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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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.