What’s Up Buttercup?

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

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

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

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

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

So I’ve not been writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So now you are all caught up!

Until next time, Stef

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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.

Clean Eating, Challenge, Change, Consistency, Commitment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Body

Dear body,

What the hell is going on?

My heart is broken. I’m a mess and in anguish. I’ve been feeding you cleaner and healthier foods than ever before. I’ve given you supplements, exercise, rest. I’ve lifted weights with you, danced, walked on the stair stepper. The past month you and me have been through a lot and I thought there was progress, real progress. It seems maybe a little easier to do some things, but am I just kidding myself?

Because you see, my mind had a hard time with all this. I’m doing everything I am supposed to do. And listen, we both know I wasn’t ever “perfect.” I did have cheat meals. But damnit, they were more contained and in control than before. The vast majority of the time I’ve been disciplined, regimented.

But you seem dead set against me. I cannot fathom your reaction.

You seem bound and determined to stay fat. You actually seem to want to adapt to carrying all this extra poundage in the form of adipose. You’ll work and change, but only so you can more easily do the activities I ask of you while still staying fat. You won’t give it up. You are not releasing. And I am at my wits end.

I didn’t weigh myself for a month. An entire month! I did this because I understand I’m not looking for instant gratification. I’m in it for the long run. I’m doing it “slowly” and with clean eating and exercise and all that. So I get that things fluctuate week to week. I realized weighing myself weekly got me depressed and wasn’t worth the stress or heartache. I’m walking the walk so there should be progress. Actually, I expect there to be. So fine, I’m willing to let you do what you need to do while I plug away. But there has to be an objective measure of progress at some point in time. A month seemed reasonable. How could I possibly not be better off than I was 30 days ago?

Because you suck that’s why. I don’t understand how I can be 8 pounds heavier than before. When clothes seem looser (but am I delusional?) when I seem to be able to cope with dancing better? I was in utter disbelief with this number. I purposefully chose this long period of time between weighings so I could set myself up for a win. Even after a night of sleep and emptying myself I’m still a good 6 pounds higher than before. WTF?

I take responsibility for less than perfect choices at times but even taking these into account this result just doesn’t make sense to me. There is no way in hell, even with the blips I had, that I should be up weight. And don’t nobody even mention that idea that I’ve gained muscle. I call bullshit. No person in the history of people ever put on over 6 pounds of muscle in 30 days. Especially not a girl.

You make me feel like I am doomed to a life of active obesity. That no matter how hard I work I will still be big. I will never be lean. It just doesn’t seem possible when you pull shit like this. Why are you not on board with this, anyways? It has got to be a better situation for you to be a healthier size and weight, to have better cardiovascular health, clearer lungs, the ability to go out and experience the world.

I totally understand why so many people don’t stick with losing weight. If I was seeing progress, any progress toward becoming a normal weight I’d be thrilled. But every single fucking time I check in I’m no better than I was four months ago in terms of body weight. Pathetic progress I say!

I feel like I do a lot. Yes, I’m getting all indignant and going into victim mode here but just let me get this out. I know I have to pick myself up from the dirt once again damnit and I need to clear this because it sucks to be repeatedly knocked to the floor over and over and over every single time I try to objectively measure progress. I am angry. Angry, do you hear me? I feel like I do more than most people. I thought that combine clean healthy eating with all the activity I was doing and I’d drop weight fast. It wasn’t happening so I INCREASED my activity. I didn’t let it be an excuse but tried a new tactic. AND YOU ARE STILL FUCKING WITH ME! YOU FUCKING BASTARD! So what the hell? I swear to God other people do what I’m doing and they would drop weight. Why will you not? When is enough, enough? Do I have train 6 hours a day or eat 1400 calories a day? I don’t have that kind of time! It would be a ridiculous lifestyle to live. It doesn’t seem like it should require such extremes. Why will you not bend to my will when I take less severe measures? I thought I was being compassionate toward myself but you are not responding. You are a fucking hoarder. Must I put you under a knife to change? Is that the route I should take?

It is going on nigh 3 years and you are still a disgusting obese mass of flesh, jiggly and slow, incapable of doing certain activities. I despise you in so many ways. I have been trying to make peace with you and you betray me at every turn. People say to be grateful for what I do have, and yes, I am. But right now I’m so angry at you I can’t see straight. And I don’t wish on my worst enemy the amount of effort, sweat, tears, and heartache it has taken even to get to this place. They say focus on how far you have come. Blah blah blah. I don’t have time to meander the rest of this path anymore and thought I was kicking it into high gear. And still my goals loom so far away. Have we even gotten any closer?

I feel like You are a taker. You take and take and take and don’t give up anything! You drain my very heart and spirit in this struggle to push your gargantuan mass up a mountain and you fail to pick up your end of the work. I am absolutely disgusted that I am still only 20 pounds lighter than I was than at the beginning of the year. Eight months of work for 20 pounds is absolutely ridiculous. Who in their right mind is going to stick with this? If I stay at the same rate, and oh wait, we don’t know when this plateau will end, so it might be even longer, but if it takes you 8 months to drop 20 pounds than I’m looking at like 3 years to get this done. Holy hell I just want to weigh less than 200 pounds. I just want to be smaller than men.

Is this too much to ask? From your response it seems that it is. It seems that you don’t want to change or that you require me to abuse you. I thought we were going about this sanely and safely and healthfully but you are a stubborn shithead. When you do not budge It feels like you would rather we look like a beached whale. That you would rather stay the same so we feel the need to cover ourself from wrist to ankle in the blistering heat of July in Arizona. You would rather we be relegated to the “woman’s” section in department stores and never wear shorts or shirts with sleeves shorter than 3/4ths. Apparently you don’t mind looking older and homely, or how it is affecting our dancing.

Perhaps you have some thoughts on this situation but the truth is right now I am too angry with you to hear them. Take a few days to meditate on what I have said here and write me back when you are (I am) ready to help me see this from a different perspective. And you better fucking tell me what it is going to take to finally get you to change! Make sure that is part of your answer.

Until then fuck you. If I could divorce you right now I would.

*Dear readers, this letter to my body is part of me processing the way I feel at the moment. I am just as determined as ever to continue on. I will not be going backwards because I have worked too damn hard for every tiny gain and I never want to have to go through this again. When I am calmer and saner and feeling better I will write a response back from my body to me. Kind of like how I did here with food. And reading this I can see that I have very much forged a much, much healthier relationship with food. It does not have the same hold on me as it once did.

It has been a rough couple of days for me emotionally but one thing I have been doing successfully and is new is channelling and transmuting this pain. For instance, yesterday I did some extra cardio and used the pain to push myself. Also, on my dance lesson today Ivan could immediately tell something was wrong but I said, “No talking. Just dancing.” And we had a focused and productive time. Stuffing myself with food wasn’t even an option!! If anything I am more clear and disciplined than ever. So, yeah, I am having a little pitty party for myself, but only because I have the intent of moving through it as quickly as possible and back to neutral so that I can get back to the business of transforming my body as efficiently and effectively as possible. Hopefully soon I will be able to look back on this letter, and the one I write back from my body, and see the same type of growth as I see when re-reading my old letter to food.

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.

Four Ounces Of Potato

I was really proud of myself today.  I guestimated the size of potato to chop off that would be four ounces and when I weighed it, it was right on the money!

What does this have to do with dance?  I mean, yeah, this is primarily a dance blog and all, but it is related.  It’s all related.

My diet/lifestyle, my body, my body image, my self-confidence, my ability to dance and perform, how I think about life and myself, they are all inter-related.

In a way, I feel like a woman transformed.  Again, it is back to that potato.  You all know I hired a nutritionist to help me from being obese and the biggest girl in the ballroom to someone who is fit and normal sized.  Well, anyways, of course it involves portion sizes and such.  The food scale is a permanent fixture on my kitchen island these days and even stranger than that is that it is totally okay.  I use it all the time.  But I don’t feel like a food Nazi, and I always thought of “those people who actually weigh out their food” as food Nazis.  Go figure.  Yes, the scale has become my friend and I’m surprised by the minimal amount of resistance I had to using it.

Kartoffeln der Sorte Marabel

Tilmann at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

So I don’t feel like a food Nazi.  Probably because when I’m “on” with my plan, I’m in it from a place of true choice.  I want to do it and it seems effortless.  The results may not happen as fast as I think they should or whatever, but the actual “doing” of the plan is a good thing.

And then real life, weekends, social events happen.  Sometimes I navigate them well.  Other times, like Sunday, I totally blow it.  I think my motto is two steps forward, one step back.  As much as a big part of me wants to change and is willing to do the work of it – namely going to the gym, dancing, doing the food prep and eating on the plan, there is also a part that is not completely on board.  It self-sabatoges.  As I told my nutritionist, “Samurai Saying: knock down seven times, get up eight…..or eight thousand when it relates to me!”

But still, I notice changes.  If I take a “food excursion,” it is still not even close to the magnitude that it used to be.  And, after this Sunday when I made some terrifically poor choices around food and drink, I was able to get right back on track Monday morning – and in the past being derailed like this could last days.

That, and my pants are looser, even if they aren’t falling off me (yet).  And the potato thing.  First, I actually know the size of a proper portion of potato, what four ounces looks like, and I am weighing it out, measuring all my food portions (when I’m with it), and I have discovered that I actually can be disciplined around food, and that it doesn’t always have to be a huge, horrible struggle…except for when it is.

Again, Stef, how is this related to dance?  Don’t worry, I’ll get there 🙂

You all probably noticed that there has been a blogging drought.  Part of that was due to the fact that Ivan left the country to go visit Bulgaria, and part of that was because I, for whatever reason, felt the need for a little hiatus from dancing.  I didn’t go to ballet.  I didn’t go to Inna’s class.  I didn’t blog.  I just needed a break after Desert Classic and honestly, I can’t exactly pinpoint a reason behind this.  A wise friend of mine told me “sometimes you have to step away from your passion to take the next step forward.”  I figured I’d focus on my diet (really it’s a lifestyle reset) and working out at the gym.  Well, I kinda did, if not as vigorously as I originally envisaged.

I was kind of burned out after the last competition.  First off I wasn’t where I wanted to be physically.  I also discovered I hadn’t done the mental preparation and how important that is.  Then the new dress that I feel highlights my big belly.  The bottom line of all this was the both Ivan and I agree we didn’t dance our best together….all except for the last two open dances.  This was after the Latin day in which I did mediocre, on the Rhythm day where I did really well in placements and even won the bronze closed scholarship for my age division.  After that win, Ivan and I were happy and carefree.  We danced those last two dances with joy and freedom, and apparently he even saw some Latin pros he respects watching us and getting into our performance.  Other than that moment of glory, though, we were pushing and pulling each other and it was no fun.  We wanted to so badly to show something that we ended up showing nothing.

So I came home and was relieved on some level that Ivan would be gone and there would be a break.  That, and also I was having some body image stuff going on. Mostly because I see how huge I am, even after all this work since the beginning of the year, and I can’t believe I ever danced when I was bigger than I am now. It is ludicrous that I dance at this size, but I did it originally 83 pounds heavier, and since the beginning of the year at least 30 pounds heavier. It has always been freaking hard, but with as difficult as everything feels these days, I’m amazed I danced before now.

The truth is, I haven’t weighed myself for about a month.  I can’t handle seeing the number on the scale if it goes up.  I feel like even when I weigh in next Wednesday the scale will be the same.  I’m kind of mentally preparing myself for that possibility.  Of course I’m hoping that I’ve changed at least a little bit, downward.  But anyways, because of the way I’ve been going about this process it hasn’t been a wham bam whiz bang go go go and just do it all 100% and get amazing results fast.  I’ve been living life in between the spaces.  I have days where I’m spot on, and others where I’m really not.  I’m finding that it really is about dusting myself off and getting back to it ASAP and working toward approaching that 100% from where I am, which is currently working the plan probably 80% on average, 95% when I’m really being a RockStar and 70% or less when I’m off the wagon.  It ain’t a straight line, that’s for sure!!

But the thing is, something has shifted.  Well, a few things, actually.  Whatever the scale says next week, I have a realistic idea of proper portion sizes.  I have created a habit of doing food prep on Sundays to set myself up to win for the week.  And the biggest thing is that, at least for the moment, I’m not beating myself up for my occasional poor choices.  I’m not punishing myself for not being thin already.  I’m not hating myself because I’m not 13% body fat or whatever like I think I “should” be.  Separating a momentary poor choice from shame has been huge.  I have never been able to just be like, oops!  Choose better next time and learn from the mistake.  But somehow I’m in that space at the moment.  Maybe because I’m gonna screw up some times – it is part of being human, and I can do nothing, absolutely nothing, in the moment to change my body instantaneously or to change whatever choice I may have made in the past that got me to where I am.  In the past, especially since I already feel bad about myself and my body, if I ate out of control it made me feel even worse and I’d sink into a depression and hopeless pit of despair that I was never going to get out of my fat obese body, that it was, in fact, impossible.  That actually, God put me on this earth and he designed me so that I could never be skinny.  Yes, I thought like that.  I still don’t know what the end result will be, but I do know that it can be a hell of a lot better than it is!  In any case, somehow I’ve managed to tease apart the entwined mess that says in my brain that my self-worth is dependent and related to my weight.  I have equated that the fatter I am, the less worthy I am.  When I am fat, I am “less valuable” than other people, I feel worse about myself, and I even feel like less of a human being.  I can’t express the amount of shame tied to my body size, shape, and the amount of adipose I’m lugging around.  But somehow I’ve found a bubble that says yes, you are in this situation and you can rationally acknowledge and own it and see it in the mirror, but you don’t have to be ashamed for being alive anymore.  More than that, you don’t even need to be ashamed to dance anymore.

That being said, I am committed to change, because damnit, I deserve better.  However, I don’t know how long this is going to take.  I thought it would take me a year to get to my goal.  Maybe it will happen that way.  Maybe I will go like gangbusters with the clarity, calmness, and centeredness I’m feeling at the moment and bulldoze though the process, making new changes every week, building on what I do that moves me forward until I have an entire new set of habits, and an entire new life and body.  Maybe it will take longer because I choose to take detours.  The deal is, no matter what, I’m going to be in this fat suit for a while longer.  I’m nowhere near shopping in the normal clothing section just yet.

But God bless Ivan.  I have been in the question around doing the next competition here in town in September, next month.  I already got the days off work and it is local so it is kind of difficult to say no, but then with my lukewarm feelings from Desert Classic and still being so big, I was also feeling kind of like maybe I didn’t want to participate.  Back and forth I would go.  I should go because I want to support one of the owners and see my friends.  I don’t want to go because what am I going to show that’s different from the last competition?  God my arms are fat… and on and on in circles.

But Ivan said two things.  First, when I came back to my first lesson once Ivan made it back into the U.S. (yay!) we had a good one.  It was relaxed but focused.  It was a lot of fun and we had good energy.  Ivan was like, “if you were maybe not wanting to go to Desert Classic I would have been okay with that.  I didn’t really feel like I wanted badly to go dance with you.  Also, don’t feel pressure about Galaxy because if you can’t do it, financial or whatever, it’s okay.  But after this lesson, I hope you going to be keeping the same energy.  I think people going to wanting to see you dancing.  And I want to go dancing with you at Galaxy.  I want us to build on the two good dances we did at the end of Desert Classic.  We always starting and stopping.  If we go to one competition and then not go to the next one we get comfortable.  We don’t work as hard.  We then have to work twice as hard to get back to where we were once again if we don’t keep going to competitions.  But mostly I wanting to go with you.  We have different goals than most people.  Our goals is to have the good energies like we had on those last two dances.  I think it would be good to be going.”

The second thing he said was, “Why you not wanna go?  Because you fat?”

And I was like, “Yes.”  Lol.

“Because we already knowing this.” He replied.  “We already seeing this.  You think I caring about your fats when we dancing like that?  I no caring.  In fact I almost forgetting your fats, until you remind me of them once again.  I looking at how you moving.  I thinking, I can’t wait to seeing the butt move on the time step in the cha cha.  I don’t caring that it big.  I just excited to see it.”

Leave it to Ivan to put it in a funny way but I think he’s right in some ways.  He’s right in that there are moments I forget about how I look.  In those moments I’m a free and I just want to move my butt, no matter how big it may be.  I’m dancing from a place of what I feel inside.  There is no judging or comparing or seeing all my flaws.  In those moments, I’m outside of myself and my personality.

So anyways, I am going to do the local comp.  This means, I think, that there will be more blogging in the near future.  That plus I’m waiting to get photos and/or video from the hubs from the last comp to share, plus I am wanting to do a “book review” series about books on ballroom.  It’s an idea I’ve had for a while but the author of a fictional book about ballroom approached me and I agreed to read her book and review it so it is the perfect excuse to finally do it for all the books I’ve enjoyed about my favorite form of dance.

But I digress….

So I’m going to the comp, and until then I’ll be measuring out my four ounces of potato, and hopefully that will translate into being a few (or a whole lot) of ounces lighter over the next month.  We’ll see!  Because I’m finding that as my body shrinks I feel better in it.  I have more confidence.  I can’t wait until I really like the reflection in the mirror.  What a freedom it would be to wear a sleeveless shirt or shorts or to have a dress I love and feel good competing in.  Right now I still see my body as a burden and a horror, though less a horror than before…which is mind-boggling to me.  How did I get here?  Where was I before I was fat?  How did I ever get to 313 pounds?  I still feel the same as I did 80 pounds heavier.   This stuff messes with my head…

But still, I’m chugging along, and I think I must be doing some things right, mixed in with the mess-ups.  First because Ivan wants to dance with me plus we have been doing good work on our recent lessons and, second, because tonight after class Inna walked right over to me and said, “Stefanie, you are looking good!”  I don’t know if that was in reference to my weight or my dancing tonight, but either way, I’ll take it!  Eventually the things that I do that move me forward will overcome those that pull me back.

In fact, maybe it’s happening on a small scale already.

Running Blindly

Today was a satisfying day. First off, it was an unexpected day off. Yesterday they canceled overtime for the weekend. I’ve been needing some “off” time – time to rejuvenate, connect with life outside of a dark dance studio in the morning or night, work, and home (which means 1 hour of TV and bed!) And to have two days off in a row feels luxurious!

Next, I weighed myself and I’ve had a breakthrough. I’m below 250 pounds for the first time in years and I’ve been messing around with the last five pounds for about 3 months. Finally! I kind of couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the number. Though not anywhere near where I want to be eventually, it IS a milestone and one to be celebrated.

Plus, I had an amazing lesson with Ivan this morning, during which I had another breakthrough – Can you believe it?! I will tell you the story shortly.

After the lesson I went and got my haircut and my brows waxed. The last time I had them done was in November! Luckily the salon was able to fit me in at the last minute since I didn’t know I’d have time today with the surprise day off and all, and now my hair is healthy and ready to grow out, and my furry eyebrows are back under control. Plus I had fun talking with my stylist about some ideas for my hair around competition time. I’m pretty excited.

Then I went to Sephora to get some much-needed and belated foundation. Suddenly my skin looks flawless and I’m feeling better so I also go in for some blush and gloss and powder.

Finally I have fantastic lunch from this amazing restaurant all by myself. It’s one of those places that uses all local organic foods and man was it yummy and totally guilt-free. I savored each bite eating it in gratitude for all the work that brought it to my mouth and how it is going to give me life and be a part of my transformation into who I am becoming, the body I am going to have. On a day like today I can remember that eating can be a spiritual experience as much as a mundane one and pray with each morsel. Seriously this place has prayer-worthy food. First off, they have the most amazing starter of seared albacore drizzled with citrus and some spices and garnished with avocado and thin orange slices. After polishing that off I ate a mediterranean salad with fresh, vibrant greens, brown quinoa, salmon, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, and a fantastic oregano vinaigrette. It was so satisfying and what I feel was a honoring meal – one that honored the food sources as well as myself. I wish every meal could be like that, but in my hectic life right now, I’m thankful to have my prepackaged diet meals. They are working for me too, and until I have the time to cook (or the financial resources to pay someone to cook for me – lol) I’m grateful for them.

But hey, this blog is about ballroom dancing, so let me get to that part!

So I show up for my lesson and I’m there before Ivan but a receptionist has come and opened the studio so I am waiting for Vanco when he arrives (Vanco is like a nickname for Ivan, something that maybe his mom would call him as a kid).

He’s usually always early, but today he is right on time, though I notice when he comes in that he looks a little scruffy. I can see a five-o-clock shadow beard and his eyes look a little puffy.

“Oh you early!”

“Yes, Ivan. Do you want coffee? I said I’d get you coffee last night, but I came here first to see what you wanted.” Since he is usually early, I thought I’d have time to walk down to the Starbucks in the complex.

“No. I fine. No coffee.”

“Okay.”

“You drink wine last night?” He asks.

“No.” I reply, “I’ve been battling a cold. I just came home from work and ate dinner and got the most sleep I’ve gotten in a long time last night.”

“Me neither. No wine,” he says.

I begin to say, “You’re sure? Cause you look like you might have drunk something last night…” But I never make it past, “You’re sure?”

“No wine last night. Whiskey.”

I bust up laughing. I could totally tell he was dragging! And in my book, whiskey could make for a more unpleasant morning than some red wine, but Ivan seems to think the opposite. And he’s his usual upbeat, funny self, if maybe just a little bit slow.

I joke with him. “It’s okay, Ivan. You can just lay on the floor like a few weeks ago and I will go through my routines.”

But that is not what happens. Of course, because he is crazy lunatic, he puts some super peppy music on straight away and I’m like, “Ivan! Let’s warm up with something a little slower! But before you do that, I have something to tell you! I am below 250 pounds for the first time in many years!”

“Oh! This soooo good!” He coos. “I thinking you 260 or 270 and you below 250! In a month you be 240 and then even smaller. Good job!”

Even better than Ivan’s praise was my friend’s reaction. She walked in the studio for a lesson later on in the morning. I shared the news with her as well because she has also been “the incredible shrinking woman” and down more than 40 pounds from the day I met her. She looks great and she understands what I’m going through. She almost jumped into my arms giving me a big, enthusiastic hug. “Oh Stefanie, I’m so proud of you!” I have to admit, it felt pretty nice.

So anyways, Ivan put on a Waltz, which was more to my speed (and probably his, too) and off we went.

For the first time in I-can’t-remember-when, we practiced Smooth, but it was pretty fun and a good warm up. The best part was when Ivan decided to dip me over his leg. I put my leg up in the air and he was like, “Woah! Let me do that again!” He sounded shocked. I was, like, okay, but why? So he did it again, and again, and again. About 5 times in a row. “Wow,” he says, “You feel so light! Like 140 pounds!” He couldn’t believe it – that it was so easy. So that felt awesome.

We then did a Foxtrot and a Tango and Viennese Waltz, the Foxtrot and Waltz and Viennese Waltz all being vastly superior to the Tango. Yeah, Tango isn’t my strongest dance, but that’s okay. I’m a Latin and Rhythm girl at heart.

At this point we still had the studio to ourselves (besides the receptionist, who, at one point must have thought we were completely cuckoo!) and that was a good thing because we began to work on Rumba and right away, and, as per usual, I messed up the connection. I mean, it takes a minute or two to really connect, at least it does for me. As much as I wish I would just be instantly ready, I’m not (Grrr!) and so as per usual, Ivan began talking to me about the connection.

Now here’s the thing – sometimes the lack of connection is because I’m not paying attention, that I’m not aware, and sometimes the lack of connection is because I’m afraid.

To really connect, to really be ready to follow, I have to trust. I have to trust me (and my body), entirely, which I struggle with, and on top of that, I have to trust Ivan. Listen, Ivan and I have a great rapport, and I trust him as much as I trust anybody on this Earth, and I still hold back and am afraid that he will lead me astray in the dance or something. It’s a survival-based fear, not necessarily a rational one. It’s a fear of revealing myself and really letting go, and I know I’ve talked about it before, and this time….this time, I got it on a whole other experiential level.

A few months ago Ivan told me a story about once when he was in Europe and some big-wig Latin dancer came to the club to teach. At first everyone was dancing all macho and stuff, trying to dance to impress the teacher and show him something special. But the teacher wanted them to focus on the basic steps and pointed out that the girls were dancing with fear, that the couples were dancing but holding back. He made the girls line up on one side of the room and the men on the other side. He blindfolded the girls and asked them to run across the room toward their partner. They kind of did about halfway across the floor and then slowed down or stopped. They practiced over and over, until they were running full speed into their partners and their partners caught them. Ivan said after that, everyone danced completely differently, open, expansive, bold, fearless. He also told me that one day I would be doing that with him.

It seemed like a nice story back on a cold, dark, pre-dawn morning, when I knew that I wasn’t going to be asked to do this exercise. But today was the day. We didn’t know it, at first, but it evolved into being the day.

So working on connection, Ivan asked me to close my eyes and dance with him. I did and almost immediately the panic and fear reared their ugly heads. I wasn’t freaking out so much as moving haltingly and realizing how uncomfortable it was and how very much I needed Ivan there and needed the connection.

But then, Ivan being Ivan, upped the ante. He had me do Latin walks with my eyes closed, promising me that he’d guide me backward or forward or to the side with a touch before I hit any walls. That went tolerably well, though it is difficult to stay balanced in heels, walking, with your eyes closed. It used to be a balance check we’d do in ballet to go into releve’ and then close our eyes. Try it….it’s not easy! Nor is it easy to walk, as I discovered. But anyways, I muddled through that, and then it was just time for the next step.

Ivan went to the opposite side of the studio and told me to run toward him with my eyes closed. On my first attempt, I did well about half way across the space before I began to panic. Ivan told me he could sense my energy had changed and called me on it. I felt fine as long as I knew I wouldn’t run into anything because there was lots of space, and I didn’t feel in danger, but then the panic and anxiety would begin to rise as the distance shortened and my fear that I’d run into something increased. In response, unconsciously, my steps would become smaller and less sure and less directed forward. My energy would shrink and turn from being directed forward to imploding internally. The challenge was to trust that Ivan would be able to stop my mass, running at full speed, and that I wouldn’t fall or run into the table. But I was fearful. FEARFUL I tell you!

But I want to get over this fear, for behind it, and the tears, are the joy, my true expression. Behind it is me being able to feel confident just being me, not questioning everything, or feeling like I’m not good enough. Behind the fear is the ability to be open and (eek!) vulnerable (or what feels like vulnerable to me). But that is the place where I can truly let people in through my dancing, the place I deeply desire to get to.

Anyways, Ivan let me try again. And again. Each time I would make it a little further across the room, from half way to two-thirds, to five-sixths of the way. But still, I was afraid.

“Maybe you take off the heels? Maybe you not feeling secure running blindly in the heels?”

Um, does anybody?

So I took of my shoes, running blind and barefoot and still panicking at the last bit.

“Okay, you have one, maybe two more times.”

“Alright, Ivan. No. This is it. I’m going to do it this time.” I told myself. I reminded myself that the experience of fear is physiologically the same as the physical experience of excitement so I tried a new tactic. I yelled aloud, “I’m excited! I’m excited! I’m excited! I’m excited!” as I barreled toward Ivan, eyes closed. And this time I bowled right into his arms!

Do you see why that receptionist must have thought we were off our rockers?! LOLOLOL!

But I did it! I freaking did it! And it was a metaphor, like all of dance is, for life. And to me it meant that I faced my fear, and I worked with it, and I transformed it. And it meant that I pushed through it to the trust. I allowed Ivan to catch me. I didn’t hold anything back in fear, worrying about injury or that I’d crush him with my mass. I didn’t worry about what I looked like or what anyone was thinking of me as I ran like a maniac toward my goal. I, in this exercise, chose to trust completely, him, me, and the process of life. And that, my friends, is a big deal. It means, to me, that the openness I seek, the willingness to open myself to be seen, is there, just below the surface and that I am closer to it today than I was yesterday. To me, it was an act of courage. Perhaps a silly one, but a courageous one nonetheless.

And I squeaked it in just in time for as I felt my body crush into Ivan’s students and instructors began to arrive for morning lessons and group classes.

Ivan asked how I felt and I have to say I actually felt a little bit out of my body. I’m not sure how to explain that, except to say that it was a pretty intense experience, all about sensing the world around me outside myself while experiencing all that was going on internally for me. I was entirely lost in the moment and had to take a minute to ground myself back into my body. It was a lot to process.

But ground and process I did, feeling a little stronger and less fearful and we continued our double lesson. The rest of the lesson was pretty unremarkable, I suppose, but extremely enjoyable as they usually are. We danced Rumba, and Cha Cha, and Mambo. One awesome thing that happened was that Nona, Ivan’s mother-in-law, Marietta’s mom, who is a professional dancer and used to compete, came up to me just to tell me that I was looking like I was moving very good, very flexible. I noticed her watching me and smiling before she came up and she’s not the kind of person just to say something for no reason, so I felt like the changes are showing on the outside, that people can notice the growth and transformation that I’ve been working on at 6:30 in the morning week in and week out.

It was like how this week in Inna’s class she didn’t ask me to demonstrate anything like she asked other students but when I was doing my Cha Cha and Samba exercises across the floor she said, “Good, Stefanie!” in a tone that seemed almost shocked, like I was showing her something of me that she hadn’t seen before.

So, anyways, like I said at the beginning, it’s been a very satisfying day. One in which I totally understand the sentiment behind the Star Trek Klingon saying, “Today would be a good day to die!” That today I lived a day full of life and growth and experiences. I am whole and complete and glad. And indeed, if today were the day I was to leave this earthly plane, it would have been a good note to end on. Not that I have any plans for that! I have a lot of big scary hairy goals that I’m gunning for in the next two years and I’m excited to lean into that process. Today was a leap forward after a long plateau and as I bask in that achievement, I am encouraged to push forward once again.

Me at my biggest

Me at my biggest

Me today

Me today