Calculus Of The Body

Hello lovelies!

It’s hard to sit down and write a blog post when you are obsessed with the Olympics!  Seriously – they are so addicting.  And it’s so interesting watching them this year, because my perspective is different from it was before.  I’m a competitor myself these days and especially watching the figure skating I see so many similarities.  I’d never really considered the mindset necessary for performance, especially under pressure, and you may think it’s odd but I swear I’m learning by watching these athletes.  Because, well, guess what, I’m an athlete too.  I think that’s been one of the biggest changes in how I think of myself as I’ve been on this journey – I see myself and own the fact that I’m a dancer, an artist, an athlete and these were not identities I’d proclaim before.  But I had no context for how to be an effective competitor prior to ballroom dancing so it’s been a learning curve!

So anyways, I was laughing because my mom asked me if I was watching the Ice Dancing and of course I was and she was all, “Can you imagine doing all those things on skates?”  And I was like, “Um, no.  It’s hard enough on dry land in heels!”

Okay, so before I get any further in this post, I have some news.  Today I finally, finally, frickin’ finally hit 100 pounds gone from my highest weight.  It’s taken years.  It’s a milestone.  I’m glad about it.  And, I’m totally focused on where I’m going.  Because the truth is, I still have about 75 pounds more to go.  Next stop, under 200 pounds.  I’ve decided to set milestones along the way.  The one after that will be 180 pounds because then I will be officially “overweight” instead of “obese” according to my BMI.  Finally, I have an idea that my goal weight will be around 140 pounds.  That’s not set in stone.  I’m actually more concerned with achieving a body fat percentage of 20% or less even if it is at a higher (or lower) weight because that is the body fat of an athlete.

So anyways, go me.  I’ve done some calculus on my body.  I say that because if you know how calculus works, it’s taking a curve and cutting it up into infinitesimally small sections to find a sum total.  Well, that’s how losing weight works too.  It’s the sum of a ton of tiny efforts taken consistently over time that will eventually create a sum total effect.  Day in and day out.  Every meal, every workout, every bite.  If I stray, even a little, my body is such an efficient machine, it will not give anything up.  I have to be on it like no kidding.  So I am.

Okay, so now I bet you are wondering what is going on with my dancing seeing as I’ve not posted about myself in a while with the month of guest posts.  Well, things are going pretty well.  The deal is the biggest issue is losing the weight.  Ivan and I agree that it’s the bigger problem than my actual dancing.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to work on – but I have a good base and the aspect that will give me the most bang for my buck, that will change how I move the most, isn’t learning new steps or changing small details (which are also very important), but rather it’s getting the weight off.  With being lighter I’ll automatically be able to move more, have more energy and stamina, and will have more confidence.

I really believe that’s probably the biggest aspect of all – feeling good about myself.  When I feel good I dance better.  Period.  I hold my body differently.  I stand up.  I project.  I fill the music.

So anyways, right now we are kind of in a holding pattern.  It’s actually good in lots of ways.  I’ve cut back on the number of lessons I take weekly because I’m at the gym more often and again, the priority is to get smaller and lighter.  My activities have to reflect that priority.  Still, I see him about 2 times weekly, sometimes for a double lesson.  And we are going over our routines.  I’m glad about it.  Because my American Rhythm open routines were pretty new – there’s still a lot to clean up and polish.  Not to mention just making things automatic in my muscle memory so that I can add more embellishments as time goes on.  So I’m happy to do lots of repetition and just be with Ivan on my lesson.

He never fails to entertain.  Not only is he funny as hell, but I also feel so blessed to get to work with Ivan.  Let me tell you some of the funny stuff first, then I’ll tell you why I’m so glad he’s my partner.

Okay, so the funny stuff is because he’s Bulgarian.  He had a charity event here locally called Dancing With The Stars to raise money for the Kidney Foundation and he told me he had to go home and “paint his hair.”  Haha!  He meant dye it.  Also, when I was doing my “signature” Bolero move I was all, “God Ivan!  It’s a feat!” and he was all like, “What you talking about?  Feet?”  It’s different but difficult to explain.

Okay, now the mushy stuff.  Ivan’s amazing.  I love how he isn’t just about technique.  I love how he is about connection and expression.  I love how he wants me to be present and to live the dance.  I love that he can see that inside me and wants to share it with me.  I love how he wants to build a partnership with me (and with each of his students/partners) and that it has the space to breathe and be unique.  It’s like, who else could I do this work with?  Of all the other dance teachers in the area, there is maybe one other person who I could  maybe work with, who I think would possibly be a fit.  I feel so blessed to be with Ivan.  There’s no one like him.

So one thing he’s been saying lately when I have a moment where I am too much in my head about something rather than being present with him in a dance is, “You forget with who you are dancing.”  And that’s a shame.  I don’t want to miss one second of it, you know?

So one thing that has been really great on our last lesson was working on connection.  We took the time to slow down, and go through moves piece by piece so we could discover when there are gaps, places where I let go, where I’m off-balance.  It was so wonderful.  It was an opportunity for me to get my bearings, him to get his, and the for us to come together and sort of merge into one unit, moving together.  It’s pretty much the optimal, ideal situation when dancing.  It requires presence and sensitivity and flexibility and openness, vulnerability and the ability to tap into the magic “action-reaction” of connection.  And it requires me to be in the flow, to be relaxed, and that’s usually not the space I’m in before a competition.

But I did have one competition where I was brimming with confidence and relaxed, so I know it’s possible.  I think the biggest thing was just feeling prepared and ready going into it, that I’d prepared myself properly and I knew what I was doing, and that I had been moving forward consistently prior to the competition, that I was in a good space for the time that had elapsed since the previous event.  So that’s what I’m working toward during this time.  As I’m getting this weight off, getting my body into shape, I’m working on the connection, the partnership, really knowing my body and my choreography, and I’m so satisfied about it.  It’s actually been great to be working out outside of my lessons on my cardio because I feel like it’s totally okay to working on less intense aspects of dancing, that there isn’t so much pressure just to do rounds, so we can spend the time on things we can only work on together.  Increasing my cardiovascular capacity isn’t one of them.

And I have to say it’s been helping.  I can get thorough so much more so much more comfortably now that I torture myself on the stair machine regularly during the week.  I definitely notice a difference in my endurance.

I think that’s all the news that’s news!  Oh, except that tomorrow, Tuesday, Dance Advantage is running a story on me!  That’s pretty awesome 🙂 – go check it out.

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It’s Emotional

Sorry no vlog today, ha ha!  The truth is that the past few days have been awesome as well as emotional and I’m feeling the need for some writing therapy.  I need to just “write it out” today….that or it would have been a 90 minute vlog, probably with some whining and crying, and nobody wants to watch that!  lol.

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Photo from Desert Classic – if you want to see more check out my Facebook Page where I uploaded an entire photo album of the trip.

We’ll pick up the story from Thursday when I was feeling pretty darn good.  After my snafu last Sunday, I’ve been more focused and clear and determined than ever.  One thing I’ve learned on the journey so far is how important it is to take advantage of times like this because it’s not always like this!  But for now I have an opportunity to blaze forward productively and so I’m doing just that.  I’m rocking my eating plan, I’ve been dancing and going to the gym.  I even made it there on my own to work my arms and legs on two separate days which has been an intention I’ve had for a while but this week I was finally able to put it into action.

I’ve also been reflecting on how very far I’ve come over the past three years.  And something my husband did made the changes even more recognizable than ever; he got a new digital picture frame at work so he brought the old one home and loaded it with all sorts of images, including photos from trips we took a few years ago.

The woman I see staring back at me looks so completely different.  I can’t believe that it was me, that I was ever that big.  Because I feel so entirely humongous right now.  And right now is 80 pounds or so less than what I used to be.

It made me incredibly, incredibly sad to see these pictures.  My mood changed in an instant from glad, proud, motivated and peppy, to reflective and somber (though still determined, actually, maybe even more determined – like I am NEVER going back there!!! No way, no how).

I am saddened by the reflection of me that I see in the photos.  I am so sad that I felt I was worth so little, that I disliked myself so much, that it somehow became okay to let myself become that woman staring back at me with a smile slapped on just in time for the camera flash.  Because I can see she is unhappy.  She is uncomfortably huge.  She has no fashion sense or sparkle.  She wants to hide.  She looks older.  And she isn’t even that pretty – her loveliness is covered, coated, dampened by the wall of flesh she fashioned from her silent misery as a shield between herself and the world.

It’s so weird because I, this very day, see myself as so very large.  A glance in the mirror confirms that my size dwarfs those beside me.   And let’s face it, I’m still categorized as obese. I cannot wrap my mind around this other way of being, that it was me, that it still is me.  Because even as large as I still am, and as far as I still have to go, there is a vivacity about me when I look in the mirror.  There is a sparkle in my eye, an aliveness, that is absent in those digital photos.

And it is a weird mental game this body image thing – especially when it was so messed up to begin with, and especially because I’m changing my body right now.  I am not entirely in touch, nor was I, with my actual body.  I say this because there is a certain amount of denial that has to happen to become 313 pounds.  I could say in my head that I could dance or jump even if the reflection in the mirror told a different story.  Reality hit when I noticed myself struggling to walk about 200 feet from the car to a building entrance.  It took that particular incident to notice something wasn’t right.  I’m mean, of course I’d noticed I needed larger clothing sizes, that I could barely squeeze into airplane seatbelts, that the rollercoaster safety bar didn’t close properly and that I had to be kicked off the ride.  But it was this event that woke me up.  I thought, “I used to be a dancer.  This isn’t right.  I shouldn’t be having a hard time walking.”

Anyways, here I am, three years later, and there is a lot of progress and growth and weight loss to be proud of.

But I am only halfway up the mountain.  Maybe less.  And this is a sobering reality.

Even as I am in a space to acknowledge my progress, with both my health and my dancing, I am also in a space to be in touch with reality.  I’m in that in-between, and it is truly a bizarre place to be.

All my life, as long as I can remember, the picture in my mind of my body was that it was huge.  Now, looking back at objective evidence in photographs, I was a normal-sized person, if not as lean or thin as I wanted to be.  But I couldn’t see that.  I could only see my cellulite, my bulges, my body which was larger than the other girls next to me in dance class.

So when I began to become bigger, and reality began to match my mental image of myself, I wasn’t surprised.  At first, I fought back.  After gaining the “freshman fifteen” (and then some), I worked my butt off during summer and got down to a lower weight before school began.  But after that things spiraled out of control and I gave up and gave in.  I accepted my role as a fat, frumpy girl.  The one no boys noticed.  The one who faded into the background.  Who was un-special.  And I got bigger and bigger and bigger.

So now, I’m on the other end of this pendulum.  I have a vision of my body in my head that is smaller, leaner, fitter and the reality doesn’t match.  It’s very confusing.  Plus, I still have a lingering vision of my body as it was at its largest and expect physical activities to feel as they did 50 pounds ago.

What do I mean by this?  Well today on my workout with my trainer at the gym she asked me to do some exercises I’ve never done before.  She wanted me to do “mountain climbers” and some half-pushups when all I’ve managed to do recently were on an incline and it took a long time and a lot of struggle to get to the place where those were really do-able.  Anyways, I see her do these exercises and my sensory memory creates a picture for me of what it would be to do these things…but with the body I used to have, not the one I have today.  So I panicked.  I had already told her that I might get emotional, that it just comes up sometimes, especially with physical stuff, and that it is not meant to get her to ease up on me or anything, that I am at the very least open to attempting the things asked of me, but sometimes it just comes up and I can’t control it.  I told her that my first reaction is automatically going to probably be that I can’t do something, but that even so, I will try it, and based on evidence from taking this approach, I think I’ve mentioned it before, I truly do not have a realistic picture of what I can and can’t do.  I have many times been surprised when I am able to do an exercise that in my mind appears impossible.

So anyways, the mountain climbers set off “red alert” alarms, and with that, emotion.  Enter waterworks.  But I gave it a try.  And by God, I was able to do them.  Yes, it was taxing.  Yes, I went pretty slow in places.  Yes I rested.  And, I completed the sets.  I was gobsmacked.

Same thing with the half-pushups and some weirdo planks where I had to put my leg out to the side for 15 reps.  I thought these feats outside of my abilities but they were within my reach.

It feels similar in terms of dancing when it comes to what I think I can do versus what I can actually do, and how I feel inside versus the reflection in the mirror.  But with dancing, it is even more muddied.  I think I’m both better and worse than I actually am.  I truly don’t have an accurate gague of my level or ability, and heck, it is such a subjective thing anyways, I don’t know that my reality will ever agree with anybody else’s!

In any case, I was feeling all good and happy and went to a double lesson Saturday  but then was faced with a reality check.  Basically, I’m really struggling to find the balance between emoting, feeling the dance and the music, and also being on top of all the technical aspects that must be present for excellent dancing.  I also struggle with feeling really good about it on the inside and still needing another person’s approval as validation, or feeling really rotten about it on the inside when I’m getting positive feedback from someone else’s perspective.  In terms of the emotion versus technique, it seems that I’m only able to do one thing or the other, but not both together at the same time, at least, not yet.  And for the other part, I think it comes to trusting myself and knowing my truth rather than looking for answers from the outside, while at the same time recieving feedback, especially from those I respect.

In any case, we got into one particular techincal aspect on our last lesson, namely timing and counting, which continues to be a difficulty.  Where to start about this!?  Really!  I mean, I “know” the counts of my dancing.  I don’t have the habit of counting out loud, which is not the best.  I do count in my head, which is better than nothing.  But still, there are points of confusion. And perhaps I believe the counts are one way when they are different in Ivan’s mind.  For instance, there is one move in Rumba where I thought I would go directly into a spiral but he thought I’d hold and move slowly onto my leg for preparation for four counts.  We were both counting, but we were counting different moves.  It created confusion and frustration.  Our bodies were fighting against each other, me trying to move forward, him holding me back in place.  He told me I wasn’t counting.  But I was!  But, alas, it was still my fault because it was incorrect!  Gah!

And then there is another figure where I was counting it correctly, and I even counted it out loud to Ivan but just flat and he said it was correct. But then I told him how I was saying it in my head…two, Threeeeee, four, and-one, my thinking being to draw out the three to make the four faster (which seemed like it should be right for the step in my silly head even though we all know that the emphasis in Cha Cha is on beats 1 and 3) and so I was counting it correctly, but with the wrong emphasis.  So I looked slower than him and we were not in sync.  It’s one of those little details where I can see something is amiss but it’s not (seemingly) a gross error, and so left to linger while I’m in the process figuring out the big details like which step comes next!  And plus I’m not sure how to fix it even when I do notice things like this.

Anyways, we had big discussions about all this (and more) and it’s awesome.  Maybe not easy, maybe not “fun,” exactly, but I so totally see the value in it and I want to improve my abilities.  Plus, I’m so grateful Ivan is sharing this information with me.  I don’t know that many students get into this level of detail with their pro, and consider myself extremely lucky that Ivan is doing what he can to empower me with the tools I can use to become a better dancer, as well as someone who can more effectively and efficiently practice on my own, much less become a better communicator in terms of the dance routines.

Indeed, I think this has been a huge breakthrough for how I communicate with Ivan.  Now I know that when things aren’t working we can talk about the counting and make sure we have the same understanding of what is supposed to happen.  Instead of seeing the other person as frustrating or wrong we can simply come into alignment, and our bodies will surely follow.  I’m excited that this is possible.

Well, anyways, I had this minor tiff with Ivan for about 30 seconds on our lesson yesterday when I thought I was moving forward and he thought I wasn’t, and though it was resolved and indeed led to a renewed desire to count and be accountable for my dancing, it dampened my mood.  But I focused on all I was grateful for, decided to take it in and not let it get me down, decided to let it be a tool to build me up rather than focusing on what I lack, and I was able to come back to an even keel relatively quickly.  That, and I had a visit with some ballroom friends over coffee and later at a barbecue, and so I was refreshed and motivated than ever for my lesson this morning.

I showed up ready to work and when Ivan said, “We didn’t work on Samba yesterday,” I was like, “Well, I went over my routines with the counts in my head and I have one question about this one area in the Cha Cha.  Before we start in on the Samba can we review that?”

Well, it turned into the entire lesson.  And I think some good work was done.  I was feeling strong and sassy.  I was kind of liking how I was moving in the mirror.  It was good (in my head), and we worked on this one part, adding the details of where, exactly, I’m supposed to look, where I place emphasis, and all that, and Ivan decided he needed to film me.  So I wasn’t thrilled about this, because I don’t like seeing myself in photos or videos, but I obliged, because, well, it is excellent feedback.  So he videoed me and he liked maybe 80% of it, which was an improvement, and all, but when I saw the video, I was so very sad and disappointed in how I was moving.  I went from feeling good about it, to being faced with the reality of it, and in two seconds flat once again felt badly about myself.

To me, I look so big and slow, as if my body moving underwater instead of through the air.  How am I ever going to look fast, to create contrast and dynamic, to become the dancer I wish to be?  I already feel like I’m moving as fast as physics will allow but it is still ridiculously slow in appearance.  Sigh.  The obstacles in front of me see dishearteningly insurmountable but I’m choosing to tell myself that I’m just in the part of the story where the hero seems farthest away from his goal.  It’s this that makes a tale epic, so it just means that I’m on an epic journey lol.

But epic though it may (or may not) be, for me at least, this process is extremely emotional.  I’m weathering highs and lows sometimes moment to moment.  I have a vision and dream for myself when it comes to my body and my dancing in which I’m deeply invested, but sometimes the closer I am to realizing them from where I initially started, the further away they seem.  You know, like when you are climbing a mountain and you think you are just below the summit and it turns out to be a turn in the trail revealing a whole new section you couldn’t see before – it’s like that.  I keep climbing higher and discovering just how much higher the summit is than I thought.  There’s no bones about it – it can be discouraging.  But I remind myself that I am the sky, and these passing moods are the clouds, ever-moving and changing.  The sun will come out soon enough.

Part of that “sun” and part of what has been so awesome over the past few days even amongst my lower moments, has been sharing the journey and connecting with others.  Like I said, I spent part of my weekend in fellowship with other dancers, but something very special has also happened that touched my heart.

Every once in a while I make a connection in real life through the blog and that has been the biggest and most unanticipated blessing of writing about my life experiences. I’ve made a few friends and sometimes receive messages via Facebook or Twitter, and even one letter in the mail (can you believe it!?) but today was the first time I had a phone call conversation with a very special person who reads the blog.  The conversation I had with this courageous and strong individual touched my heart profoundly.  Because this dancer shared with me that the blog had been a kind of “lifeline” during a really difficult time.  That reading it, that me putting myself “out there” and sharing authentically from my heart, had come at just the right time and had been a part of a healing process.  It was, as you might guess, emotional.  Because just like me, this person has been transformed and coaxed back to life through dance, and to have been a part of that is awesome and humbling and so very special.

Indeed, it has been an interesting couple of days, with the emotinal roller coaster only being truly alive can offer.  I’ve had much to reflect upon, I’ve experienced a wide variety of emotional ups and downs, I’ve connected with friends, and my next competition is just weeks away.  It is an interesting space, this “in-between” where I started and where I am going and I have a feeling that I’ve only just begun.  I believe and that more discoveries about myself, and my body, and my dancing are just around the corner.  It’s an exciting time, though I’m tempered with the knowledge that the road stretches long and far before me.

There’s work to do yet, but I am grateful for the people on my team helping me move forward.  Between Ivan, Chelle, and everyone who encourages me along the way, I believe my goals are possible and I’m clear and focused like never before. I am determined to keep plugging along, and so I will, however it looks, emotional and all.

How Are You Doing, RockStar?

So since I’m on this mission to transform my body and shed a ton of weight and all, I decided that I might expand the blogs I follow to include those that resonate with me about the weight release process, besides having my usual favorites about dancing.  I think it is important to surround myself with as much support as I can get and I have been so supported in ways I never would have imagined through my blog.

One blog about this process that really resonated with me is called Unbearable Weight, maybe not partly because the authoress is about as wordy as I am (with my 2000 word posts and all lol).  Today she wrote this awesome post that really inspired me.  And it made me think that even though this blog here is about my dancing life, I can’t really separate that out from the rest of my life, and plus I’ve been letting you all in on my health goals and progress (or lack thereof at times), so I thought that since it has been a full week on my new Clean Eating personalized nutrition plan that you might be wondering how it went. I guess Chelle, my nutritionist was wondering the same thing so even though we are meeting in person tomorrow, she sent me an email asking, “How are you doing, RockStar?”

I’m lazy and don’t want to type it all out again (lol) so here was my reply because it pretty much sums up the week:

Hi Chelle,

I’m doing well.  I feel pretty good about how things went this week. I was adherent to the plan and for my cheat meal all I did was eat what I normally would have for the day but had 2 glasses of wine and made that terra pana chocolate dessert you had on your blog.

The only hiccups this week were that my eyes skipped the page and I ate the afternoon snack and dinner for Thursday on Wednesday so I just ate the snack and dinner for Wednesday on Thursday. I hope that is okay to do as I didn’t know if each day is specially planned or if meals are interchangeable across days (though you did say it was okay to switch the order of meals in a day like if I am working out and don’t want to have dinner beforehand but rather do the evening snack instead.) This would be nice to know because there was one night where I wished I had a different dinner and wanted to switch it out but did not because I wanted to be as close to the plan as possible. Having a plan, however, overall, is really working for me.

The other hiccup wasn’t really anything but simply that because I had done my cheat meal Saturday (arbitrarily because I didn’t have a social event planned that I knew of) I was faced with the situation of Cinco de Mayo. We had no plans but took my niece to Build-a-Bear. On the way home I got a call from my brother and they were going to do margaritas and Mexican food with another family and we were invited. Luckily Ty and I had taken separate cars so I just left when the food arrived – which is probably better even if it had been a cheat day because Mexican food and Margaritas are a train wreck waiting to happen. But still, I never considered handling impromptu opportunities. It would have been much harder if I had been trapped there and had to stay.

The last hiccup (as of the time of writing this email) is that I set my alarm wrong this morning. I just happened to wake up at like 7:40 and I had to be at the gym at 8am to work out with my trainer. There wasn’t time to make my omelet (when I had planned to wake up at 7am and have plenty of time to make it and eat) so I grabbed that NoGii bar and had it on the run for breakfast. I wake up hungry now so wanted to eat and couldn’t eat afterwards since I was heading directly to my dance lesson. I did pack my morning snack and lunch so was good to go for that. After my workout I ate the apple and went to my dance lesson. About 3/4ths the way through, after starting strong, I just lost all energy. Toward the last 20 minutes (it was a double lesson so an hour and a half total) I was feeling really irritated and tired. I ate the cheesestick quickly when I realized how tough everything seemed to be getting and afterwards ate the chicken mini loaf. But I feel like my blood sugar might have gotten low and it was tough – my energy was gone, I felt totally drained and I was really feeling crabby/irritated. What snacks can I eat on days I know I will be pushing it hard, that will fuel me properly? Things like the cheese and chicken mini loaf take a bit longer to hit the bloodstream, I would think, because they are mostly protein and fat. And I still have more dancing to do tonight at 8pm.

The other thing I noticed is just like I struggled accepting that 2000 calories daily wasn’t too much to still lose weight, I’m fearful about the cheat meal. I am so focused on my goals, and want to transform so badly, I am afraid to lose any progress. I think I made a nice choice this week with my cheat meal and enjoyed it because it was planned out and because I wasn’t stuffed or feeling guilty or anything like that. However, this week I have two social occasions to choose from – my mother-in-law’s birthday (she wants to go out to dinner) or dinner with my family for Mother’s day. I can’t do both and am choosing to opt out of dinner Wed. night altogether. It is just too stressful and I feel like it is the most nurturing/supportive choice for me. Luckily my husband understands, and I think Debbie gets it but that she is probably disappointed, and that Ty’s dad will be disapproving. I’d much rather take the opportunity to prepare more meals and maybe get an extra cardio session in at the gym so that is what I’m going to do. Then Sunday since it is at home (not a restaurant) I can enjoy the cheat meal and have more control about what I eat. But navigating no social occasions, impromptu occasions, and too many social occasions is challenging. I know this won’t be like this forever, but right now I feel like I need to do whatever it is I need to do to stay on track.

The day-to-day eating is easy. It is even easier since I work from home. I made sure to take more than one meal with me when I went out to the mall with my friend on Saturday and with my husband and niece on Sunday so I could be sure I could buy myself enough time in case we met for longer than 3 hours – which happened both times. So I feel good about staying on schedule regardless of leaving the house or whatever was going on. I ate my celery sticks and peanut butter walking around Fashion Square lol. But leaving the house does take a little more prep.

I guess the only other thing is that I objectively think I did really well this week. You called me a RockStar and I’ve been honest and didn’t cheat or anything. I logged all my food, did all my prep, and basically did what I was supposed to do on the plan as best I could, eyes skipping the page and my alarm not going off notwithstanding, and even in those situations I think I handled them well. As you saw, I’m even down below 240 pounds where I had been hovering around for like 3 weeks. And yet, still, inside of me, I feel like it is somehow not enough. That I should be doing more. That I could always be doing more…and my mind is running, running, thinking… “maybe more cardio, or more weights, or eating less carbs (yeah right! Look what happened on my lesson today – I need those suckers!), or what is that HIIT thing I keep hearing about….and on and on and on.” I’m not exactly sure what to do with this feeling like I should/could be doing more. I’m hungry for change, can you tell?

Even so, last night was the first night I kind of wished I was not on this plan and felt bummed about what my dinner was going to be but it was a fleeting thought and I stuck to it anyways because it feels so much better to be in integrity than to give in and give up. I’ve made progress this week, which is excellent. I guess I am just very eager for the day when my jeans are falling off because they are too big. I am longing for the day when I am proud of my body. I am longing for the day when it is finally my turn to have the before and after picture. I want to transform my body and be bona fide skinny/thin. I want to see if I can actually do it because I never have felt that way ever in my life. I want to see what is possible. I totally get that it is going to take time – that 8 pounds in a month would be excellent and that with as much as I have to lose that it is going to take a while to see a difference, that big difference I’m looking for. And, well, the change can’t happen quickly enough. I have my next dance competition in 16 days. Every little bit of weight I can get off between now and then will help, and I want to show an even more dramatic change for the next competition in July.

In summary: What worked, what didn’t, what next?

What worked?

Me. I worked the plan. I found a substitute for my morning coffee. I responded to situations as they came up and made good decisions. I planned and prepped and packed. Me subbing fresh veggies for steamed veggies, making the tzatiki to replace the cream cheese. Consistency. Logging my food. My committment.

What didn’t?

My alarm clock lol. Still, I recovered making a good choice for breakfast (I think). My eyeballs getting frisky for the next day on the plan. Getting what felt like hypoglycemia during my double lesson. The feeling that I’m not enough. Cauliflower (lesson learned, though).

What next?

I’m not sure. You are the expert! Continue on the same plan or tweak it?

So there you go! The full update. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow morning.

-Stef

 

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.

My Expensive Alien Hand

I’m so glad that holidays are finally over!  Why?  Because they really threw a wrench in my normal routine.  Dance classes were cancelled, or I was working extra hours to make up the time taken off.  I’ve missed two weeks of ballet, three weeks of Inna’s class, and only seen a little bit of Mr. Ivan.

But a few days ago I got back to ballet and though I screw up a lot, and it’s difficult, there are also moments where my body remembers how to be aligned properly and balance.  In those moments I feel open and free.  It’s pretty amazing.  But, sadly, I ended up straining my left calf.  It takes quite a bit of brute force to maintain some of the required positions, especially in my current body size, and my standing leg was strained to the point of shaking from fatigue while my working leg was doing what it needed to do.  I ended up bowing out of doing jumps, but did finish the class and I did go to see Ivan afterwards for a lesson.

It wasn’t actually injured, and with some ice and heat and lots of stretching, it’s already pretty much back to normal, though I skipped ballet the following night because I knew the teacher tonight does a ton of jumps and I didn’t want to risk injuring myself or having to sit out half of the class.

Otherwise, my legs feel good, worked out, slightly sore, and I can see a faint glimmer of their old dancing shape beginning to emerge.  Of course being off for over two weeks hasn’t been ideal, but I’m looking forward to the strength, flexibility, and lengthening that will be coming soon after more consistent attendance.

As far as things with Ivan go, we are continuing to work on our routines, and we began to develop the idea for a showcase number to that song “True Colors” from Glee that was really inspiring to me (http://vimeo.com/37544876) mentioned in a previous post.  I love that Ivan is so cool about stuff like this.  It means a lot to me – there is a lot of my own personal story that I want to put in the dance, and it’s really special to get to create something to express myself in this way.

And I also learned a new Cha Cha Step:

A new step in the Cha Cha

But the big thing that remains is the weight.  I’ve ordered a new diet plan which arrived early this week and the plan is to commit to that and more exercise and to show up looking different at the next competition, (which, if you haven’t seen on the Facebook page, I’m looking for advice on which competitions to go to this year).  That’s honestly my main focus (besides work) right now.

As Ivan says, I could stop dancing today but if I lost the weight than everything would change even without any practice.  Well, that isn’t gonna happen because I love it too much and dancing is part of my healing process, but I’ve had enough of my belly getting in the way of stretching, and being limited in what I can do dance-wise because of my body.  I can’t wait to not worry about what I’m going to wear and spend time finding the outfit that will make me look the least fat.  It’s for the birds.  Enough is enough.  This is my year.  It has to be.  I’ve decided.  Because I have big aspirations and this is going to get me closer. I’m drawing my line in the sand, declaring my intention, and refusing to let this hinder me any more.  And so far this diet plan is working really well for me.  I’ve been able to stick to it all week, and I don’t feel stressed out about it or like I’m starving or anything.  The biggest problem is that there is mandatory overtime right now so even without exercise or a dance lesson, I’m putting in 12 hour days, and working weekends.  Things will get better once the peak season is over, but the diet thing is a big step in the right direction and I’m going to get in whatever activity I can for now (like I’m committed to always using the stairs at work…a small thing but I think it will add up over time), with plans to make it more scheduled in the future.

Speaking of, even though I had to work today, I was able to schedule it so that I could fit a double lesson in with Ivan this morning.  I think this post is long enough so I’ll just mention two things.  First, I had a Dr. Strangelove/Alien Hand Syndrome moment this morning.

Dr strangelove peter sellers

By Directed by Stanley Kubrick, distributed by Columbia Pictures [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Like for reals, yo!  We all know I have arm styling issues. As Ivan said, teasingly, “On Alemana, I never know what arms you gonna use.  It always a surprise.  And always you look dyslexic like a chicken.”  (Ivan Bulgarian-English translation of dyslexic is uncoordinated even though it doesn’t mean anything close to that!)

Well, anyways, we are working on perfecting the Cha Cha routine, still breaking down each count and movement so I will know what I am doing, and on this one part I’m supposed to pause and look back at Ivan and I decided I’d put my arm on my neck for styling but yeah, it didn’t work so well.  My arm kind of spasmed this way and that, unsure of where to place itself.  It almost had a mind of its own, but it was a very confused mind.  I just thought it was funny and it made me think of Dr. Strangelove Syndrome.  I’m weird like that.

The second thing I’ll mention has to do with a comment Ivan made while we were dancing.  I was doing a move and he was like, “No!  Why you rushing?  This is expensive movement.  Show how expensive it is.”  It was a weird way to phrase it, but it is actually a very, very true statement.  Every step I’ve learned, every step I work to perfect is expensive…in the literal sense it has cost me money and time and effort.  But just like Chanel perfume or a pair of Versace gloves, you can tell the quality, the expense that went into making it.  Well, that’s how I want to highlight my dancing, as a luxurious and beautiful expression, the quality of the movement demonstrated in a millisecond, and the money, time, and effort behind making it seem effortless recognized by those with the eyes to see.  I mean we all want to look like the pros when we dance, but are we willing to “pay our dues” and work as if we were pros, even if we are not?  I want to clothe myself in the finest metaphorical silk, but am I willing to weave the silk to make the cloth in the first place?

It makes me think of this status post from Joy In Motion.  If you haven’t liked her page, go do so.  She’s primarily about Lindy Hop but shares all sorts of wonderful dance-related thoughts, blog posts, and videos.  I’ve enjoyed following her on “the Facebook.”  Anyways, here is the quote:

“By nature, we humans shrink from anything that seems possibly painful or overtly difficult. We bring this natural tendency to our practice of any skill. Once we grow adept at some aspect of this skill, generally one that comes more easily to us, we prefer to practice this element over and over. Our skill becomes lopsided as we avoid our weaknesses. Knowing that in our practice we can let down our guard, since we are not being watched or under pressure to perform, we bring to this a kind of dispersed attention. We tend to also be quite conventional in our practice routines. We generally follow what others have done, performing the accepted exercises for these skills.

This is the path of amateurs. To attain mastery, you must adopt what we shall call Resistance Practice. The principle is simple—you go in the opposite direction of all of your natural tendencies when it comes to practice.

First, you resist the temptation to be nice to yourself. You become your own worst critic; you see your work as if through the eyes of others. You recognize your weaknesses, precisely the elements you are not good at. Those are the aspects you give precedence to in your practice. You find a kind of perverse pleasure in moving past the pain this might bring. Second, you resist the lure of easing up on your focus. You train yourself to concentrate in practice with double the intensity, as if it were the real thing times two. In devising your own routines, you become as creative as possible. You invent exercises that work upon your weaknesses. You give yourself arbitrary deadlines to meet certain standards, constantly pushing yourself past perceived limits. In this way you develop your own standards for excellence, generally higher than those of others.

In the end, your five hours of intense, focused work are the equivalent of ten for most people. Soon enough you will see the results of such practice, and others will marvel at the apparent ease in which you accomplish your deeds.”

– Robert Greene

Well, it blew my mind.  And, it made me want to work harder!  I found it extremely motivating, and it also helped me focus my intent behind my new diet.  So, weird Alien hand moves aside, I’m really excited about the coming year and where my dancing will take me.  The only caveat to the above quote is that while being a critic of my weaknesses, I pledge to hold them compassionately.   It’s way too easy for me to be hard on myself, so I intend to do the good work as suggested by this Robert Greene, but in a kind, self-loving context – this doesn’t mean being blind to my faults, denying them, or excusing them, but it does mean loving myself while pushing myself in a bold, disciplined, focused and intense manner.  With any luck, I will generate results similar to this other gem of “the Facebook,” Rick, a very inspiring dude down from 426 pounds!!

And I guess that’s it for now!  I uploaded some fun pics from the dance camp on the Facebook page for BGintheB and videos will follow shortly of the pro show from the dance camp, choreography presented, as well as video from the Imperial Ballroom Holiday Showcase (including the routine that won the Ohio Star Ball Showdance for the International Ballroom division from Artem and Inna)  – it just takes a long time to upload them from my phone, so if you haven’t liked it yet, remember I do post some extra content there.

So for now, good night!