Often when it comes to eating disorder recovery, cardiovascular activity is frowned upon. I was reprimanded constantly in the hospital for standing, fidgeting, any form of excess movement invoked a stern warning about the consequences that would occur if I didn’t just sit down and be still (no phone time was a serious threat when you are confined to being with the same people in one boring old hallway!).
From my previous posts you know that I am not good at sitting, and really never have been. I understand the reasoning behind my restrictions on running because I have totally abused that form of exercise in the past, and used it primarily to burn off anything I ate, or suppress feelings I should have been expressing to those around me. But a few weeks ago, I was introduced to a new form of cardio that is starting to knock down the pedestal I once had running placed upon, ZUMBA.
Now before you make a judgment, because I know some people are skeptical of vigorous activity at all when it comes to overcoming an eating disorder, I want you to read with an open mind. The last few weeks have helped me immensely in my recovery process, my relationship with my body, and physical activity and I want to explain why.
When my friend Caroline asked me to join her for her favorite Sunday class I was a little hesitant. I cheered in college, which includes some choreographed dance, but it has been a long time since I have gone into a room of SOBER people, dancing around in unison.
I also have an immense fear of women, who are the predominant population in the class, thinking I’m stupid, making fun of me, or laughing behind my back. I believed I explained in a past entry that girls have always intimidated me, and my insecurities, which are already pretty high, sky rocket when I am placed in situations where I am uncomfortable, especially in front of 40 other females. But the reality is, there are times in life when we are put in unnerving situations, and me accepting Caroline’s invite was great practice.
After a 20 minute car ride filled with anxiety, we get to the studio and I look around. I’m standing there in my Nike black capris and a Lulu Lemon racer back, when I look around to notice all the crazy colors and outfits that are lighting up the room. Hot pink, purple, turquoise, yellow, all my favorite colors were speckled through the room, in the form of baggy cargo pants, awesomely cut halter tops with beads, headbands, pigtails, large bangle bracelet’s.
Zumba was not just a work-out…it was a fashion show! I loved all the creative combinations my peers were adorning. The brighter, the wackier, the louder, the better. I wanted some of these awesome accessories, and I am proud to say, although I haven’t purchased anything too over the top, I do now own two Zumba tops, and am dying to order a pair of pants!
You see, I used to love to stand out. When I was in high school I liked being creative with my wardrobe, and putting together colors that were a bit non-conventional, but the last few years I have completely changed my wardrobe because I felt out of place in offices filled with white collared shirts and black pleated trousers. Recently I have started breaking out my lime green button downs and matching argyle sweaters, but the confidence I used to have that encouraged me to rock some “different” clothing, is just not there like it used to be. I think Zumba, could help me get that back.
Speaking of confidence, I think all people can relate to having parts of their body they don’t LOVE. Well I can honestly tell you I hate my body, but I hated it before when I was my smallest and starving. There has never been a time when I was satisfied, so the extra pounds I have on me new, did not necessarily invoke the dislike, its always been there. But I look around the floor, watching women of all ages, shapes, and sizes, shaking it like no one’s business and I want to do it too!
Zumba is not an activity that you can disconnect from your body. You need strength, and awareness of your space…its Latin inspired so you move and swing your hips while touching your backside. Its quite an experience and does not permit for a person to complete disassociate, which I could do when I ran. I would simply shut my mind down and go. But in a dance studio there are mirrors that surround the floor and since Michelle, and Meredith, my super awesome instructors, require us to switch rows after every song, you really cant escape the front, smack dab in front of a wall-sized reflector. BAM! There I am, attempting to swivel the hips I haven’t yet developed fully, and do I look silly, YES, do I make mistakes, absolutely, but I am smiling, and happy, and even laughing, when the song talks about a girl having a tiny old booty.
There are a ton more reasons why I have fallen in love with Zumba and will continue to go back week after week, but the main one is the familial feeling one gets after being there for only 5 minutes. I cant speak for all locations, but Michelle and Meredith, and all the instructors I have met within the last few weeks, as well as the other attendees and community at the studio is phenomenal. You immediately feel welcome, they remember your name and hug you even though you just met. it’s a feeling I have never really had in my recent memory, outside my own home, and it makes me feel good to be included.
To me Zumba is not about the calories burned, but instead about the positive feelings it invokes for me, as far as confidence, wanting to express myself, and as a member of a very loving group. I appreciate what this exercise has done for me, because my eating disorder had robbed me of ME…of any individuality, or self-assurance I once had. I was simply existing and going through the motions just praying no one would notice me, and form a negative judgment because I felt that I since I hated who I was so much, no one else could possibly like it either.
So although I encourage anyone who wants to give Zumba a try to consult with your doctor first, it has helped me gain a new perspective on my abilities, permitted me to get a little crazy and have some fun, all while making new friends, and rediscovering the old me, or perhaps a me that’s going to be even better. Let’s hope!
If you are from around central PA, check out Z Island Dance! You won’t regret it!