From My Mother's Basement…

Zumba Retrospect: Every Day is Your Birthday…Now Hit the Floor!!! January 19, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — a ryan j @ 7:32 pm

One year ago today, I embraced the new year by doing something I had never done before. I took a Zumba class (instructed by one amazing miss Renee Thompson) at our new communities YMCA, and it has truly been life-changing!

In short, my upbringing was surrounded by unhealthy relationships to food and a generally sedentary lifestyle; both food addiction and (what I call) excursion anxiety are struggles I continue to face in my adulthood.

My mother has battled her obesity and mental illness my entire life; and in many ways, it has been my battle as well. Since I have entered into parenthood, I often find myself thinking back on my happiest memories with my mother. Always, they are during times when she was on a diet, or a live it; and I know I think back to these ones because they are ones in which we were DOING something!! Getting up in the freezing Rocky Mountain cold at 5 a.m. to go to the town pool and swim laps before school time, walking all the way out of town to the gas station to fill up our mugs with diet caffeine-free fountain soda, so we could pour in a Medi-fast packet and enjoy our well-earned treat on the long walk back – these are some of my happiest memories with my mother! (I confess that I only wish there were many more of these memories, from my youth, for me to conjure.)

However, the fact is that I have not been in that environment for over 13 years now, and have since had to take full responsibility for my own relationship with food and fitness, carving out my own parameters for nourishing both my emotional and physical self.  And let me tell you, it has been a 50 pound roller coaster of love & hate, pride & shame, trial & error, judgement and acceptance…and yet it is still a journey I feel I have just begun! My story is one I am more than willing to share, and in much more depth, but at a later time…suffice it to say that this year’s Zumba discovery has been a major breakthrough on my life-long body image journey!

So, I wanted take a moment to honor this milestone w/ a classic Before/After montage. Here is a picture of me the week I took my first Zumba class:


That’s right, January 22, 2013. I was 27 weeks pregnant. And just that week previous, I had survived a last minute 4 day cross-country U-haul trek, w/ both our 2 year old son and entire material life in tow!

(But hey, let’s  face it – I didn’t even find out I was having  said 2 year old until I was 26 weeks along with him…so really, a Zumba class, for the first time at 27 weeks, seemed like the least I could do.) 

I had just finished grad school, I was in good shape, arguably the best shape I’d been in, certainly in better shape than I was the first time I was pregnant – which at the time, had also been the best shape I’d ever been in!!

(I have an entire decade of inspirational tales about the cataclysmic life events that have surrounded me, and I can tell you that every one of them transpired at times when I was healthfully most focused on myself…even my mistakes in those moments, I am confident will rank as the best mistakes of my life!)

Anywho…yeah, yeah, I know I look great for 27 weeks! And I felt great, so I challenged myself to a Zumba class, something I’ve always wanted to do! Now, this wasn’t a challenge, because I was a pregnant women, not for me at least! Of course not!! That would be a logical reservation, and I have an anxiety disorder, which means it’s the illogical fears always that trip me up!!! Sweating, crowds, and conformity are all triggers for my social anxiety…so a cardio-dance class in the humid South was setting off my Excuses Bell left and right- ding, ding, ding! 

But I had just got my Master’s degree, and lived abroad, and had a baby. So I made it on time by myself to the new class I wanted to try (which I will point out, is leaps & bounds of improvement from the 20 year old me doing Billy Blank kick-boxing dvds alone, in the Bonus room of my Seattle townhouse at 180 lbs).  And I got so sweaty at Zumba!! But I was just having so much fun that I couldn’t care, and so I just danced! Just like that, I was hooked. And!! And also, just like that, that day in that class is right when I KNEW, this was going to be a great year…and it was 🙂

My 6 months pregnancy photo doesn’t seem appropriate, however, to fully reflect the physical contributions of this year’s progress through Zumba.

So here’s my 2nd submission for a Before & After:

January 20149

The photo on the left was taken on the 4th of July, 2012,at a house party in Birmingham, England, where we were living at the time. I had just finished my very rigorous and physically demanding graduate actor’s training,  and I was right in the middle of developing my master’s project; but by the end of that month I would also be pregnant, again! Haha!!

And here on the right, is Miss Marlowe at 8 1/2 months, alongside myself, 18 months later, in quite the same clothing but looking much more fit, if I do say so myself! But technically, this would be considered some sort of Pre/Post baby body thing, so while I’m at it…

…I’d also like to show off this one!

January 20147

On the left, you see me the week of my 32 birthday, also in July 2012. I decided to kick off my next year of life by completing a 7 day juice detox cleanse! I did it, it was very empowering and a great way to confront my emotional eating head-on. As soon as I conclude my nursing duties, I plan to make a juice cleanse part of a seasonal regimen!!

Our family has continued to do supplemental juicing ever since, and this seems like an appropriate opportunity to give a little ‘Before and After’ credit to that transformational page of my journey also!

The photo on the right is of me with one of Eric’s fabulous breakfast smoothies, wearing the new Zumba shirt & shoes he bought me to help celebrate – January 2014!

And finally….

DSCN3027I’ve worked hard, I’ve instigated small changes, and I’ve been diligent. One year, 78 classes later and I can see the results for myself!

I truly invested in myself this last year, and its pay-off  has inspired me to set even more goals – to continue to challenge myself and take risks , to accept more and to let go even further, and to strive to maintain a  positive outlook and to be present more often!

And one last finally – I’d like to take this moment to offer a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported and encouraged me to make good choices for myself all along the way!

Renee, and the rest of my Zumba ladies, this goes out to you –

…welcome to the La La Land! Zumba 🙂