Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Simple Body

I'm starting a journey towards a healthier lifestyle.
My goal is a fitter, trimmer, leaner, healthier, and more vibrant body, mind, and spirit.

I will explain more about the program/approach I will be taking.
I will also be...
-making weekly exercise and food logs
-tracking my weight
-recording my body measurements 
-recording my emotional and physiological progress

I have wrestled with my body weight and body image my entire life. To better express my thoughts and my situation I should explain a bit about my personal experience.

I grew up as the oldest daughter of two professional dancers. My father was a professional ballet dancer; he danced professionally with some of the greatest ballet companies in the country. My mother was a professional  dancer in the jazz, film, and contemporary dance world. So I guess you could say that I was literally born to dance.

 Pinned Image

And dance I did. 

I started taking dance classes at age 3. Musicality and performance came naturally to me. Technique, strength, and artistry came easily and steadily as I trained daily in ballet classes. I was always able to recognize good technique, and I was usually able to achieve what I saw. Luckily I trained with good teachers who taught me correctly. I was dedicated to dance. I loved to dance. Dance was my life. 

When I was 10 years old my parents divorced. I didn't recognize it at the time, but I think it was at this time that I started to see food more of a comfort than as a means of nourishing and strengthening my body. My dad lived hundreds of miles away. I also had 6, and then later 8, other siblings. I always feared that if I didn't eat something that I wanted then someone else would eat it and I wouldn't get any. Food became a constant part of my thoughts. Eating was emotional. 

Around age 11 or 12 I recognized that my body composition was not really like the other girls in my classes. It never really bothered me because I knew (not trying boast) that I could still dance as good, if not better, than they could. Then in 7th grade I had the opportunity to perform the role of Clara in The Nutcracker. At my first costume fitting the seamstress made the comment "you are the biggest Clara we've ever had." This comment really took me by surprise. I had never though of myself as big or heavy. Suddenly my whole world changed and I became self-conscious of my body. This self-consciousness has never left. 

This is a picture of me the year I did Clara.
The same year that I started to feel self-conscious about my body.

When I see that picture I always ask myself "what in the world was that seamstress thinking?" I was tiny. But I never felt small. No way. Of course I knew I wasn't "fat", but words like solid and thick somehow made it into all the thoughts I had about myself. I realized that I would never have the long bony arms and legs that the other girls had. 

Well, I grew up, kept dancing, performed a lot, and became a woman. I was still muscular and athletic looking, but in no way did I have the "ideal ballet body." I was blessed with a teacher who still pushed me and gave me wonderful opportunities to perform. I still new that I could dance well. I still recognized that I had been blessed with great abilities. 

When I joined the regional professional company of the ballet school I attended I began to feel extreme frustration and injustice. It was around this time that I recognized, and was told, that my weight and body shape were holding me back. The ballet director expressed her frustration and would tell me that "if you can just lose some weight then I will put you in principal roles." Looking back now I wish I would have done everything in my power to get thinner. The most frustrating thing of all is that it was never more than 15 lbs.  

I do wish to write that I have never "hated" myself. I have always been blessed with the ability to recognize the talents that I have been blessed with. I have always appreciated those things that I like about my body (my legs, my clear skin, my strong feet). I will never regret the many years spent as a ballet dancer. I will never regret the things I learned and opportunities I had. However I now realize that I was slightly "blinded" by the good things that I failed to really see that I actually did have a problem. I never felt big. But when I look back at photographs of my dancing (and videos...ugh) I easily recognize what my teachers saw all those years. Sometimes I wish I hadn't been blinded by the good things. I wish I could have recognized the problem

If only I could have lost that 15 lbs. 

Eventually I became really tired of performing the same roles every year. I was tired of being the eternal understudy. I was tired of knowing that I could dance many of the roles just as well as the dancers who were performing them. But I was never allowed to. I will forever wonder what would have happened if I would have lost that weight. I know it would have changed things. But, instead of doing everything I could to lose the weight I decided that it was time for a change. 

So, at age 20 I quit the ballet company and became a full-time student at BYU. I took a year off from performing, while still taking ballet and modern dance classes. I will never regret the decision to go to BYU. Those years at BYU were some of the best years of my life. And I am happy with the way my life has turned out. In college I studied contemporary dance. This opportunity allowed me, for the first time, to feel comfortable in my body. My body was made for contemporary dance; not for ballet. I was able to use my ballet technique to explore and excel in contemporary dance. I finally became comfortable with who I was, and with the body I was given. 

At age 21 1/2 I began dating my (now) husband. And it was during this time that I dropped 15 lbs; without trying to, thinking about it, or even recognizing it. I hardly thought about food anymore. I was happy, busy, active, and alive. People started commenting and asking if I had lost weight. I felt amazing. I was finally happy with my body weight. Dancing became so much more enjoyable. Costumes fit. I wasn't self-conscious to go on stage. It was really incredible. 

And then life happened. 

I got married, graduated college, stopped daily dance classes, got pregnant, and had a baby in 2010. I taught ballet at BYU for 2 years, and now I am a full-time stay at home mom (aka: a sit-around and eat-a-lot at home mom). My life is wonderful. My husband is incredible. My son means the world to me. But I want to be healthier. I know I need to be healthier. 

So here I am. 

I am currently 17 lbs above my target weight. My diet is pretty stagnant. I have very little motivation to "do" anything. Luckily my little boy is still little enough that he is happy playing in tight places. However, very soon he will be growing up and wanting more room. I want to be a mother who has the physical capacity and the energy to DO things with my children. I am hoping to become pregnant in the next few months and I want to start healthy habits now that I can carry with me during pregnancy. 

I know I can do it because I've done it before.

No diets, no pills, no fads. 

This is the beginning of a lifestyle change that I hope to make permanent


  1. Great post! I'm looking forward to this journey-- maybe it will give me the inspiration and motivation I've been looking for, as well.

    Body image problems almost seem inextricably connected with being female. I am hoping more than anything that I can raise Vivian to feel confident and beautiful, no matter what she looks like or how big around her waist is. I struggled with severe self-consciousness and body images issues until I got out of college (and in some ways, I definitely still do). And now, even though I am under my pre-pregnancy weight, my wedding rings still won't fit and it's driving me crazy! If it's not one thing, it's another. Good luck on your journey!

  2. Really great post! I think you look great now, but it's wonderful to always want to be your "best self". I wish luck with your endeavor and want to read along with you on your journey!

  3. Great post, Rach! I just might join you on this lifestyle change! Good luck :)

    You are absolutely beautiful, by the way. Always have been and always will be. Thanks for being such a great sister! I look up to you!

  4. I think you are so brave to post this Rachel. I am so glad that you are focusing on a healthy lifestyle rather than just losing weight. You are a beautiful...a beautiful mother, wife, sister, and person in general. You are beautiful inside and out so make sure you remember that through you're journey. I'm proud of you!

  5. also I would like to track down that seamstress and beat her up

  6. i agree with tregani! already a healthy choice to focus on becoming more healthy instead of the numbers. best of luck, you can do it!

  7. I would give anything to be able to dance like you. You can do this.

  8. You are so beautiful! And I have always thought you were the best dancer I have danced with. I guess that's beside the point. I have shared your pain over the years of dance. I'm glad you can look at all of the positives.
    I really had to go through a healing process to recover from my own psychological issues with food, in relation to the pressures from dance. I prayed a lot and came upon a book called "Intuitive Eating." It was definitely Heavenly Father's answer for me at the time I was searching for help. I continue on my journey as well. Now if I could just get some sleep so that I could exercise.
    You always inspire, me and I look forward to hearing about your own personal journey.