not like what I see. Not at all.
 
It is a mental minefield. Like, I tell myself to notice how I feel, that jumping in ballet is easier, that my clothes are a bit looser yada yada yada. I do notice these things and at the same time it gives me very little joy. There is a disconnect about feeling good and happy about these positives. Because at the same time I objectively acknowledge and observe small baby steps of progress, I also see how I am two to three times larger than the other people in the class. And it is like Bam! Right in my face. Or I’ll see a fit, toned lady at the gym and I’m instantly reminded that I am NOT like her, that I look un-feminine, un-attractive, in my ratty gym clothes, that I don’t 100% believe I could ever really have a body like that or ever be that comfortable wearing a sports bra and bike shorts. Or I feel how I can’t properly jump or step my legs in from downward dog in yoga because my belly is in the way. It sucks.
 
I kind of have to walk around in the gym and think, “Fuck you. You don’t know me. You don’t know what I can do. You don’t know who I am.” And mentally shield myself. I don’t feel like I belong, that yes, on the inside where it is invisible I’m fit, I’m a clean eater, I’m a dancer and athlete, I do 70 pound deadlifts, but the outside is telling a very different story and when people see me they just see a fat person (and all the judgements that go along with that like being a slob and lazy, etc.), if they notice me at all, and it is painful, this incongruence. When I picture myself my mind while doing active things I sometimes feel strong, poised, athletic, but it doesn’t match the reflection in the mirror.
 
There is nothing for it. I know that results will change how I feel about myself but they are delayed. What I do today will show up in a week and even then they are slow and minor changes and I wish the process were faster and more dramatic but it isn’t. I have to just accept the process because it ain’t going to change and I’m still angry about that a little bit. It’s unreasonable, of me but there you go. I’m resisting how the process looks. I wish it looked different. Because I see how hot my Samba could be when I’m thinner. I see how I could do this pot stir step but right now I’m too heavy and my legs can’t hold myself up….and we’re talking a year to see that, or will I ever see that? Sigh.
 
Bottom line is I’m gonna feel what I’m gonna feel but the tail isn’t going to wag the dog this time – Whatever I feel, I’m sticking to the plan. I’ll be honest. I still don’t entirely trust it. I’m still leery about feeling full and 2000 calories….and that brings up feelings of unease about is this going to work for weight loss because my paradigm, my previous experiences with diets/weight loss involved being hungry and it being hard. But I’ve decided to come from a place of surrender and committment so I’m going along with it. I’m acquiescing to the expert on nutrition because she knows more than I do and I what I’ve tried doesn’t work. This is the agreement I made with myself, and implicitly with you because what is the point of having a plan if I don’t follow it to the best of my ability? So I’m on it like no kidding and I do trust that you will tweak it if/when I hit a plateau,and that gives me some peace of mind, though I am fearful/angry about the idea of going two to three weeks without weight loss to be in a true plateau because again, I have a thought about being so big and having so much fat storage fuel so why wouldn’t my stupid body use it…not seeing any progress and doing everything right will be hard for me to swallow for a two to three-week period. Heck, it was hard for me to swallow “only” losing the 1.8 pounds this past week. But then I say at least there was movement and at least it was in the right direction and at least I didn’t gain and at least I know that I am in integrity and that is important to me because then regardless of the results I will know I did everything I could and won’t beat myself up about it even if I am disappointed.
 
Again, it is not the prep or the actual “doing” the plan. It’s the thoughts I have about it. It’s the feeling that I can’t bear to be this big and fat one more second but there is no way out of that except through time and consistency. It’s the disgust with having handfuls, entire handfuls, of rolls of fat on my back just below my shoulder blades and feeling my bones maybe 6 inches underneath it all and wondering what is it going to take for this to be gone?
 
So that is where I am mentally. I don’t feel like a RockStar. The feelings are not coming yet. Like I can acknowledge that I’ve been really disciplined with my eating plan and doing a beautiful job, and I just have no positive feelings that bubble up with this acknowledgement. But the good thing is that I’m pretty insightful and self-reflective and I am aware enough to know I do not need to go chasing the feelings…that they will eventually come if I keep doing the right things, making the good choices. I’m just not in the place right now where I feel good about it all. Like the one blog post I wrote a bit ago when I was working out like a fiend, setting goals for myself and hitting them, and objectively I could say I should totally feel awesome about myself, what I accomplished, that I set my mind to something and followed through…but the feelings just weren’t there.
 
Well, probably a way, way longer answer to your question! LOL. I’m a writer, that’s for sure, and it helps me process through everything to write it all out. To summarize, I’m on target and in integrity. I don’t yet experience positive feelings naturally arising as a result of this. I am focused on how huge I am which I realize isn’t productive or helpful but it’s where I am. Regardless of how I feel, I’m committed. I’m in resistance to how the process looks which is futile and causes me to suffer mentally and that’s what I’m doing that right now anyways. And I pretty much hate my body and I definitely hate being so big and fat. I’m being all stubborn and Taurus-y and not being satisfied with what is, and digging my heels in about not being satisfied until I have created substantial change….which has the positive benefit of giving me laser focus on my goals and what I want! And I’m willing to shift around all this. At least I know I am at choice around how I look at things, even if I’m choosing the path of suffering for now.
 
Time for bed! Goodnight! -Stef
 
I wondered what Chelle would have to say after all that! I’ve been mulling over her reply, the compassion and wisdom she shared with me all day:
 
Here’s the deal – just like you said, you’ve got the “stuff” under control – you’re doing the food, the workouts, the dancing – you’re on track and right where you should be. The mental battle is just that – it’s a freaking battle and it’s brutal. Some days you’re winning, some days you’re a bloody body on the battlefield. As difficult as the weight loss journey is, the hardest part is the war against your own mind. I wish I could tell you that once you hit your goal weight and size, your mind will celebrate. It won’t. I don’t say this to take you lower, I say this to forewarn you and to arm you for the battle that is still to come. You are incredibly intuitive and you know your own mind – this is a HUGE benefit, though I’m sure sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Thinking everything to death gets to you, I’ve been there. But the battles you’re fighting now are preparing you for the ones still ahead.
 
So when you look at the scale and get angry over a 1.8 lb loss – you tell yourself that it’s 1.8 pounds of fat that you will never, ever, ever see again. When your clothes feel a tad looser and you’re hurt that they’re not falling off yet, you tell yourself that they will never, ever, ever fit again. When you go to bed without hunger pains and you’re disappointed that you didn’t do enough to reach your goal, you tell yourself that you will never, ever, ever disrespect and starve your body again. When you fear that the process is flawed, that you will plateau, that you won’t get to the destination, that you’re not good enough – working hard enough, that you will never be the RockStar I see, you tell that fat girl in your head to fuck the hell off. We are evicting her.
 
You are not good enough – YOU’RE INCREDIBLE
You are working hard enough – YOU’RE MAKING AMAZING PROGRESS
You are going to reach your goal – YOU’RE CLOSER EVERY SINGLE DAY
 
Every step you take, every rep in the gym, every sip, every bite – you are closer to your goal. The battle in your body to change is being won. The battle in your head is harder, and I know… I KNOW you’re going to triumph in that, too. Hopefully it won’t take you as long to kick the fat girl out of your head as it did me 😉
 
You are a RockStar. Period. I believe in you absolutely. There’s no part of this process that’s easy – but you’re not afraid to work hard – physically, emotionally, mentally. You’re ahead of the game, and you’re going to stay there. Hitting your goal weight and size – no worries there. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a done deal, it’s simply a matter of time. Seeing that transformation in the mirror – that’s the struggle you’re really fighting. And you’re going to win it.
 
There is no other option.
 
😉
Chelle
 
Awesome, right? That I have such an amazing partner in this, someone who forged her own path though the wilderness called weight loss, who triumphed, who understands the process and who is someone I look up to, admire, respect, someone who is mentoring me, is incredible. She’s so encouraging and authentic and she believes in me.
 
But there was one sentence in her reply that shook me up: When you go to bed without hunger pains and you’re disappointed that you didn’t do enough to reach your goal, you tell yourself that you will never, ever, ever disrespect and starve your body again.
 
It brought up strong emotions and I’m still grappling with. Especially the idea of starvation/restriction versus overstuffing/being “too much.” You see, my experiences of successfully losing 60 pounds at the age of 12 when I did Nutrisystem involved feeling extremely hungry, so much so that I remember I snuck uncooked pasta to eat out of the pantry. And the weight loss was accompanied with lots of praise and attention…for feeling like I was starving myself. And then I beat myself up for eating that pasta because if I hadn’t cheated with that I might have produced a better result sooner.
 
This sentence messes with my paradigm of the world that it is impossible to enjoy my “diet” and not be restricting and still lose weight. It screws with my concept that to drop pounds successfully requires strict, unforgiving regimentation and self-denial. It blows my idea to bits that there is no way to be at peace with my body because I’ve always experienced it as something to be overcome, something that needed fixing, something that was flawed beyond repair. I’ve always experienced it, and because I identify myself so much with/as my body, by extension, I experienced myself as unworthy, “less than” others, because my body wasn’t beautiful, because I wasn’t beautiful.
 
My internal pendulum swings wildly from feeling like I am not enough, not worthy, and I should be restricting my intake to feeling like I am too much, that I’ve always had a lot of strong emotions and a big personality but I learned to tone it down because it was uncomfortable for other people, that I couldn’t fully be myself because it was “too much” and unacceptable and I wished I were different. And so I buried myself under a mountain of adipose, simultaneously becoming invisible in some ways and impossible not to notice in others. It’s a silent scream, this body of mine, broadcasting my despair, my need to stuff things down my throat so that my Voice is silenced, my needs are blunted, so that I’m not a needy person who is “too much.”
 
And here you are telling me that I’m doing enough. That I don’t have to be hungry. That I can enjoy the process. That I should respect this fatty lump of muscle and bones that is my body.  It’s a mindbender.
 
Well, the good news is that this was actually my experience from last week.  I continued to be committed and I stuck with it and I have some exciting progress to report….on my next blog post.  This one is already way too long!!  Stay tuned.  People’s Choice is 4 days away and I’m rocking and rolling like never before.

You Are What You Do

Which begs the question, what the hell have I been doing?

Okay, first things first, I promise that a write-up of my experience at the Arthur Murray Winter Showcase will be forthcoming soon but there is just so much going on in my brain that I need to work it out! And the blog is where I do some of that and I’m needing a purge about now. I just have to say that I was so appreciative of the experience and felt so welcomed by everyone that I interacted with. They didn’t have to be so kind, especially since I already dance elsewhere, which made it even more especially wonderful.

But back to my drama. It’s pretty much all mental but it’s making me feel like every emotion possible all at once. Imma ’bout to explode here!

A lot has happened but I suppose it all really started this weekend. On Sunday I woke up after a very nice evening watching my dear friend dance as well as a show by Jason and Sveta Daly. And I have to say is, watching Jason and Sveta really affected me. Especially their Rumba and Bolero. I totally got chills at some points and Sveta is impeccable in her technique. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them dance better than last night. Anyways, it was gorgeous and wonderful and I loved it, so I was puzzled why I was feeling emotional on my drive in to my lesson with Ivan.

When I walked in, I just told him right away I was a mess.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because I’m sad. Because I want to be like Sveta and Marieta. I want to be as good of dancers as they are. And it is painful to me that I am not. And I don’t even think it is possible. I can’t believe that it is possible for me to move like that or have a body like that. But that is what I want now, and, looking back on it, ever since I was a little girl. Back then I wanted to be a ballerina. Now the picture has changed, but it feels the same. And it is even more upsetting because I’ve buried it so deeply, stopped dancing for over 10 years, and gained such an incredible amount of weight.”

“I mean, what are we doing here, Ivan? What is our goal? What do we want to do? What is our focus? I like that we are working on some open routines but why? What is the purpose?”

“I don’t know. There is lots of goals you having,” he replied. “You is wanting to lose the weight, and dance scholarship, and all these things. But do you want to go to a competition and only doing 10 dances?”

“No.” I answered. “I wouldn’t want to travel and do all the prep that is necessary for a competition and only dance a few dances.”

“See, so you wanting things different from your friends. You having different goals. You can’t be comparing yourself to them.”

But that’s the crux of it all, isn’t it? That is the world of ballroom. Comparison. I am being compared to those on the floor at the same time. My body is being compared. My dancing is being compared. My costume and make up and hair and tan are all being compared. And judged and ranked. And pardon my French, but it can be a total mindfuck.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all say that we should only be competing against ourselves, our last performance. That we should only strive to better than we were yesterday. And, maybe that is the way to go. I just have to say that it is super hard not to look at my amazing friends, or the pro dancers I look up to, and think it is impossible for me to be any sort of champion. It is impossible for me to actually realize this dream of mine to move and look like a Latin dancer. I want to be her, not just play at it. I want it badly. But maybe not badly enough?

I expressed this sentiment to Ivan and he seems to think my biggest problem is not believing. In his Bulgarian wisdom he pretty much said, “You always wanting this. But can’t just want it. You having to believe it. You not believing it. But I believing it. I know this is gonna happen. I already see it.”

So although I scheduled a double lesson, we only danced maybe 20 minutes total of the hour and half after all the talking. But sometimes I just need to do that. I don’t know if anyone else does that, but every once in a while it just has to happen.

But then the 20 minutes we did work something amazing happened. We began to work on Rumba, just the fan. I’m not exactly sure how or why it happened, but Ivan was encouraging me to express myself more and more because in those moments when I really tune into the music and actually connect like I’m supposed to, and am centered in myself, I actually dance. (Amazing, I know!) And, it turns out, that I can be in control as the lady on some moves, slow them down, add dynamics, change the speed etcetera, according to the music and what it feels like I should be doing to interpret it and the “story” of the dance.

So anyways, I was in the space to do all that I guess after all the talking and I began to play with the music and do this leg extension thing before stepping into Sliding Doors. And after we did it, Ivan looked at me and said, ” You make me dance there.”

“What?!” I asked.

“Yes, because you dancing, you doing something, I have to doing something too. You make me actually dancing with you as a couple because I can’t just stand there while you are moving. I can’t just wait for my student to doing a turn, I have to dancing too.”

Honestly, that was the coolest thing ever in my mind. The coolest. The friggin point of dancing is dancing together, having a conversation through our bodies. And the fact that I had enough dance in me to get someone like Ivan, who I consider light years ahead of me, to join in with me, was so fulfilling and fantastic. It felt awesome. Ivan was pretty excited too. He said, “When my next student comes, we have her video it and we can see.”

So here’s the thing. I’m going to share these videos with you. But the deal is, that when I saw them, I was pretty mortified. It looks nothing like how it feels inside. And I can see a bunch of things I really don’t like, especially how slow I am at the very end. So please be gentle! I’m a work in progress. And the thing is, I went from feeling awesome about myself, to seeing the reality of what I was doing, my abilities at this moment in time, and I was pretty darn disappointed. I went from feeling great to feeling crappy in just a few seconds.

Alright. Well that was the end of the lesson and I had to get going to my ballet lesson across town. I didn’t have time to wallow, but I have to say that I didn’t exactly feel like blogging about all this. I felt drained and I needed some time to work through the feelings before I felt okay about sharing it. But I guess I do, because here I am blabbing all about it! But anyways, on to ballet.

Which was great as usual because the class is so much fun and pretty casual and as a special bonus my friend came to join me for class and coffee afterwards. So that made for a fun lesson, and even better was a chance to catch up with someone for the first time just me and her. It was so wonderful. She told me about her life and I shared a little of what was going on with me. At one point we talked about the time I went on the boat with Colette and Lady Gaga and Ivan and Marieta.

“I don’t know what kind of balls you have girl, to go on a boat with them!” Read bathing suits and hot bodies.

My answer stuck with me. It just came out of me in the moment, but now it’s been rolling around in my brain. I replied, “Well, really, it came down to a choice to participate in life or not. I made a decision a while ago to participate because I didn’t used to. I would be afraid to do anything, especially anything physical, for fear that someone might see a fat roll.”

Seriously, I did this, back when I was a normal size. I would never get in the pool at pool parties. I would not play games at camp because I was afraid my shirt would ride up and reveal my belly. I would sit alone on school field trips to water parks. It sucked. And now I’m on the reverse end of this – doing all these things, including ballroom dancing, in a body that is ridiculous, and in spite of the fact that people can see fat rolls and my shirt does occasionally ride up and reveal my Buddha belly.  I do all this now when it isn’t just in my sick head which is pretty ironic if you ask me.

So anyways, I had to end the girl date because I had another activity planned with Lady Gaga. She had arranged a class from an instructor at her studio for stretching and some ballet exercises to assist her with Latin. She invited me along and I’m game for anything once to try it out. It was another intense experience stacked right on to the other ones of the weekend in a different way. This also affected me deeply and gave me much to ponder.

When we got there, at the beginning of the class Lady Gaga mentioned, “Please help me!” to the instructor. “I have bad feet,” said Gaga. I was thinking the same  think about my feet. I don’t have the best point (but not the worst either). But our instructor responded with something that woke me up.

“Nobody has bad feet.” He said.

“Anything is possible.” He said.

And  he proceeded to tell us the story of a woman he knew who was a professional dancer. As a student, her teacher told her she would never make it as a professional because of her feet. But she stretched them and worked on them, and something like 20 years later she happened to be at the same convention as her old instructor, teaching a workshop, as the professional she became.

It was just the message I needed.

The class was a lot of stretching, and it turns out I am pretty flexible. I mean there is always more you can work for, but the thing is, I’m pretty happy with my flexibility for what I have to do in ballroom at the moment. The bigger concerns are aesthetics (read fat), cardiovascular endurance, and speed. I’d rather begin to spend more energy and time and resources on those issues that are really holding me back than to work at something I’m already decent at. It isn’t going to get me where I want to go to do that. So the long and short of it is that I won’t be continuing with the class, even though I’m really glad I went this weekend.

I gained so much just by being in the presence of this teacher. It turns out that he is Romanian. And he explained, after class, that he had been trained in both ballet and ballroom and also music as a child because that was part of the schooling there. He currently dances with a ballet company. And he was just amazing. It is evident that he has lived a life of discipline. And he just had this gentle, kind, pragmatic manner about him. He was soft-spoken and kind. He never got flustered, even when the woman in the class who was taking it with her husband was trying to correct her spouse (more than once!)

His message was consistency over being a hero. That it is better to work consistently at something, slowly, not working so hard just to prove something only to do it once.

His message was, live by the principle that you are what you do. We all have different abilities. We have to work with what we have, and not compare with others. And that comparing to others is different from being inspired to do more and be more by others who are doing more and being more. Ivan actually said something very similar to me on a lesson the day before. That it should be motivating to see someone dancing amazing and then to look at it and say, “If he/she can do it, so can I. How are they doing it? What can I work on to do it as well?” It is a more empowering and proactive response than to sink into the depths of self-loathing and deprecation, hopelessness and despondency.

I was especially affected by the instructor’s response to my question, “How often should you stretch?”

“That is a good question.” He replied. “It depends on how much time you have to devote to it and how badly you want it. Me, I stretch two hours a day. There was a time when I worked my way up to four hours a day. And when I was dancing, and where I wanted to be, I spent maybe 10 minutes on it.”

His answer blew me away and opened an entirely new paradigm about how badly I want what I say I want.

I guess the good news in all this, even though I don’t feel a lot of closure around all that has happened, is that I did figure out my “goals” with ballroom dancing. It’s probably pretty obvious to you, but I had to suss it out. My goals are actually pretty clear and simple.

I am a trim, fit, confident, trusting, consistent, expressive, and sensual woman. I love my body. I dance every moment fully present and connected to the best of my ability.  Every moment I dance feels as awesome inside as it did when Ivan was made to dance with me as a partner rather than a student.

I think everything else will fall into place if I focus on this.

So in this mindset, I threw my workout clothes and tennis shoes in my car with the idea of going to the gym after my lesson with Ivan tonight. I also had been thinking about stuff I want to work on as a dancer, including twisting more, being on balance, being faster, connecting, and as Sveta mentioned to me, “having a small base and a lot of movement.” I wanted to work on these things but guess what. I pretty much sucked at all of them during my lesson. It was disheartening. Ivan had to push and pull me because I was slow. I missed responding because I wasn’t connected. It was so disappointing! I mean, after all this talking and all this thought and all this intention, and when I show up, I still can’t perform any better. It feels hopeless and upsetting.

But then, well, even if I sucked today, and was not connected, and too damn slow, two things I noticed. One, I’ve been wearing my heels on all my lessons, even in Inna’s class. It may seem like a small thing, but I’ve been using my comfy practice shoes almost exclusively for months. It affects balance to be higher and on a smaller heel. And it takes more strength in the ankles and calves to dance in heels, especially at my size. But I must feel like I’m strong enough to do it because it hasn’t been a thought lately. I haven’t been debating which footwear to use. And it has been a few years since all I wore was heels on all my lessons. Not since I went through the first time I painfully conditioned my feet to be able to wear heels with my first instructor has this happened.

The second thing I noticed was that although I was not happy with how I performed at my lesson and was kicking myself for not doing better, I still had the motivation and determination to use the gym clothes I’d brought with me, and I know for a fact there are times when I have chosen differently in the past.  And at least for today I can say that I stuck to my diet and added 45 minutes on the stair stepper after my lesson with Ivan. And trust me, I wanted to quit about 15 times while I was on the stupid machine, and I had to bargain with myself to keep going, and I even had to slow it down a few times to recuperate. But I drew a line in the sand. It was simply this: I told myself that I would complete 45 minutes on the stair stepper tonight. I was committed to not breaking my word with myself and thus determined to not quit until I had completed the task. I could have chosen to beat myself up for not going full speed the entire time, or even for having a desire to quit. Or I could choose to celebrate that I completed it, and began to rebuild some trust with myself. I didn’t feel particularly sad or triumphant once the task was done, but I did take a moment to blast “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera on my iPod and walk very slowly on the treadmill afterwards as a little reward for myself. I lost myself completely in the music and that felt great.

So I sit here after writing 3000 words and I know that I have a long way to go. I have a long path ahead of me in terms of discipline and consistency. In terms of shedding weight and improving my cardiovascular endurance. In terms of loving myself and accepting myself as I am while striving to be better. And, of course, in terms of becoming the dancer I want to become.

But Ivan seems to think it’s possible. And if he can see that in me, why do I struggle with it so much?

A Rainy Day: Shoot Ivan, And Then He Goes Down To Hell

Yesterday I awoke to grey skies, frigid air, and fat wet drops beading upon my car.

Desert rain is a wonderful thing. There is nothing like the smell of creosote and wet earth. Since we get rain so infrequently I tend to really enjoy rainy days and overcast skies, even if it makes driving a little bit scary.

But I braved the weather (and traffic) so I could dance – I mean what else could propel me out of bed on a day that just begs to be spent in pajamas, under the bed sheets, with a cup of hot tea and a good book? You are right. Nothing.

But dance did rouse me and I met Ivan for a double lesson and we continued to work on our routines. And also, something kind of funny happened. We never discussed it, but all of a sudden, out of nowhere, we are working on an open Mambo routine. Actually, this started a few lessons ago, but today we took it to a new level.

Now here is a funny aside for you…from what Ivan tells me, dancers trained in Europe in the International Latin style have a very difficult time picking out the “2” count in the Mambo. For years and years, Ivan says, he and other dancers he knew danced off the timing, and started on the “1” count because that is what they could hear. In any case, these foreigners finally devised a way to locate the “2” count by pretending the song was for a Cha Cha! So, for instance, if you count a Mambo as a very fast Cha Cha you can find the “2” fairly easy. In fact, I remember Rado sharing this same tidbit at the dance camp! In any case, I find this amusing.

But I can relate. The very first partner dance I ever did was when I went to Spain. I went abroad for a summer of classes. An enterprising dance instructor talked many of my classmates into meeting at a local bar for Salsa lessons while we were at school. So for about a month and a half twice a week I went to a bar, drank Fanta orange with Malibu, and learned Salsa with my main partner who was from Algeria. Wow, when I write it like that, my life kind of sounds exciting!

salsa1

Anyways, I loved it!

Can you believe this is me?!

Can you believe this is me?!

But of course in Salsa you start on the “1” count. This is what I was used to when it came to Latin music. So when my very first ballroom instructor began teaching me Mambo, I totally thought he was off the beat! LOL. I danced along with him, but I secretly thought he couldn’t hear the music properly! It took a long time to hone in on the “2” count, but ironically enough, now that I primarily dance Mambo, it feels awkward to dance on the “1” beat!

salsa3

Okay, so back to my narrative.

We are working on this Mambo routine which is kind of exciting to me because it’s the first American Rhythm dance we’ve worked on beyond syllabus steps. I think I just asked for “cardio” in my lesson and this was the result. But anyways, just like in the Rumba and Cha Cha that we’ve already worked on, I need to know the choreography, the timing, the sequence of the steps. So the lesson was all about this, and it was pretty awesome.

Here’s the thing, though – in the beginning of the routine there are a lot of distinct steps, out of hold, and this makes them easy to remember in sequence. In the middle of the routine, however, I do about 15 left-right-left-hold (meaning balance on the left leg with the right leg free and available to move) steps. They all look different because we are doing different things with our arms and different facings in relation to the dance floor. But when it comes to remembering the routine, by myself, it gets tricky!

Seriously, the first hurdle is just knowing the steps with the proper timing. We didn’t even broach technique, character, performance, accenting, etc. But Ivan helped me. First, he laid down on the floor. You see, I was to do this by myself, and Ivan had had a late night involving wine heh heh heh. Second, we counted the steps and I did them over and over. The first few times, he’d prompt me when I was drawing a blank. By the end of the lesson, I pretty much had it. I say pretty much because I’m still slow – my brain is still working on overdrive to remember what comes next – but that is okay. Because now even if I have to pause and think, I can run through the routine on my own.

But the other thing Ivan did to help was to label certain distinguishing characteristics of the mostly similar steps. For instance, the first step, doing the left-right-left hold ends with me pointing forward with my left hand. We labeled this “Shoot Ivan.” Next in the sequence, I turn my partner lifting my left arm high and my right arm low. For whatever reason we focused on the low arm and Ivan called this move, “Send Ivan to Hell.” I laughed at these stupid names, but you know what? It helped me remember what was coming and it even makes a little bit of sense. I mean, you have to shoot Ivan first before you can send him to Hell – you know? LOL.

So anyways, the majority of my lesson was just getting clear on the what I’m supposed to be doing. Once we had done the choreography, and by “we” I mean me by myself, I asked Ivan to review the proper motion for the basic step. Why? For a few reasons. First, it’s been a long time since I reviewed the proper motion, much less danced the American Styles with any consistency. Second, because I noticed that I looked different doing it than Ivan did. Well, it was a great thing to request. More and more I find that going back to the very basics is so important and elucidating for more complicated steps and choreography. Knowing how to move properly in the basic sets me up for moving properly in every step.

So here’s what I learned. Well, probably more like “remembered” because I swear I’ve been told this stuff before but hey, if you don’t use it you lose it! (There is no Mambo in Inna’s class and Ivan and I have been focusing on Latin lately.) But anyways, what I “remembered” is that when doing the basic step you first place the foot (going forward or backward) and then even as you are changing your weight to that placed foot, you are actually propelling yourself in the opposite direction to land on the opposite foot. For instance, if you place the foot back, at the same time, as you are committing your body weight to the back foot, you are simultaneously shifting it forward to land on the next step on the opposite leg and foot which is stepping forward. The same holds true for the front step with the left foot, placing it but then shifting the body weight on to the back foot almost immediately. (One note here: the steps described are from the perspective of the lady (a.k.a. my perspective – because, after all, that is the most important perspective, no? lol).

Not only does this way of thinking about the basic Mambo step exemplify proper technique, but it also will change the look of the step, and even better, it will make dancing it with a partner easier and more in unison if both partners are doing it properly.

So I guess that’s the meat of my latest adventures. After my lesson, I made my way to a ballet class. It was pretty cool and in some parts easy but others challenging. I do believe that I will be sore tomorrow from the work I did today. And also, we worked on turns. And just by the way, turns from 5th position suck! LOL. Seriously, they are so hard, especially for someone with a tight Achilles Tendon and limited plie’ (AKA me) but we practiced them nonetheless. We did chaine’ turns across the floor which I managed fairly well, and weirdly I don’t get dizzy actually doing them, but I get extremely dizzy upon stopping (and I remember a time where I didn’t get dizzy anymore at all!), and then we did the turns from 5th. Well, mostly I did them average-like to poorly, but there was one really lovely turn! And you know what? I want to celebrate that one lovely turn because it was uplifted, and I looked like I was almost floating, and I held the posse position for just a fraction of a second longer than necessary with such beautiful control and center, placing my foot in 5th gracefully and solidly to end it. It was awesome! Of course, right after that the next 3 turns sucked ass, but hey, but you know, that’s what dancing is, right? Lots of practice to find that balanced uplifted strong space. 9 times out of 10, or even 99 out of 100, I blow it, or something is “off” – but then that 10th or 100th time it clicks and is an out-of-the-body experience of perfection. Well, at least that is how it feels to me.

So shoot Ivan and send him to hell! It’s been a good day to dance. And, to echo a Klingon sentiment (because I am a total nerd and Trekkie), it would be a good day to die. Because if I died today, well, I was in my process, doing what I love to do, working towards my potential. There is no worthier pursuit, no better way to spend my time. And for that, my friends, I am grateful.

The end.

This Week So Far

I know, I know, my life is SO exciting!  Well, not really, but I still feel the need to process my experiences, and guess what, that is what I do here on the blog.  In any case, I don’t think this will be a very profound post or anything, but I guess I just wanted to jot down the latest happenings.

I guess one of the main things is that I’m back to taking ballet.  I didn’t make it to class on Sunday because of overtime at work, but I did manage to squeak in on Monday night.  I think it is going to be a permanent part of my routine.  Class feels good and it’s frustrating at the same time.  It’s good because of course it is more physical activity, and it builds strength, and flexibility.  I’m also finding my center a little bit and improving my balance because of it.  I also give myself a free pass on it.  I’m not expecting myself to really be able to do like grand jetes, but every once in a while in class, I’m able to surprise myself a bit and hit a combination well.  Of course, in the next exercise the wheels generally fall completely off the bus, but hey, it’s ballet.  I’m mostly doing it as a support for my ballroom dancing and when I goof up, I simply laugh it off.  I am not putting an enormous amount of pressure on myself in the class, though I do want to do well, and I do push to try to stretch myself to do what I can.  Just showing up and moving for an hour and a half is a worthy way to spend my time and it makes me feel better to know I’m doing this for myself.  Plus, there is an added advantage of making some more dance buddies and building another layer to my dance community.

I must say that I am so thankful to have a place to take a class like this.  It is for adults and just the right level – not too hard, like I’d find at say Ballet Arizona, but not too easy or alongside 10 year olds.  But even with this little reintroduction of ballet, I’ve already had dreams about putting my toe shoes back on.  And by dreams, I mean literal dreams, NOT as in, I’m wanting to get back into those torture devices.  No thanks.  Not really on my radar.  But I guess my subconscious mind has a different idea!

In any case, I’m pretty excited because the owner of the studio knows I do ballroom and she is involved with a charity called Dancing Classrooms here in the Phoenix area.  I got an invite via Twitter to come to a meeting about it in the coming week.  I’d love to participate in this program and share my love and passion for dance with youngsters as well as to help provide the opportunity for them to experience the healing and empowering magic that dance can be.   I’m excited to see how I can be of service and pretty psyched to have been invited.

Well anyways, ballet class on Monday went as well as can be expected in an obese body.  I have difficulty closing my legs completely in a tight fifth position because they are so massive and jumping is chore.  I do the best I can but it’s pretty hard on my ankles.  My left ankle is already weaker because of past injuries and I know the weight doesn’t help.  I’m looking forward to being significantly lighter, but you know what, every pound helps and my diet is working.  I’ve not been able to get under 250 pounds for the longest time but I’m determined to be there within the next two weeks.  It’s only a few pounds away and I feel like it will be a breakthrough.  I’ve been bouncing around with about 10 pounds and pardon my French but it’s time to stop dicking around.  The holidays are over, thank goodness, and I’ve been able to get a bit more physical activity in, and doing well with the diet.  My weight was down this morning and that is a good thing, a sign I’m doing something right!  But now more yo-yo bullshit!  What I’m doing is working and I’m ready for significant change.  I do think, looking at myself in the mirror at class tonight, that I am beginning to look a tiny bit smaller.  I will take it.  Though by far still the biggest gal in the ballroom, it’s a step in the right direction and I’m going to celebrate it.

Which, brings me to tonight.  Inna and Artem must be competing out-of-town somewhere so it was Igor who taught Latin.  I must say that I really enjoy watching him demonstrate the Latin movements.  His hip action is so clear, and he generates great fast and slow dynamic.  I always learn something new when Igor teaches and I’m grateful for all the teachers who have crossed my path and contributed to my dancing.

So tonight we began with Rumba walks.  Wow.  I just had a realization, which is pretty ironic especially considering what I’m going to say in a minute (you’ll see what I mean in a moment).  The realization is that we did a lot of rumba walks tonight, around in a really big circle.  Probably for 4 or 5 minutes straight, which may not sound like a long time, but when you are dancing it sure is!  Well, my realization is that I was able to do them the entire time.  Perhaps my arms could have been stronger, but you know what?  When I first walked into that class a little over a year ago, I could not have lasted that long.  No way.

Anyways, after our Rumba walk warm-up, Igor shared with us the proper positioning of our hips, which should be under the body and tucked under, similar to how the pelvis should be placed in ballet.  We did some plies, feeling that tucked in, pulled up and under position in our hips and then repeated our rumba walks attempting to maintain that alignment.

Next we did some Cha Cha.  We did a little routine:  Check, ronde, back-together-side, time step, time step, back basic to a hip twist and repeat.  First we just learned the steps.  Then we worked on playing with the timing, accenting the movements on the 1 and 3 counts – prolonging them with a bit of hip action/settling/twisting as a wind-up for the next movements which had to be quicker (and looked lightning fast when Igor did them) to make up the time used prolonging the 1 and 3 counts.  It created a great dynamic but man was it hard!  I was out of breath almost immediately!

But then Igor shared with us the nugget that made the biggest difference to me tonight.  It’s a concept I already “know” about, but one I still struggle to implement.  Basically its keeping my upper body/shoulders facing forward and allowing the lower body only to twist.  Igor said many of us were fighting against our own bodies, and I know that I was one of them.  In any case, seeing how he did it, along with the explanation, I was able to implement this new information (well, old information but not absorbed or integrated) and oh my goodness did it make the step easier and clearer and sharper and it even looked faster!  I am never going to forget this lesson!  Well, at least that is what I tell myself ha ha.

But just when I was beginning to feel better about this new cha cha cha, alas!  It was time for “a little” Jive.  Uh, yeah….Well, we did a little bit of what football players do, hunched over and pumping the legs as fast as we could.  The whole thing about the Jive, it seems, is to move the legs, making the knees reach the waist with every move, and jumping up and down like a bunny rabbit, all while keeping the head completely level and preventing it from moving up and down.  The knees must move up to the body but the head must stay still.

Well, Igor is pretty dang amazing.  He was jumping like the Energizer Bunny doing that basic step, his knees practically up to his throat as he caught significant air while jumping upwards.  Me, I’m baba metza, remember?  I thought I might pound through the floor and I jumped – I could hear it creaking under my weight.  Well, my Jive doesn’t look as heavy as it could, but it has a long way to go before it really looks light, airy, and athletic – it is nothing like the Jive Igor was pounding out, not even close.  The truth is that I’m in no shape to do it properly…even the basic exhausted me, made me feel sick, and I had to stop before the rest of the class.  I felt that my performance was pathetic with a capital “P.”  What business do I have competing when I can’t even dance the basic of the step properly for a measly minute by myself!?  I was totally thinking that Igor must be thinking, “These ridiculous Americans!  They have NO idea what it is really like to dance.”  And then saying “Good job” out loud because god forbid he actually tell us the truth of how crappy some of us actually looked and offending someone…I mean, I wasn’t looking at other people.  I honestly don’t know what they were doing because I was focused on me, so obviously this thought process has nothing to do with their performance and everything to do with mine.  I thought mine was pretty shoddy.  And I have no idea what Igor was really thinking.  But in my head my old dance teacher would be so disappointed in what I was doing in class and would have yelled and cajoled me until I gave more and that would still not be enough. Sigh.  I felt a little like this is an uphill battle and I’m not going to climb the mountain tonight.  I felt a little defeated and deflated.

Which makes me think of my last lesson with Ivan.  During it we worked on cleaning up more of the Cha Cha routine.  There was one step in particular that I was not able to execute and that I was always a little bit late on.  It really had me mad at myself.  And, like in the lesson tonight, I felt defeated and sad.  Well, Ivan noticed and after the lesson he talked to me about it.

“You can’t feeling so bad about this step.  It’s a hard step.  You are changing direction a lot and it is really fast.  You can’t expect yourself to do it right away.  Even the professionals, they gonna have a hard time with it.”

It sure didn’t look like Ivan was having any problem making it look awesome!

He continued, “Now I’m feeling bad because you are feeling bad.  Like, you can’t be giving up on yourself or thinking that you will never be able to do this.  It’s like I believe in you more than you believe in yourself.  You have to not be sad about this.  I see that you understanding.  You show me that you understanding this and that is the most important part.  It’s better if you can tell me that you understanding but that you can’t do it right now than to get so upset about it.  Cause you are gonna do it.”

“Don’t feel bad Ivan.  I’m just upset because I feel like I don’t practice enough.  I need to do more on my own.  I’m frustrated with myself because I still am relying on you too much when we are dancing instead of dancing on my own two feet, being on balance, and using my arms more than my feet, legs and ‘engine.’ It’s super frustrating to me because I want it so badly and I feel like I should do more.”

I mean, deep down inside I know that these routines with some more difficult steps are a really good thing for me.  I’m going to struggle and I’m going to become a better dancer because of the challenge.  I’d much rather be working really hard to reach for something than to only do what is easy and stay the same.  I am thankful to have the opportunity to break every step down so that it will be awesome eventually.  I don’t find it tedious or boring at all – I think it is awesome and it makes me feel more secure.

Just like dancing tonight, not being able to participate every second of the class, having to take a break and rest, it’s beyond my current capacity, but showing up to class and doing what I can does move me forward.  I know this because I can see the difference in my endurance with rumba walks as compared to when I took my first class at Imperial.  I trust that I will improve in stamina, in technique, in expression, because I continue to show up and do my work.

Ivan told me that he didn’t think I don’t practice enough.  Well, he conceded, “we should all be practicing 8 hours a day but even this will not be enough.  It’s never enough.  But you, Stef, you come in to dancing a lot.  I don’t think you don’t practice enough.”

Hmmm.  I’m not sure I agree.  I feel like I’m pretty lazy – meaning that unlike my friend Lady Gaga who will practice on her own at the gym, I pretty much only dance on lessons.  Maybe I will go over one tiny thing in my kitchen for a minute or two but that’s it.  How lazy am I!

Well, anyways, that’s what’s been going on the last couple of days.  Tomorrow I get to see my favorite Bulgarian instructor for a lesson in the evening.  I’m going to do everything I can to remember what I learned today in the Cha Cha and maybe he will notice a difference.  We’ll see.  Either way, I’m looking forward to it.  It’s another day, tomorrow.  And that means it’s another chance to dance, which I’m pretty happy about.