Guest Post: Facing Diagonal Wall

I guess January is Guest Post Month here on the Biggest Girl In The Ballroom and I couldn’t be happier about it.  One of the biggest blessings of staring the blog has been connecting with others.  I’m so glad to be able to help get the word out about other ballroom bloggers and dancers.  
Today you are in for a special treat from Facing Diagonal Wall.  It’s a blog I began following a while ago and I was drawn to it immediately.  The author shares his trials and tribulations and goes through much of the same struggles as I do.  He also has dropped 100 pounds, a goal that I’m still working on.  Facing Diagonal Wall is authentic, sometimes raw, sometimes a triumph and I appreciate getting share the journey with a fellow dancer.  So without further ado, take it away Diagonal!
Hello,
I started a little blog several months ago to talk about my experiences with ballroom dancing which is somewhere on the border between a hobby and an obsession with me.  Through some internet magic, Stefanie discovered my effort and started following my blog and liking a few of my posts.  She graciously offered me the opportunity to post on her site as part of the Ballroom Village she is setting up.  And, after much careful consideration, I took her up on the offer.
First, you should know that I had no previous dance experience and really hadn’t been a big fan of any type of dance.  So how does a guy like that get started?  Well, probably like most men, my wife dragged me into the studio (and that is pretty close to a literal statement).  There was a studio next to a Starbucks we used to go to on weekends and she always said we should learn to dance and I would always say something noncommittal. Finally, she forced my hand by signing up and telling me I could come or stay home.  As luck (or was it really fate??) would have it, because they didn’t know if I was coming, they assigned a male instructor and we got the one who was low key and analytical just like us.  I do wonder how things would have turned out with a different instructor but we clicked with this one right away.  We danced socially for awhile and enjoyed it but she reached a point where she had gotten all she wanted out of it and was having some physical issues, so she quit.
By that time, we were working both with our original instructor and his soon to be wife so I continued working with her and things kind of stalled out until I got talked into doing a showcase which is like a comp but not really a comp.  I remember my legs shaking when I was waiting to do my first routine but it was like a switch was turned on inside me because I felt alive out there on the floor.  And the first thing I wanted to do when it was over was get back out there.
After a little while, I realized that if I was going to fully commit to my new hobby, then I had to get me act together.  I was never thin but I allowed myself to get way overweight and it was a struggle to get through the lessons and I really hated the way I looked so two years ago, I lost over 100 pounds and have kept it off.  Last year, I joined the gym at work and started working with a personal trainer to improve my upper body strength (well, to be honest to actually develop some since I was a couch potato for so long).  It has made a huge difference in my dancing.  At the last showcase, we did 14 smooth heats in a row which would have killed me before.
Unfortunately, my mental transformation has not gone as smoothly.  I am plagued by self-doubt and have a tendency to react negatively to learning each new move.  Well, to be honest, my mental image is still my old stuff and whenever I feel awkward doing a step that my instructor appears to be able to do effortlessly, some evil little voice inside me says “who you kidding fat boy, your not a dancer” and things go off the tracks quickly.  Working on killing this demon and have made progress over time but the mind still can mess with you.
So why did I start doing this?  Well, dancing stirs up a lot of emotions – both positive and negative and I really didn’t have an effective outlet to get them out.  Classic stereotype that turns out to be true – guys don’t talk about feelings and especially feelings related to ballroom dance.  So I turned to the internet where I could just vent into the world.  So you could view this blog as my alter ego allowing me to say and feel things that I would never say to people I know.   In some ways, this might be closer to the real me than the me that everyone sees (weird!)
Anyway, that is why you will not see my name attached to this blog or any real personal information.  For now, I feel more comfortable behind my curtain.  Which is why I did have to think about this for a very long time.  The ballroom community isn’t that large and the more exposure I get, the greater the chance that someone will see through my disguise.  But, since I’ve found value in reading about other people facing the same challenges, I figure that someone might find something in what I post, so it is worth the risk.
So there you go.  That’s who I am and why I started this.  My continuing quest is to be the best dancer I can be and to finally kill that hateful little demon inside me.  Come on over if you want to follow my journey from time to time.  It won’t always be pretty but from time to time it might be entertaining.
Thanks ever so much to Stefanie for allowing me to ramble across her blog like this.  Hopefully, I caused no permanent damage.
Um, no!  No permanent damage here!  Thank you for sharing your story.  I bet others WILL find value in what you have written so I’m glad you took the risk.  
Now, everyone, go on over to Facing Diagonal Wall and follow it so you can enjoy the continuing journey of this member of Ballroom Village!  You won’t want to miss a single step!

My Body, The Betrayer

The past three mornings, including this one, have been so, so difficult. I am tired of shedding tears over this but they won’t stop and every time I find a place to be calm, a new knife slices me open. I feel raw and ragged. My eyes are sore and puffy. This is truly the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

It’s been two weeks since the competition and my weight hasn’t budged. Actually, it may have gone up.

The kicker, the thing that pisses me off royally, is that I’ve done everything right. I’ve not cheated. If I had, I would be upset but at myself because I would know I am responsible for my results. But no, I have no time to dick around with this. I’m focused and motivated and want it so badly I can’t even tell you. I’m committed like never before. I do the cooking. I’m prepared. I follow the plan. I measure every portion. And my body is betraying me, just like it always has. We are not on the same team.

The scale silently mocks me.

What happened was this: last week I “felt” skinnier. I thought I’d weigh myself. After all I did that competition and barely ate. I HAD to have lost weight, right? WRONG!

“It was a shock to your body,” says the nutritionist. “It’s water weight from inflammation,” she claims.

I am talked off the edge and decide to give it a week eating on plan exactly and then I will weigh myself after my body has recovered and recalibrated.

Then on this Thursday, somehow my trainer and I come up with the brilliant idea to measure my body fat, because I’m certain it has to have changed with all the activity I’m doing, my new diet.

Hugely bad idea. First, the scale. Yes, I’m in my clothes and shoes and I’ve eaten breakfast, but the scale says I’m up almost 6 pounds!!!!! Then the body fat machine. It may not be a perfect way to measure it but it is the same method used originally so at least the results should be consistent. I’m down a puny, measly 3%. I’m still obese, still over 40% adipose. Disgusting.

I proceed to have a tearful breakdown in the gym. Yes, I keep doing my work-out but I lose it. I will NEVER have a body I love, much less even like. This just isn’t possible for me. It is harder for me than anyone else in the world. For sure if anyone else was doing everything I’m doing they’d have lost 20 pounds by now, probably more. Everyone says that being active should help with the weight loss, that it is an advantage. It doesn’t seem to be making the process any faster.

The absolute worst was when the trainer placed a 10 pound plate on my back while doing a plank. You just never know what will trigger you. For me, this weight pulled down on my core and all I could think of was that I have 9 of these plates pulling me down all the time. It not only weighs heavily on my frame, it weighs heavily on my soul.

I can’t tell you how very discouraged I was, and am, but “weight,” there’s more upset-ness!

I emailed my nutritionist straight away. “I’m up in weight! This is not okay,” I write.

“Breathe,” she tells me. “I have a plan,” she says. “Weigh yourself at home, naked, first thing in the morning like you normally do and we will go from there.”

Again, I table the disappointment for a few hours. Since it is Thursday, I’m supposed to go to Rado’s class in the evening but it just doesn’t feel right. I call Ivan to see if we can have a private lesson. With all this emotional stuff I know I need to really dance it out. I find a tiny island of internal calm as the hours pass so when I arrive to my lesson I am able to focus.

Last time we danced, the Rumba once again haunted me. I find it incredibly hard to portray that dance in particular especially because of my size and body image. But all day long I was thinking, thinking, and deciding ahead of time that I’m going to dance it how I feel it inside, not based on how I look on the outside. It seems like I can much more easily portray a Samba, a Cha Cha, Jive. How is it that Ivan knows when I’m “being me” in these dances but that I can’t seem to “be me” doing the Rumba?

So I meditated on being centered from within while doing the Rumba. I recalled this time that doing one of those personal growth and mastery seminars I declared in public “I am sexy,” because I was challenged to, because even then it was an issue for me, and I have a little memory lapse of what happened but after I said it, meaning it, but all of a sudden the entire room stood up and clapped and cheered for me, and people came up to me after the fact and said, “Whoah. If you weren’t married….”

I thought about where that came from, this evidence that “it” is in there somewhere inside me, and I purposefully decided to do my best to show up from that place on my lesson.

I mean, Ivan is stinking cute! I am pretty lucky to get to dance with him. I guess I should show that, show that I’m happy and enjoying the experience, in the context of the dance, instead of being all wah-boo-poor-fat-ugly-me. So I touched his chest like I meant it and we began messing around moving before dancing. I swiveled my hips and touched my neck and it was awesome.

In some ways, I’ve come quite far. The studio was full of people on lessons and I didn’t give one whit. I am there to work. I can easily claim my space, especially with Ivan at my side, and dance, even if people are staring at me. I was involved in what I was doing and it worked. First, one of the other instructors was all like, “Oh la la!” as she left for the evening. It was apparent she had been watching and my sexy moves had been sexy enough to prompt her to say something. Secondly, and most importantly, Ivan was all like, “I like it today.”

In fact, surprisingly, after the lesson Ivan and I had a conversation in which he asked me if I wanted to go and just do the Scholarship at Millennium in Florida. Financially and time-wise I’m not able to swing-it but it was an interesting development. The idea was that he noticed a big difference in my dancing that day, so much so that he thought I was ready, and should get some experience, to dance with “the big dogs” and see how I’d fare against competitors at large competitions. I agreed that it would be a good experience as I prepare for next year but commented that I wouldn’t really expect any results at this time. He actually seemed to think that getting some results was entirely possible – we’re talking making it to a semi-final or something, not winning, but that would be quite an accomplishment for me. He was feeling that I am starting to come into my confidence, that we did well at People’s Choice, that the judges began to notice me, and that we should build on this. For us, it isn’t about the placements as much as it is how we feel about how we are dancing. If we feel strong and good and get placed last, so be it. Of course, we’d like to score well, but I think it is so much healthier to think of it from our angle and better to have no expectations about things over which I have no control. In any case we will be at Desert Classic and Galaxy and I’m also contemplating Ohio, just to go to a huge competition and have that experience and to see how I stack up against some tougher competition.

So the one silver lining in this week of pain has been that I’m noticeably dancing with more soul, more groundedness, more confidence.

But back to the pain-fest. The next morning I weighed myself as instructed and the scale said I was 2 pounds up. I met with my nutritionist, very, very upset and we talked about a game plan. She talked me off the ledge, once again. She is going to “tweak” my current plan this coming week and create an entire new one the following week. We are going to be more specific with timing my nutrients. I will be taking some supplements. We are going to track my activity and calorie burns and their timing to be more efficient.

“Your body isn’t getting what it needs,” she says. “Your body doesn’t trust you, after years of not getting the nutrition it needs,” she explains.

“I don’t trust my body.” I reply.

And it is true. I don’t trust it at all. I am incredibly angry with it. It refuses to bend to my will. I feel I have no say in what it does. I feel I have no power over it. I hate it.

But what can I do about it, right now in this moment? Again, I feel powerless. Absolutely nothing. I am stuck with it, and it is stuck with me. So I do the only thing I can, agree to the new “tweaked” plan which will be forthcoming in my inbox, and stick to it with 100% adherence. And even then, my body will do what it will. I will still be a XXL. I will still have flabby bat wing arms. I will still weigh more than most grown men.

I feel somewhat better after the talk with the nutritionist and she even offers to work-out with me on Wednesday morning before we meet again to learn some routines for weight training I can do on my own on the days I don’t see my trainer. At least I have some action steps to take which gives the illusion that I’m actually doing something about this situation which feels so entirely hopeless.

Again, I calm my emotions enough to get through yesterday, eat my breakfast this morning, and open my “tweaked” plan. Once again I’m bleeding from a razor slash. The fresh wounds still weeping are assaulted anew as the first thing I see as open the attachment is butter. I check the calorie count and begin to panic, breathing in halts and gasps as I see it is UP from 2000 to 2500. DIdn’t she hear me?! I want to LOSE weight, not gain it! Are you freaking kidding me. I don’t want to do this. Every fiber of my being is against this.

“It is for a week or two at the very most,” she says. “It is a metabolic reset,” she explains. “There is good science behind it.”

Fuck science. I don’t care. I just want to starve myself until the next competition. Too much time has been wasted already. Half the year is gone and I’m down a measly 15 pounds since I began with the trainer and nutritionist. Unacceptable. And now I’m supposed to stay stagnant or even risk gaining more weight for the next week or two to reset? And I am desperate to show an improvement in my body, to be smaller and lighter at my next competition, and I feel like that is impossible and not going to happen if I follow this. I’m working so hard. I am so sad and frustrated and angry that I’m not steadily going downward. I don’t know what to do. It is stressing me out and goes against everything I know/believe about how to make a body smaller. I am asea. This doesn’t look anything like I want it to, nothing like what I expected, and I don’t want to do it.

I really, really, really, really don’t want to do it. I don’t want to eat fucking butter. I don’t want to fucking eat 2500 calories.

I would rather crawl into a hole and waste away.

what am I going to do? Somehow I have to talk myself into this when every cell in my body is screaming, “NO!!!!.”  Why isn’t it working for me? Why is my body so goddamned stupid.

I am a total mess.

But I have a lesson with Inna in 2 hours so I better get myself together.

iam

I Should Be In Bed Right Now

I really should. I’m exhausted after a big workout with my trainer this morning which blasted my glutes and thighs so much so that they are sore tonight already and I know tomorrow will be a pain-fest, plus I went to Inna’s class tonight which of course was hard and tiring, and to top it all off I have a double lesson tomorrow morning at 7am across town because Ivan is going to Chicago Crystal Ball this weekend and I need to get in some dancing with him at least once this week!

So yeah, I should be snoring right now but I have a few things on my mind.

First two kinda funny stories that I forgot to mention, both relating to the competition last week. Then some venting…I mean processing (lol)… of some frustrations.

So the funny stuff first:

To set the context for the first tale you have to know that while we were dancing our open routines during the competition, particularly during the Rumba, we had a few balance issues. I totally thought I was on my leg to go backward but I guess I wasn’t and leaning too much on Ivan and I just about made him topple over. I could see his eyes slowly grow as big as saucers while time froze and I was wondering what the heck was going on, why he wasn’t moving like he usually did to let me do my backbend.

So things were different than usual on our lessons (not to mention all the asthma issues and whatnot) and Ivan and I are doing the open Cha Cha routine after all these balance snafus. The routine is basically the same one as in the video I posted to “Daddy” from the showcase. The one which has splits in it. So the time comes for the splits and down I go….and I stay there. Like for an extra eight counts. And all the while I’m wondering what went wrong. Is Ivan unable to heave me up back onto my feet? Is he hurt? And then, whew! Ivan is pulling me up. I sigh with relief and off we go.

Later we are sitting at our table and I am like, “Ivan, did something go wrong during the splits?!”

“No. Don’t worry. Everything fine. You doing the splits and I seeing not everyone see you down there so I keeping you down there so everyone can see you and be like Oh! Nobody is expecting that. I want everyone to seeing. And I knowing you not going anywhere,” he smirked. “I knowing I can keep you there as long as I want!”

He’s right about that! lololol.

The other funny thing is that Ivan put Samba Rolls in our open routine. So after the entire competitions is over and we are on our lesson he tells me, “I no liking how we doing the Samba rolls at People’s Choice.”

That’s fine, I guess. Only problem is…we never freaking practiced them beforehand! He never coached me on how to properly do them! I was like, “Ivan! That’s cool. Let’s fix them, but you can’t not like them without helping me with them!” I don’t know why, but I thought this was pretty funny. I’m glad he didn’t admonish me at the competition because there would be little to no chance of actually improving it in the moment and also glad that he was honest about it and that we can work on it. So anyways, nothing like hearing how your instructor didn’t like how you danced but laughing it off became, well, you didn’t instruct me! Gah!

Now for the ranty-rant-rant. Well more like I’m just sad and angry. I wanted to cry at the end of Inna’s class today. I worked hard all class long. We did Rumba and Cha Cha. I hit it hard and pushed my cardio to the limit once again, having to use my rescue inhaler. I was sweaty and tired and just done.  Like zero energy.  And then we had to do Batucadas.

It was brutal.  And all I could think about was how hard this was for me in particular because of how fat and huge and heavy I am.  I’m so over it.  I can’t get this weight of quickly enough.  It is so exhausting and tiring and I am working so hard and I just feel angry about it. I know it’s hard for everybody but I want to strap 80 pound backpacks on every person in that class and see how they handle it, that’s how distressing it is to me.  Yes, yes, I did this to myself.  I am at responsibility for the results I’ve created in my life.  It’s nobody’s fault but my own that I’m the way I am.  And I’m mad about it.  Especially in moments when I’m pushed to my physical limits.  And usually when I’m right on the brink is when I get emotional so I was right there tonight at the end of class.  I even copped out a bit and didn’t do my arms for a bit, and after a big effort I also just ended up walking backwards because I was so blasted.

And at the end of this, after Inna coached us on some pointers to make the movements cleaner and sharper, she says, “You were only dancing this for five minutes…..”  and in my head I complete the sentence with… “and you are already exhausted.  Pathetic!”  But what she actually says is, “and already so much better.”

Hmmmm.

I was thinking about this time a while back when I first started Inna’s class.  Of course it has always been difficult and pushed me to my limits.  I stop less than I used to and during this particular lesson I’m referring to I know I stopped and started multiple times.  Anyways, at the end of the lesson Inna says to me, “Stefanie, you the hard worker!”  It felt good when she said that back then but I was pondering it lately, because, like, you know if a Ukranian dancer tells you that you are a hard worker, then maybe it’s true.

Well, yes, okay, I’m a hard worker. I’m okay with working hard for my goals. But what I’m not okay with is how much more difficult everything is for me with the fat suit on. It seriously limits me and I’m frustrated and annoyed with it. So wah-boo. I hate this feeling and it breaks my heart wide open to think about how it would feel – how it will feel – to be lighter. It makes me think that I, too, know why the caged bird sings.

Once this weight is off, I’m going to practically fly off the dance floor. But right now gravity has such a hold on me pulling my extra mass downwards. I carry the weight of an extra person on my frame and I want to lay her down. I want to not be so jiggly and twice the size of everyone. And I’m on the right track and doing all the right things but the excavation is going to take a while, longer than I want, but that’s the deal. So suck it up, Stefanie.

If I were to coach myself I’d say celebrate the little wins along the way. Acknowledge your progress. Remember, progress, not perfection. Direction, not perfection. I’d say all this and it’s all true but at the same time I’m living the reality of being obese. It ain’t pretty and it ain’t easy. And I do get down about it. I suppose angry is better than sad, better than resignation, apathy, laying down on the floor. At least with mad I can give a little fight and fire. I still don’t honestly believe that I will ever be thin. All I know is that I can’t continue to cage myself in this body and I’m doing the best I know to do to burst it wide open. I just hope it’s enough. I just hope that I’m enough.

flying

My Toes Are Numb! People’s Choice Recap

Oh me, oh my.  Another competition in the books.

cha

And yes, my toes are numb.  From dancing 80 heats in heels.  Ballroom isn’t all glamour behind the scenes you know….it is sweat and hard work, and smelly fake tans, and struggle, and pain, and awesome and worth it!  lol.  But seriously….I do NOT know how some of these pro/am couples do it….there were at least 3 or 4 students who did over 400 heats at People’s Choice!  My body is banged up doing a fraction of that.  It is pretty impressive they are still standing!!!

Me, with my 80 heats, I’m physically exhausted.  But satisfied.  It has been a good few days.

Wednesday night after work I made the 15 minute trek to the hotel and competition venue here in Phoenix.  I was certain I’d have an early morning Thursday as I generally dance early in the day and this means early appointments for hair and make up.  Even though the competition was local, I still find it chaotic and stressful to rush to the location, scramble to find a space in the woman’s dressing area or a public bathroom, and so I opted to stay at the hotel for two nights of the competition.  It turned out that I didn’t start dancing on Thursday until noon, but I was still glad with my choice to spend the previous night.  It gave me time to sleep in a bit, have a nice breakfast and feel collected and centered before I began dancing.

So you guys all know I hired the nutritionist and I spoke with her about how to eat during a competition.  Basically, I made my best effort to eat clean and fuel my body with good foods.  I brought protein shakes and cheese sticks and chicken mini loaves and oatmeal and fruit and almond milk and a cooler with ice.  I have to tell you, though, with all the chaos and stress, and physical effort, it was such a challenge to eat anything!  I give myself a free pass for this week and will get back on track ASAP.  And the thing is, it’s not that I ate poorly, or bad foods or anything like that, it was that I couldn’t eat enough!  I was full and nauseated and it was just hard to get any food down, even without the horrible nerves like I had last year at Desert Classic.  Don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous right before I go on the dance floor – standing there at the “on deck” area I always feel like I need to pee and vomit and have a bout of diarrhea all at once…but then I get out there and start dancing and all I can focus on is the dancing.  But the nerves were short-term and didn’t last long, just in those few moments before the heats.  Anyways, I shoved almonds and mango slices and cherries and NoGii bars down my gullet as much as possible, but I’m telling you it was nowhere near enough.  And even after the dancing I had like zero appetite.  Ah well, I made it, and did the best I could, and shortly I will be back on plan 100%. I just have to continue to figure out what is going to work for me during competitions, especially when travelling!

Anyways, can I just take a pause here and say how much I adore and appreciate my instructor Ivan as well as his gorgeous wife and partner Marieta.  I mean, I think you readers already know this, but it bears repeating, especially after this competition.  It was kind of special being the only student for People’s Choice.  I honestly don’t mind to have other students along, too, and it can be fun, but this time was really neat flying solo.  I owe so much to Ivan, he has helped me and encouraged me so much during the past two years, and he believed in me from the beginning, over 50 pounds ago.  I am so incredibly proud to be his student, and so proud of how he and Marieta did last night, placing first in the American Rhythm division.  I just hope for him to be as proud of me as his student, and I very much think that at this competition I did.  I was happy with how I showed up at the competition and happy that his exemplary work as a teacher was recognized through me.

And they are just good people, Ivan and Marieta.  It is a testament to the excellent human beings they are this little anecdote I’m going to share with you.  You see, one of the ladies who was running the on deck area asked Ivan for his card.  He didn’t have one on him, as per usual, so I made a mental note and when I saw her in the bathroom I asked her if she’d gotten one yet.  She didn’t so I gave her one and she told me that as someone who runs the on deck area she sees a lot…a lot.  Things you’d be surprised to see – how pros treat students and the like.  And she observed how Ivan treats his students on and off the the floor.  She could see what a decent and kind and fun and funny and ridiculous person he is, but yeah, she wanted to maybe dance with him, not someone else.  I’m like the luckiest student ever and happy Ivan is getting noticed and possibly will have more business…though I  must say, I do think he has been the best kept secret, you know!

You see, there is always a lot that goes on during these things.  And before them, too.  Ivan has been the one who has believed in me before I believed in myself, and more than I believed in myself.   He has pulled out the performer in me.  He has helped mold me into the dancer I am today.  So when I get compliments like I did at this competition, it is a reflection upon both me and Ivan.  I just don’t seem to be able to put into words properly the full extent of my gratitude.    All I have ever wanted was to be a dancer, and this man, this crazy adorable Bulgarian, is helping me become that like no kidding.

And based on results, we did well.  I placed mostly first in single dances, with a few seconds, and got second in closed latin bronze scholarship, losing out only to my friend Colette who is the Emerald Ball champion!!!  Not too shabby, if I do say so myself – especially for my second scholarship ever.  And I won in the American Rhythm division.  Plus many people, even some judges, and Bree Watson (National American Rhythm champion with Decho Kraev!!! OMG!!!) gave me lovely compliments on my dancing.  It was astounding and I’m humbled and grateful.

The best part is that Thursday I was struggling so very badly.  My asthma has been out of control and even with steroids on board I was having a hell of a time.  My inhaler wasn’t working at all so I was dancing and couldn’t breathe.  At a certain point I told Ivan I might have to withdraw from some heats, and I am not the type of person to do that.  But I had zero energy.  Ivan could see it in my eyes – the lights were on but no one was home.  I had nothing left to give but still moved as best I could.  He and I both knew we were not dancing our best….but I still placed well.  People still had no idea how badly I was struggling.  It is a great place to be to know that I was perceived as performing well when inside both Ivan and I know there is so much more to show.

Friday went better after 40 more milligrams of prednisone and 3 breathing treatments on my nebulizer which I brought with me to the hotel and coughing up mucous for hours during the night.  I was extremely worried about 19 heats in a row but it turned out that the ballroom was split into two floors for many of them, and not everyone knew where they were supposed to be, so there ended up being a lot of little breaks where the announcer would have to call out the couples who should be in ballroom A and ballroom B and this saved me, plus I could breathe better.

At the end of the day we did a few open dances and Ivan even said…”Finally we are actually dancing!  We can never just do five heats, you and me!”  Because it took so long for us to “warm up,” even though I attribute part of that to being at battle with my lungs and body the first day.  So we completed all of our dances around 2pm on Friday except for the American Rhythm scholarship round which was scheduled for 10pm Friday night!  What?!  That was pretty brutal…to be exhausted and sore and have numb toes and a rash between my thighs from the fishnets and just wanting to be done but to have to show up 6 hours later and dance your very best.  Well, Marieta was a doll and touched up my hair and make up and Ivan and I killed it.  Happily there wasn’t a semifinal – just a final, so I only had to dance Cha Cha, Rumba, and Swing once.

medal

So participating in competitions is always an experience. And part of that is meeting new people.  And you know there were a lot of funny moments along the way.  For instance, at one point they announced the next dance would be Merengue.  I knew we had no Merengue heats but Ivan apparently didn’t hear the announcement so he rushed over to a table at the edge of the ballroom, poured out this pink drink on the floor to wet his shoes to make them sticker – the floor was pretty slippery – and another of the pros, this Hungarian guy Chaba, was like “Hey!  Ivan!  That’s my cocktail!”  And we weren’t even dancing in the heat!  Then that same pro, Chaba, was out there in his own little world, couple 106 dancing to himself and then announcer said, “We have an extra couple on the floor.”  There was a pause and he continued, announcing the numbers of the couples in the heat which didn’t include couple 106.  Then he even said, “Couple 106 you do not need to be on the floor right now.”  And Chaba was still grooving, oblivious.  So Ivan yells, “Chaba!!!”  And it was too funny.

Well, it also turned out that Ryan Seacrest productions is creating a reality show about pro/am ballroom dancing and they were filming during the competition.  One of the pros they are following happens to be Bulgarian.  His name is Rumen, like Roman with a “u.”  When I originally heard his name I thought it was “Ruben.” Anyways, while Ivan and I were enjoying some food and sparkling water Thursday night after our dancing he came to say hello to Ivan.  I impressed him with my inappropriate Bulgarian sayings and ended up lending him my phone charger.  Ivan says he is totally a crazy guy but he likes him because he is very social.  In any case, it will be so interesting to see this show whenever it comes out.  There were a few pro/am couples they filmed, but honestly they danced very little.  And it appeared to me that a lot of the “drama” was staged….the pros had conversations with their am partners as well as with each other that looked like they were planned, and I overheard producers saying stuff like, “when you come off the dance floor I will have so-and-so meet you,” and when I was arranging to get my charger back from Ruman he was all like, “Well in 10 minutes we are filming a pool scene.”  We both laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of it.  I even walked in front of a camera at one point so hopefully they will edit out my head from the frame but anyways, know that the Biggest Girl was at People’s Choice and so were these soon-to-be reality stars.  I have to say, though, that they all sat at a table, and the film crew recorded them cheering for some dancers….and one of the dancers was me!  I was doing a Cha Cha and we did the splits right in front of them.  I heard a lot of cheering and all but I figured it was played up for the tv show, you know.  And they weren’t filming me so much, just the reaction of the dancers on the show.  Anyways, I didn’t give it much credence but then as I was walking around the hotel later one of the other pros on the show was walking with a person on the film crew (not being recorded or anything, just talking) and he stopped me, have me the ballroom kiss kiss on the each cheek and told me what a great dancer I was and that they had been cheering for me!  Woot!  That was pretty dang cool if you ask me!

people's choice

Well, anyways, after I was complete with my dancing, I went to go watch, support, and cheer for my friends who were still dancing.  Then it was time for evening show and pro heats.  Of course Artem and Inna won Standard ballroom and not surprisingly the Grand Slam as well, (their 5th time winning!)  Everyone in the Phoenix ballroom community was present, it seemed, which is always fun.  Local competitions are nice because of the friendly faces and extra support.

I feel like People’s Choice was a very good experience for me.  Smaller competitions are nice because there is more of a chance to be noticed, I think, and then judges will recognize you perhaps if you show up to larger comps.  I don’t think I’ll do any massive comps for a while just yet, but I do want to continue to work, to improve my technique, performance, cardio capacity, and body figure.  I want to continue to progress and show an improvement the next time I dance.  Honestly, this is my focus for the next two months before Desert Classic.  I want to see how far I can get in this time and be a better dancer than I am today.  I just want to continue to dance my best, like Ivan and I felt after our American Rhythm scholarship round and then no matter how I’m placed, I will feel good about what I’m doing, how I’m showing up on the dancefloor.  I’m excited for the coming year, my focus and energy.  I’m pleased with how I am and where I am and looking forward to the future as well.  I’m going to enjoy and savor this experience even as I prepare to forge ahead.

I think I’m finally beginning to show that I just may be a force to be reckoned with.  I may not be at my full potential just yet but Ivan and I and even other people can see it my light beginning to shine.  I have a fire burning in my belly and I’m going to go for this with all that I am.  It has taken time to muster my resources and it will take time to heal and condition my body, and that is great.  I’m up for the journey.  People’s Choice was a wonderful milestone and also just the beginning.

te adoro

Looks Like You’re Buying For A Decent Size Family

Ivan tells me I no longer look like the “Wal-Mart lady.”  Or the Michelin man.  No, I’ve moved up.  I’m now the “Trader Joe’s lady.”

“Higher quality food,” he says.  “Maybe not Dolce and Gabanna just yet,” but getting there (is the implication.)

But no matter how big or small I am today, something shifted.  It’s Saturday, a mere 4 days before People’s Choice.  I’ve booked a double lesson because, you know, we’re still working out kinks on the Samba and well, you never really feel prepared before a competition.

So of course instead of working on the routine that needs the most work, we begin with a warm-up waltz and I like my big frame and Ivan seems to be enjoying himself too.  And then we start with the Rumba.

And seriously, I never have heard Ivan exclaim, “Perfect!” so many times.  Really, it was an exceptional experience.  It probably helped that my weight dropped significantly this week.  Today was my weigh in day and I’m down over 5 pounds!  I don’t think I’ve ever dropped that much in a week, and the funny part is, yesterday I freaked out.  I had this moment, in the bathroom, and I broke down crying.  I knew, I just knew, that I was up in weight for the week.  I could feel I wasn’t making any progress, that all my work was for naught because it seems like that has been the pattern in the past, that I work so hard and nothing budges.  Everything in my being was telling me that I had failed this week and that I was bigger than ever.

So this morning as I approached my scale I was giving myself a silent pep talk:  Don’t freak out, Stef, if you are the same or even a pound higher.  It’s okay.  You can talk with Chelle.  She can lower your calories because you know you are right that you are eating too much!

I stepped up and held my breath.

Wha!?

Beaming.  Shocked.  So happy that something is finally really working.

I don’t think that it’s been a lack of committment in the past, it was just that restricting was not fueling my body, my athlete body, which is underneath the fat suit.  I’m retraining it that it will be properly fueled with the right kind of calories, that it can and should burn them efficiently, because more fuel will be coming in regular intervals.  There is abundance.  It’s okay to let go of the hoard on my backside.

And it almost makes me want to cry.  That for years, years people, I’ve been working to be better, smaller, cut calories…that is until I gave up and gave in and lay down.  It was too difficult.  I was dancing 8 hours a week and eating a bagel afterwards and thought it should be enough.  I couldn’t maintain the insanity.  And I went from restriction to abandon, not caring, eating all the things I denied myself for years.  It was like I went to sleep and woke up in a new, fat body.  And then I just adapted to this new, unhealthy normal.

Well, now I’m getting a re-education about how and what to eat….like a Hobbit.  And it’s working.  Hallelujah!

So it is probably a little bit easier to dance with 5 pounds less on me, and I probably had a little more spring in my step with these great results, but almost right off the bat Ivan was commenting how he loved what I was doing.  And the weird part is, that internally I’ve always felt like I was doing this same thing, but maybe I’m freeing myself with just a tiny bit more abandon, and whatever it was, it was working.  If I can dance like I danced today at this competition and those to follow, then that will be a major triumph, of showing my insides, expressing, being seen, being connected.  However I am ranked or judged, I’ll be proud of what I do on that dance floor.  And that is a big win.

I was just feeling and connecting.  My energy was right.  Ivan said, “You con, con…what is the word? When you have a cold?”

“Congested?” I said.

“Congested,” he said.  “Like you is congested and you making me congested.”

Something didn’t quite make sense.

“Ah!  You mean contagious!”

“Yes!  You is contagious when you dancing like that.  You making me so happy dancing like this.  Like I’m really dancing with you.”  And he got goosebumps at least once which is always awesome.

And we were doing the Cha Cha and he was like, “Show me how much you loving your butt!  Make me want to eat your butt!”

And you have to remember Ivan has like zero filter, but anyways, I had to be all “Hey!  Look at my awesome butt!  Touch it!  No you can’t touch it!”  And this is why I’m doing the Time Step beside him.  Like there has to be a purpose behind every movement, not just going through the motions and all that.

And then I asked him about my fingernails because we were talking about how I was doing my hands on the Fan and showed him my latest set, which were supposed to be gold.  It was a trial run before the comp to see if I could do some fancy nails that would match my black and gold dress.  After they were done, I was kind of undecided about them.  The didn’t come out quite as gold as I’d hoped.  But I did get a few compliments on them during the week.  So I asked Ivan his opinion, should I keep them or go with pink and white, and remembering that Ivan has no filter, he replies, “This looking like when you were a kid and you…”  And he motions like he is cleaning out his earwax.

nails1

Well….I guess he has a point.  Which meant a trip to the nail salon before the trip to the grocery store today.  And don’t you know it took twice as long as I would have liked so I am so behind on my food prep for the week (but I will get it done!!!!), but at least my nails will be Ivan-approved.

And then I went to the store.  As I was checking out the cashier said, “Looks like you’re buying for a decent sized family.”  And I was all like…awkward silence.  And then I was like, “Well, I hired a nutritionist.  And you wouldn’t believe how much I’m eating….like a Hobbit!”  And she was like “How is it working for you?”  And I was like, “Great!”  (Not that it is any of your business but well, what was I going to do?)  But seriously, there is a huge lack in understanding about what I’m doing with my diet in the general population.  Couple that with my size and I’m really glad that I’m mostly eating at home.  I did a program once which was very similar to this plan, eating 5 to 6 times daily with a specific blend of carbs and protein and fat but with less tasty food and no awesome nutritionist who had my back, and anyways I always felt really self-conscious about pulling out a container every 3 hours at my desk..that people were thinking, “Why are you eating so much!?”

After our lesson Ivan said, “Today you showing me more.  I so proud of what you doing today!  I only hoping it not last only one day!”  Ha ha.

Me too, Ivan, me too!  Though I can only imagine that things will continue to get better and better from here.

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 Have A Strong Heart

My niece had a runny nose when we took her to the mall this weekend to Build-a-Bear and I’m convinced she gave me a slight cold. This wouldn’t be a big deal except for the fact that my allergies are horrendous at the moment and I have asthma. This compounds the inflammation in my airways and makes it that much more difficult to breathe, much less do anything that requires cardio. So yesterday I went to the gym, as I do now on Thursdays, to work out with my trainer I requested that we limit the high-intensity cardio and stick to lifting some weights.

She opted to cancel some of the kettleball swings but other than that, it was still a solid workout. I did 12 deadlifts with a 50 pound barbell and rows in between. Then I did squats with a 30 pound barbell pushing it into an upward press above my shoulders as I straightened my legs. Then I did 12 backward lunges with the 30 pound barbell on my shoulders and finished off with an incline plank. I repeated this circuit four times.

It was tough but not so tough that I wanted to cry, like I have on previous workouts. It got my heart pumping and was taxing and I always feel like the thing that limits me the most is endurance, breathing hard, the cardio part. But I was able to do it and that was good.

At the end of the work out my trainer told me, “You should be proud of yourself. You did four sets of that and it’s pretty impressive. That is not easy. You are strong. I don’t put out weights like this for everyone and I wouldn’t do it for you if I didn’t think you could do it. Good work today!” She gave me a high-five.

Me, I was like, really? Because I have a set of sunglasses on that filter how I see the world that generally point out how pathetic I’m doing – how I could be doing more, and how lame it is I can’t do a Burpee and that my belly gets in the way, and how silly I look doing all this stuff.

It’s like, I feel guilty for feeling good about myself. Somehow this is taboo, forbidden, wrong.

But I did feel strong doing those dead lifts. I banged them out pretty good and though challenging, I was up to the challenge. I felt pretty good about doing that, that it was less pathetic than usual, but here was my trainer saying that I should be proud of myself for what I had done. I’m not exactly sure that I know how that feels. I mean, I was proud of myself for completing over 120 heats at the San Diego Open a few years ago and earing Top Student. That was a goal I worked for and achieved and it felt awesome. But these everyday victories, they somehow don’t seem big enough. It’s as if I’m waiting until I’m at my goal weight to actually approve of myself, be proud of myself, love myself.

Like following my eating plan this past week. I did it successfully and that was good, but I wasn’t exactly “proud” of myself for doing that. In my mind, it is simply what I need to do to get where I want to go, and I’m focused like no kidding on that so I did what needed to be done, that’s all. In truth, I’m not even proud of myself for being down over 70 pounds from my highest weight ever (see picture below). Because it took 3 fucking years to do that and I’m still mad that I’m 100 pounds from where I want to be.

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Don’t get me wrong. I notice a difference and I do feel somewhat better about myself. I just still see that I have so very far to go and this is not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take months of consistent, persistent, determined action. And though I’m anticipating victories along the way, like reaching 213 which will be 100 pounds from my highest weight, and getting under 200 pounds, and getting to 179 pounds which will mean I’m overweight and no longer obese according to my BMI, and hitting my goal weight, I’m just not all that impressed with myself for where I am.

But I am starting to question that point of view simply because it could undermine all my efforts, and I refuse to let that happen this time. This time, I’m following this through come hell or high water!

My nutritionist seemed to also think I should be so proud of myself. She was like, “Stef, you’ve already accomplished a lot, and now, if you keep what you are doing, you will get to your goal in less than a year. You’ve got this! I really hope you are proud of yourself.” And she gave me a big hug.

But I find myself having trouble letting go of my story. You know, the one about me not being good enough, pretty enough, thin enough. I’m having trouble letting go of what I want to be so badly that I can’t seem to be satisfied with where and how I am. It is the ultimate thief, this mindset of comparison, and “not-enough.” But I swear, at the same time that I can see my face looks a little thinner, and maybe my belly too, and that when I thought I’d need a size 24 skirt I ended up purchasing a size 16, at the same time as I can see these steps of progress, I can also see my huge arms, how much larger I am than any other girls in my dance classes, how thick my legs and thighs are, the cellulite on my knees. At the same time that I feel slightly lighter, that it is maybe easier to move and more tolerable to wear heels to dance in, I also am also exhausted panting for breath and having a difficult time holding myself in yoga poses or ballet because I weigh so much or my body mass simply gets in the way.

I am still in a place where I feel the need to block out how I look and don’t feel proud of my appearance. I am longing for when I can wear this one asymmetrical dance shirt I bought and feel so beautiful and sassy in it. Right now when I put it on I just see where it hugs and tugs when it should be hanging empty, and it is frustrating and makes me feel sad.

And the thing I am up against physically that challenges me the most (besides the self-esteem and body image) is the cardio. Well, at least, it is my experience of me being out of shape. But even this I am questioning once again because of my nutritionist and trainer. Because the truth is, when I do a dance class, even though I may be panting and sweating and absolutely killing myself, and even though I may need to not do everything full-out just to stay in the game, well, the truth is, I’m working harder than anyone else out there just because of the sheer weight I carry. They’d probably be more tired too if they were carrying an extra 90 pounds.

Because I always experience myself as out of shape cardiovascular-wise, and because my dance teacher says that even skinny people can really struggle with the cardio and endurance required for dancing, I was feeling the need to add in some training to improve this. But both my trainer and nutritionist said that I was crazy active, especially compared to most people, and probably even more so for obese people. They said, “cardio isn’t the problem. Get the weight off and it will become so much easier. You won’t have to change a thing if you just keep dancing like you are. It will be enough.”

Aorta

My nutritionist said, “You have a strong heart. Cardio isn’t problem.”

My trainer said, after lifting all those weights today, “You are strong. Strength isn’t the problem.”

The problem is how I feel. The problem is the extra person I’m carrying around in my body. It makes it difficult to feel and act strong and sexy in Latin class with Rado doing the Rumba. I can do the steps, and some of my shapes look nice and all, but I’m lacking the confidence necessary because of my fat fucking arms and huge tree-trunk legs. I am the anthesis of the ideal for a Latin dancer, the complete and utter opposite, and it is a laughable farce, me dancing this dance.

Or is it awesome? Because I’m doing it anyways, because it is in my heart, regardless of external circumstances or appearances.

I don’t know. I think it is kind of a ridiculous-awesome, if there is such a thing.

What I do know is that in less than two weeks I will be dancing in a competition. I will be putting myself out there to be seen and judged. And you know what? Doing that, revealing one’s art, whether it be a painting or a dance, in writing or sharing a musical composition, and regardless of that person’s size or appearance, regardless of all those things, well, it takes a strong heart.