The Risks of Dancing in Public


If I were to sum up my weight loss surgery (WLS) journey in one word, I would have to say it’s been “risky!”

I have spent the last 15+ years taking one risk after another. With my belief that “the same person will become obese again,” I have been relentless in my pursuit of personal transformation.

I realized long ago that I’ll try almost anything to feel better, and for many years I was trying things that harmed me: alcohol, poor relationship choices, overeating, quitting when things got too hard.

After surgery, I knew that if things got hard, quitting couldn’t be an option, because that would lead to obesity, again. So, my first change was a decision to stay out of my comfort zone (a.k.a. relapse zone) and my second change was to keep getting up, every time I fell.

Despite my Herculean efforts, like many of you I have struggled at times. While I have kept most of my weight off, I have had regain from time to time, and sometimes it’s been quite scary.

I attended a retreat a few years after my WLS and the leader invited us to do yoga dance.

That seemed almost too risky to me!

When I heard the word “dance” my stomach flipped and I thought, “Oh, crap! I don’t want to dance in front of these people!” In my mind,
I scanned my body, noting all the different parts that would jiggle.

Then the dancing began. It was free form, but the teacher danced, so we could follow her to some degree. The music was unfamiliar, rhythmic.

At first, I tried to do what I imagined the teacher wanted me to do. I tried to be a perfect “good-natured woman in her 50s with an unusually youthful attitude and appearance.”

But instead, despite my attempts to be otherwise, I was myself. A woman in her 50s, self-conscious, skeptical, tightly controlled (in the attempt to control others’ perceptions of me), and with a fake smile plastered to my face.

The session was 45 minutes long, and my face was getting tired. And my body felt awkward. And I couldn’t tell how I looked to others.

And then it hit me.

No one cared what I did or what I looked like. They were friendly, and occasionally inclusive, but mostly they were each involved in their own dance.

I decided to stop trying to please everyone else (they weren’t looking for that anyway) and try to feel what my body wanted to do. As I relaxed
into the rhythm of the music, I felt tension in my arms and legs. I also felt anger, frustration. I realized the world and its demands were clinging to me.

I began to shake off the world, mostly staying in one place, but shaking my arms and legs as if I needed to fling off what was clinging to me.

I was thinking, “I hope no one is watching me.” In my body, I was feeling relief. I allowed my frustration with the world, the responsibilities I was taking on unnecessarily, and all the drama in my life, to shake free.

I lost a 100 pounds, emotionally.

Growth is painful because it offers us new things to experience. It is not stagnant. It does not happen when we do the same thing again and again, only this time hoping it will work.

As I shook off the world, I began to feel a peace inside me that I couldn’t remember ever having felt before. I could hear the teacher’s voice in the distance, but it was muffled.

I was engrossed in my own experience as my arms and legs quieted and one of my hands came to rest on my stomach. My belly was relaxed and rounded like a little-kid tummy. Not held in, as it normally is.

In that moment, I was awake but the ongoing commentary in my head was silenced. In that space, childhood memory bubbled up in which I am enjoying the sensation of my hand on my tummy. It feels pleasingly round as I had just eaten a sweet and juicy slice of watermelon.

I felt completely comfortable and happy. No judgment. No sense of “fat” or “bad.” No shame for the pure pleasure of eating. It was a sense of being the me I was before I was taught the story about how flawed I am.

And now I’ve had a shame-free moment in my time-worn body. I didn’t even realize it was possible for me to live even a moment without feeling shame.

In that moment I accepted, down to my core, that it’s possible to view myself with kindness and love. That it’s possible to feel good in my skin, and not worried about the world – even now, as an adult (with my history).

The answer doesn’t really lie in the food or my weight. It lies in taking emotional risks, living in that space where change can actually happen, which isn’t in my comfort zone.

It’s is in the dance.