Sunday, November 16, 2014

ZINspiration Mondays with Cara

Cara’s story takes her from just starting out with Zumba to losing so much weight that she had to have skin removal surgery. She’s an energetic ambassador for Zumba and a major inspiration! Here’s her story.

I started doing Zumba about four years ago. I monitored my eating, of course, but Zumba quickly became my obsession, my lifeline, and my solution to losing the 109 pounds I needed to get rid of. I currently dance 6 days a week and I am a licensed Zumba instructor in B1 and B2.

I came from an Italian family – food was used as reward and punishment. I was never obese as a child, nor super concerned about my chubby body in my teens. I married my high school sweetheart who loved me no matter what I looked like. I danced growing but shied away from team sports. As a young adult, I allowed my weight to fluctuate by a hundred pounds either way through alternating extreme binging years with unhealthy purging, fad dieting, and attempting all things dangerous, illegal, or at the very least unsubstantiated. I had three children, though I cannot honestly attribute my weight gains to my pregnancies – those bouts were all on me.

I will never forget the day I hit rock bottom (and damn I wish it came much sooner). It was not when my physician told me that my yo-yo dieting has caused damage to my heart, my thyroid, and my kidneys and made me prone to diabetes and other dangerous conditions. It was when my son came off the school bus four years ago with a black eye he received from defending my from kids who were mocking me as the “neighborhood fat mom”. I stopped binging THAT day but did not know what to do.

Zumba Zumba Zumba – was it possible that there was an exercise regimen that I would actually enjoy? Is it even an exercise regimen? It seemed too fun to be such. But I couldn’t fathom going to a gym at 230 pounds and 5 feet tall in my snobby neighborhood – so I sought out private dance studios. It took some time, but I was so intrigued by the promise of Latin style, hip music and the chance to dance again. I was instantly hooked.

It changed me emotionally more than physically. I had been isolating for years, and every class I went to, I made friends, true friends, who loved and supported me, and I them. My instructors became my mentors and remain so. I dropped weight slowly but breezily and after a year, nearly 50 pounds was gone. I was among the living again – still about 60 pounds too heavy. My cholesterol was dropping, kidneys doing better and my physician told ne that if I stayed on this track I may make it to 40. I started dancing as often as I could, trying to get to class 5-6 days a week. My kids and hubby even begged me to get to class because I become a cranky wreck if I miss my workout. I lost so much weight, I had to have two major surgeries to remove over 13 inches of skin from around my waist all the way around.
Now, after all this time, it is not a workout – it is a party where I share with friends and move like a fiend. Having put my PhD Dissertation on hold for a bit, I decided to become licensed in Zumba. I wanted to spread my overwhelmingly positive experiences with EVERYONE – and, for almost a year before B1, I was making playlists and choreographing just like a trained dancer would. I was licensed in B1 this May and shortly thereafter, B2. I have been waiting for Zumba step and some other trainings to pop in so that I could get more and more.

The biggest reason I turned to teach (without giving up my own 5 day a week training) is because I was no longer considered the “fat mom” and people turned to me for advice. My advice for those who want to lose weight? Well, NO ONE can tell you to do it. You have to find your own rock-bottom. Sadly it took me over 100 pounds, an extremely poor health prognosis and a roughed up child who was defending his “fat mom” for me to start. But there is NO ONE BETTER THAN ME who understands how it feels when you have to lose an extreme amount of weight. But, I would encourage ANYONE of any size and shape to give an hour of Zumba a try – let go. Take a class where you can dance like no one is watching, let the music move you and meet amazing people – doesn’t that sound SO MUCH LESS PAINFUL than a lonely diet and a treadmill? Zumba is the safest community of people to “get out there” with. No one judges and everyone just LOVES. Lastly, I would offer my info in case anyone wants to speak to the local Zumbaholic who had her life saved by Zumba.

I teach two amazing classes per week that I am growing: Tuesdays at 7pm and Saturdays at 10:30am at Forever Fit in Centerport, Long Island. We are a small group but we have a blast. I am looking actually to teach more so I am reaching out to try to get more instructor opportunities. I'm also an administrator of FB's The Z Factor of Long Island group, where I help people to connect and, hopefully, inspire them!

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