60. A Woman My Size

60. A Woman My Size

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

A Woman My Size

There are short-cuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.

~Vicki Baum

I walked into my first Zumba class with a nervous smile pasted on my face. About thirty women of all shapes and sizes — and a few brave men — stood in lines facing the stage. My black leggings and long, black T-shirt seemed dull next to their brightly colored outfits. Even the bigger women like me were wearing pink and yellow. What were they thinking?

Everyone was talking to each other, smiling, and hugging before the class began. As an overweight, reluctant exerciser, I was shocked by that. Being at the gym had never been a pleasant experience for me; I never sincerely grinned about exercising. I had always believed I was too fat to shake my butt in front of a roomful of strangers. Heck, I felt too fat to walk down the street because I’d been “mooed” at and called “whale” by people driving by.

A lean and fit woman dressed in neon and turquoise walked onstage and introduced herself as Lisa, the instructor. She turned on the music, turned off the lights, and a disco ball with dance lights spun around and lit up the room. People yelled and clapped like a concert was about to begin. Lisa started moving, pointing, and dancing. The class followed.

I couldn’t do all the moves, like twisting my hips around in a circle, but before I knew it, I’d danced for an hour. My hair dripped with sweat and I was clapping along with everyone else. Yes, I clapped. I couldn’t believe I’d exercised for that long without passing out. And it was fun! Wait, did I say that?

The magic of my first Zumba class motivated me to join the gym. I attended as many Zumba classes as I could, sometimes two a day. Every class made me feel better about moving my body.

The music, dancing, energy, fun, and magic of the classes made me feel free. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. The choreography challenged me to move in new ways and push myself physically, but it was never humiliating or painful, like other exercise programs I’d tried. For some reason, I didn’t feel limited any more by my size or past battles with extra weight. I didn’t feel trapped in a fat body anymore.

This weird, unexpected idea came into my head; I wanted to become a Zumba instructor.

I was still overweight, but I wasn’t self-conscious about my legs rubbing, my belly bouncing, or my need to wear two sports bras to feel comfortable while dancing around.

With the “fat limits” gone, something strange and unbelievable happened. This weird, unexpected idea came into my head; I wanted to become a Zumba instructor. I wanted to be a part of the group that helped bring so much joy to people like me.

Anyone who is motivated enough can become an instructor, I discovered. It’s not about having six-pack abs or a rock-hard butt. It’s about energy, enthusiasm, and motivating people to enjoy their own ability to move to music.

Still, when I arrived at my first Zumba Instructor class I panicked for a moment when I saw I wasn’t as fit as most of the others. Then we all sat down and talked about why we wanted to become instructors. Many shared what I felt — that Zumba had saved them or someone they knew and they wanted to be a part of it. Some said that the dancing helped alleviate the sadness, self-hate, and hopelessness in their lives.

When we all got up to dance, I didn’t care anymore that my butt was the biggest in the room. I shook it like everyone else.

Today, I’m a Zumba instructor and I love that I can help others have fun while exercising.

I’m not a size 2. I’m a size 14. I’m not cut like some instructors are and I still wear two sports bras. Yes, I’ve dropped some weight. But this is not a weight loss story; it’s a freedom story. My butt is still big and I still jiggle, but I’m moving with pride. I stand in front of a group of people with a big smile on my face and when the music starts, I move and they move with me.

We dance. All sizes, all shapes, all ages.

I recently gave a Zumba demonstration at an event, and afterward an older man attempted to pay me a compliment: “For a woman your size, you move really well. You surprised me.”

At one time, I might have been insulted, angry, or hurt by a comment like that. But now, I stood tall in my bright pink, extra-large exercise outfit.

“Go to Zumba and you’ll never be surprised again.”

With my big smile, big butt, and head held high . . . I left to go lead another routine.

~Darbie Andrews

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