Like Potatoes

Maybe the case is the same at your studio, too.  At mine, everyone is at Beach Bash.

 

A Grande Batata

By FelipeFronchetti (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Why that’s important for this story is because my regular teacher, Kristijan, is out-of-town, gracing the floor in Latin probably right about now.  Maybe if you are at the competition you will get to see him dance, as well as a few people from EuroRhythm and more people from Arizona that I’m friends with, some of whom will be performing in the Showcase Fundraiser that’s happening next Saturday, April 16th to raise money for a local domestic violence shelter here in Phoenix called Chrysalis.

In any case, because Kristijan is out-of-town, I had a lesson with my old pal, Damir tonight.  It reminded me that I should make sure to schedule a lesson with Damir maybe once a month or so because what he offers me is so different and helpful and refreshing from what my other instructors, as wonderful and as contributing as they are, can provide.  I marvel at how tiny adjustments made internally make such a dramatic difference in how my movement looks and in how stable I feel.  I am even more surprised at how Damir can tell when I’m “on” and when I’m “off” even when we are talking differences in millimeters or where the pressure is in my foot (like inside edge, or not).

I got in the studio and we caught up a little bit because it’s been a while since I’ve had a significant chunk of time to chat with him one on one.  He asked me how he could help me on the lesson.  Originally I thought maybe I’d learn the Sweetheart step in Gold since it was so completely baffling to me when Shirley Ballas taught class, but then I thought the better of it.  I’m in Silver right now, after all, and learning a step is just learning a step.  I could probably find a video on Facebook if I wanted to learn it badly enough.  More valuable, I decided, was discovering how to be over my hip.

I’d discovered in previous coachings that my hips were not where they should be, especially when stepping to the side.  I have very flexible hips which is an asset and a curse.  The asset is that I can emphasize certain movements in an exaggerated way.  The curse is that I tend to move them too far forward or laterally, or even to prematurely settle backwards because I have the possibility of such freedom of movement there.  But when I do that, and it’s not intentional, I’m not exactly on balance, I’m late in timing, my movements aren’t as coordinated as they could be.  What I wanted to discover with Damir was where it was they should be optimally in a front step, side step, and cross over, so that I could feel it in my body and recreate it later.  I am definitely a kinesthetic learner when it comes to dancing.  I can see things in the mirror and recreate them up to a point, but it’s the internal stuff that you can’t visually see that eludes me.  This is why it is so incredible to have a coach like Damir in my life because he can describe these internal movements and energetic intentions and see them and provide me feedback around them.

What was also so great was that Damir began talking about the Chakra system in relation to the dance movements we were doing.  Most instruction I receive is structural in nature, speaking to the physical body.  It helps me, personally, to have the energetic perspective as well.  Damir talks about where to place my focus on various moves so that my body is then in the proper position.  For instance, for me, I have to focus on the back of my knee, the back of my neck, basically the back side of my body even as I move forward because if I don’t, I will fall forward and create a big mess.  For other people it might be opposite, but I tend to try to get ahead of the dancing and keeping my awareness in the back of my body helps me to actually stay present.

So we began simply and Damir described that what to do was to have the iliac crest of the hip directly over the ball/toes of the foot.  Then before moving, think of the crest going up and under, which also causes the pelvis to become more tucked under, before continuing the motion.  I’m to imagine that my hip bones project all the way to my armpits, they are that solid into the floor, compressed by the ribcage and scapula.  This seems to keep me in better alignment overall as well as to create a gooey, rich movement that doesn’t stop but continues to cycle throughout the body until it comes to the time to take the next step.

Tonight I actually felt the complete cycle internally from step, through the hip, upwards compressing into the spine, then to the lat which perpetuates coming onto the standing leg fully and pulling the moving leg under the body.  It’s all connected.  There were no gaps for the first time that I am aware of from foot one through the leg, hip, the entire body up the spine through the lat and back down in reverse to foot two.

So why, you might be wondering, did I title this post Like Potatoes?  Well in his description of this cycle, especially the part that we were grappling with in terms of the hip and pulling it under the ribcage before moving, he told me this analogy of planting potatoes.  He laughed, admitting that it was probably the craziest metaphor I would hear, but said that if during the winter you eat all the potatoes you have, you will have nothing left to plant come spring.  He said that the general rule is to save about 10% for the future planting.  In dancing, he contested, it is the same.  Conserve about 10% of motion to continue into and thus generate the following movement.  In this case, get on the leg, get the hip over the foot properly, then use the 10% energy left to go up internally into the body to generate the following step.

So there’s that, and also, it ties to something else that’s been happening in my life.  For just the last 3 days or so I’ve been eating vegan.  I’ve been saying that I’ve wanted to eat a more plant-based diet for a long while now, and for Christmas I got a book called “Thrive” which has a bunch of recipes and was created by a guy who is an elite athlete.  I’ve tried a few dishes here and there but for whatever reason, I went to Whole Foods last week and was completely inspired by all the gorgeous produce.  I bought a bunch and then proceeded to make a variety of recipes from the book.  I had plenty of each so I’ve been grazing from each of the 6 to 7 dishes I experimented with.  I discovered that the food prep for the vegan stuff is no more intensive than it was for when I was working with Chelle the nutritionist.  Also, and this is really surprising to me, I’ve felt more satisfied, fuller, less hungry, and have had no cravings whatsoever for meat or anything else, eating this way.

I made kale chips and a garlic broccoli mix with garlic, rutabega tiki masala, a carrot based “pizza” that tastes nothing like pizza but is very filling, Brussel’s sprouts with a Dijon sauce, roasted beets with a balsamic sauce plus fake cashew-based cream cheese, not to mention a variety of shakes with lemongrass, carob chips, cocoa, agave nectar, vegan vanilla gelato, coconut water, almond milk, banana, and cashews.

It’s been so easy to eat this way, I’ve surprised myself, and I’ve even packed my meals tomorrow as I go to a seminar for the entire day.  My body is still adjusting in the gastrointestinal department – it’s a lot more fiber, I think, than I’m used to, more veggies, of course, and maybe it’s too much info, but of course adjusting your diet adjusts how often you have to go, which seems to be a lot more.  I’m hoping things will stabilize as I continue along.  It’s a small price to pay for feeling full, satisfied, and like I’m eating fresh, healthy food, having no cravings, and sincerely enjoying what I’m eating.  I tend to think my body is getting tons of nutrients as well which is maybe why I feel like I’m actually eating less food overall while feeling more satisfied.

With this unexpected ease and success, I’ve decided to explore more options for vegan cooking.  So tonight I went to the store and bought ingredients for vegan gnocchi, which, if you didn’t know, is made from potatoes.  So there you go, it also relates to the title, even if circuitously.  Who knows if this will affect my body shape, size, or lean and fat mass content.  But what I do know is that the experience of it is satisfying and supports me right now and I like being aligned with the idea of not eating animals.  The funny thing is that I truly have told myself that nothing is off the menu.  If one day I decide that it is the time to have a Twinkie, then that is alright as well.  But I don’t even want a Twinkie eating like this.  I cooked up some Swai fish during the food prep as well in case I felt I needed more protein or whatever and I have as yet had no desire to even eat that.  We’ll see what happens but for now I’m going to play and experiment.  I’m going to find other recipes that sound good and give them a try.  I bet eventually I will find a routine that works well for me.  I would say it would be balanced for me to eat this way 80 to 90% of the time then allow some space for grace and enjoying social events, or special treats or whatever.  But so far I’m feeling anything but deprived.  I could easily skip traditional party food feeling this way.

So that’s what’s going on in my world.  Please check out the Ballroom Village page on Facebook, join it, share it with your friends, and post links to your blog when you write something new.  You can also share the page and any links on your Facebook page or on the blog.  Whatever you want to do to promote it.  I hope it will continue to grow and create another, expanded platform for us to be in community, share, and nurture our Ballroom Village.

That’s it for now!

 

 

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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.