Unless you’re my Facebook friend and have seen the pictures, you probably don’t know that I spent my high school years overweight. And unless I’ve spent a drunken night with you confessing my sins, you also probably don’t know that in my head, I still think I’m that overweight girl. I’d been a skinny kid but developed a hyperthyroid condition at 15 which, among other things, caused my metabolism to slow way, way, way down. Within a year I packed on an extra 40 pounds on my 5 foot and a half inch frame. (Hey, listen, when you’re fun-sized like me, you count half inches in height. You know, kinda like my son counts half years in his age? But I digress…)

After getting diagnosed and treated, I figured out the fastest way for me to drop the numbers on the scale: stop eating. In my early 20’s, I got myself down to an unhealthy 92 lbs by skipping meals on a regular basis. My 30’s brought some clarity, motherhood, and closer to normal weight and eating habits. Still, anytime I chunked out or got cast in a play, I relied on my “actor’s fitness plan”: weight loss in 2 weeks by staving off food, hiking Fryman every day, and popping diuretics. Coming into my 40’s put an end to that. The old tricks just weren’t working anymore. My metabolism was changing again and it was a painful reminder of my teenage years.

Rather than fight against it, I just gave in to it. I ate too much, let my loose jeans get tight, quit exercising regularly, and celebrated beer-thirty as my favorite time of the day, every day.

Then earlier this year, came a Groupon for Zumba classes. As many times as I’ve been made to dance in shows, I consider myself a non-dancer, and I can’t learn choreography to save my life. But I figured I could hide behind all the colorful outfits the franchise seems to encourage. It was a great workout, but it was the Body Sculpt class that hooked me. The instructor was about my height, but about a thousand times more lean and sculpted than I could ever imagine I’d be. And when she played Prince’s “Darling Nikki” for our bicep curls section, I knew I’d found a kindred, albeit more tone, spirit.

Even though the next day I felt like I’d been run over by a truck and I was cursing those little furniture mover disc thingys that this crazy spitfire instructor had us use to work our abs, I couldn’t wait to go back.

Classes were so challenging that all I could do to get through them was to completely focus and be in the present moment. I couldn’t think or worry about anything outside of the room.  It became my sacred space because it wasn’t just my body improving, it was my mind and spirit as well. I love that I’m losing inches and gaining muscle definition in the right way. And at the same time I’m honing the ability to be fully present, in class and everywhere else in my life…I had no idea an exercise class could do that for you.

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