And here's what I look like now:
I've lost a little bit of weight in the two years and eight months I've been hooping. People often ask me if hooping is a good way to lose weight. Sometimes I tell them yes, that I lost 40 pounds since I started hooping. They always look at me in awe, and I always feel a bit guilty when I tell them this. It's not un-true, I DID lose 40 pounds after I started hooping. Yes, hooping is good exercise, and yes, I'm sure you probably could lose weight from it. But hooping is not a magic bullet, and I did not lose the bulk of my 40 pounds by hooping.
That's not to say hooping didn't play a role in my weight loss. It did. It played a HUGE role, because hooping was the catalyst that made me want to actively lose weight and keep it off.
Weight loss was never one of my reasons for picking up the hoop. To be honest, I didn't even think of it until people saw me doing it and said, "That must be a great way to lose weight!" The reason I originally picked up the hoop in the first place is I saw a video of SaFire doing it, and I thought, "Holy crap. That looks FUN."
And hooping IS fun. I found that out very quickly. I practiced tirelessly, at least an hour a day for the first few months. I became addicted, practicing with the goal of one day being able to move as if I wasn't even trying, like the hoopers I'd seen on YouTube. I got into filming and posting videos of my hooping, because I wanted to have something to gauge my progress by. Exactly five months in, I shot and posted this video:
It was a very scary video for me to post, because all I could see was my belly hanging out over my stupid plaid pajama pants. When I originally posted it, I called it something like "Fat Belly Hooping" and added a bunch of annotations basically apologizing for my belly. Here's something I did not forsee: The army of fat belly fetishists that crawled out of the woodwork to subscribe to me. I liked to click on the channels of my new subscribers to see what kinds of videos they posted or watched. Imagine my disgust when this new slew of subscribers watched videos of, I kid you not, extremely obese women prodding their belly fat for five minutes at a time.
Didn't do much for my self esteem, granted. But it did make me want to take action. I didn't want people to subscribe to my channel to watch my belly jiggle. I wanted them to subscribe to watch me hoop! And I wanted to feel PROUD in that hoop. I wanted to feel GOOD about videos I posted, without worrying that some perv was checking out my goods. And not even the right goods, for crying out loud. So I re-named the video (took "belly" out of it completely), adjusted the annotations to be more self-loving, and set out on my goal to slim down.
So how did I lose the weight?
1. I counted calories.
I was spending the night at a friend's house, and as we lay down to go to sleep, I noticed an interesting looking book lying on the table. It was called The Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude, and the whole thing was one giant graphic novel. I loved the style immediately. I'm not a big comic book fan, but for some reason, I love non-fiction comics. One of the best books I've ever read has got to be Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, but I digress.
The book is part memoir, part how-to, about this woman's struggle with weight loss and how she finally got it under control by counting calories. I read the entire thing that night (and didn't get much sleep), and as soon as I got home, I ordered a copy for myself.
Later that week, I figured out my "calorie budget" and started counting. I counted calories diligently for at least three months. I was inspired to keep going by one particular message from the book. I'm paraphrasing, but the gist of it was, "If you stick to your calorie budget, you WILL lose at least one pound a week." And I did.
2. I ran.
Let me tell you, I never intended to take up running when I started actively working on losing weight. But I attribute my running for the bulk of my weight loss. My friend (a different one) had decided to start the Couch to 5K program as a way to get active. In a nutshell, the program takes you from no running experience at all to running a 5K without stopping by using interval training. When she first told me about it, I was like, "Okay, you have fun with that, I think I'm good on the couch." I mean, I HATED running. I'd always hated running, ever since they made us do it in elementary school.
But I like challenges, and I like incremental programs, so I checked out the site. And I decided, what the hell, I'll do it with her. At least I won't be doing it alone. Also, I couldn't ignore this particular statement from the site: "Each session should take about 20 or 30 minutes, three times a week. That just happens to be the same amount of moderate exercise recommended by numerous studies for optimum fitness. This program will get you fit."
It did. In combination with the counting calories, adding in the interval training running really kicked up my weight loss, and, more than that, my positivity about my body.
And I did end up running in a 5K without stopping!
3. I worked out.
In addition to the running, I stumbled upon Zuzanna of Bodyrock.tv completely by accident. I was looking up yoga videos, and I found one of her trying out Locust pose, which wasn't terribly easy for her. Then I went to check out the rest of her channel, and I was in love. For several reasons, the first being her badass accent.
I also liked the variety of her workouts, how short and manageable they were, and how she showed how to do every exercise.
I'm not gonna lie, I'm not much of a calisthenics person, and I wasn't terribly diligent with these workouts. But I don't doubt that they helped me lose weight and gain strength. I did maybe one or two a week for a while.
4. I distanced myself from unhealthy friends.
At the time I started hooping, I was very tight with a household of people. I spent almost all of my free time hanging out with them. They started hooping with me at the beginning, but quickly lost interest. They were smokers, and I wasn't. They ate terribly, lots of fast food and Starbucks, and I didn't. Every time I tried to do something healthy and good for myself, I received some sort of smart ass remark. For example, when I told them I was going to take up running, the immediate response I got was, "You know, they've done research and found that runners tend to die sooner than people who don't run." And when I said I was going to start watching what I eat, I simply got, "Why?"
Separating myself from these people was one of the hardest, but most beneficial things I've ever done for myself. I firmly believe that removing their influence from my life is what has allowed me to keep the weight off. Before I left, I was constantly in their swirl of negativity, about how bad the world was and how misunderstood they were (and by association, I was, too), how the slightest setback was a huge catastrophe worth harping on for ages.
The turning point really came when I got back from my first major hoop even, Hoop Path Retreat 3 in North Carolina. (I talk about this event a lot because it really did change my life.) At the retreat, I met all of these people with a passion for hooping, but more than that, a passion for life. They all seemed so happy, so positive, so connected with themselves and everything around them. I hooped more intensely than I ever had before. I spun FIRE for the first time, for crying out loud! Fire! I came home on a cloud of incredible vibes and all I wanted to do was share those vibes with my friends.
When I got home, however, I did not get two words out about my experience before I started hearing about all of the terrible things that had happened around the house while I'd been away. As I got filled in on all the perceived problems in their lives, I realized that was no longer the energy I wanted to be around.
How I finally left could take up a whole separate post of its own. The point is, it had a huge effect on my ability to maintain my weight loss.
So you see, it wasn't so much hooping itself that caused me to lose weight. It was a series of conscious, diligent efforts that got me to actually drop the pounds. These days when I hoop, it looks more like this:
No more pesky belly, no more pervy belly-watchers. I've since deleted most of them from my subscribers anyway. I am still, however, rocking the plaid pjs. :)
I don't doubt at all that hooping strengthened my core muscle and toned up my abs, and I KNOW it's done incredible (and unexpected!) things for my arms and shoulders, but I don't think that I would have lost as much weight if I hadn't done the things listed above.
Oh yeah, there's one more thing I actively did in all of this:
5. I chose to accept my body as-is.
I found out after dropping three sizes that no matter how much weight you lose, you'll never quite hit that "sweet spot" where you feel thin. I always thought that if I could get into a size 10, all of my issues about weight would go away. Not so. If you've spent your entire life overweight, the tendency is to feel overweight regardless of how much weight you've actually dropped.
You can either obsess over it like mad, or you can start learning to accept yourself now. Which is what I finally did. I looked for things that I loved about myself. I told myself I was beautiful. I wore clothes that made me feel proud of my body, rather than clothes that I could just barely squeeze into.
Loving yourself is the best thing you can do for yourself, because the truth is a lot of weight loss is emotional. If you feel like you don't deserve to have the body you want, you never will. If you feel like you already have the body you want, then it's easy.
I'm still working towards my "ideal" body, but I am proud of the body I have today, and I feel great hooping in it. And I'm glad that my experiences with the hoop got me started!