Goodbye to My Regular Wednesday “Date”–Ben Byrd!

I’m very heartbroken…my weekly Wednesday “date” night with a very important man in my life (besides my husband) is coming to an end.

 

Some women have very strong relationships with their doctor, dentist, salon stylist…..mine is with Ben Byrd, my Wednesday evening Zumba instructor. I just found out this week that Ben is leaving New York at the end of the month to head down south for a change in his business and personal life and although I wish him all the best, he is definitely going to leave behind a lot of very sad people who have been his ardent followers for as long as he has been teaching. Ben has a very unique style of teaching Zumba. He’s not for the faint hearted. I liken him to something of a boot camp instructor and you are either in the camp that loves him although he’s kicking your ass every step of the way or you dislike his methods entirely. I don’t think there’s any teetering on the fence about whether you love him or not.

 

Ben helping someone with their form

Making the Decision to Change My Lifestyle

Zumba class is something that has been a key part of my new lifestyle for about the past 4 1/2 years now, but not everyone really knows why I love it SO much!

In 2010, I hit a major birthday milestone and I decided to make a change in my lifestyle as I had hit an all-time high weight of 175 lbs. I didn’t feel great about my weight or body image and knew if I didn’t change my habits–I was going to continue to get heavier which would have an impact on my health as well. My family has a predisposition for heart issues and diabetes so I wanted to take preventative measures to keep myself healthy.  I was also gaining more responsibilities at work that put me up front working with accounts, traveling more which didn’t help my eating habits, and I really felt that I needed to align myself with a new outlook on life and my position at work as a Design Director. I needed to prove to myself that I had the discipline to get in shape and build my confidence as well.

At some of my all-time high weights

 

Celebrating my big birthday in Key West in 2010

Monitoring My Food

At the start of 2010, I made the first step of progress by beginning a walking regimen during my morning and evening commutes. This added on about 3 miles of walking each day which was a good start. A couple of months later, I started to log in my calorie intake with a daily journal of everything that passed through my mouth. I would make sure to catch even the smallest things like that little piece of chocolate that I “needed” in the middle of the day, the sugar and milk in my coffee—every little thing. This was way before all kinds of easy apps existed to immediately give you the calorie count on almost every food out there. I had to google everything and do the math on portions, but I could immediately tell within a few weeks where my problem time slots were. It is truly mind blowing when you add up the calories–it becomes immediately clear why the weight keeps piling on. My biggest food abuses were when I would get home from work late around 7:30 and totally pig out on a “snack” and then still want to have a full dinner afterwards and then immediately go to bed since it was so late. My solution for that was to have a couple of small mini (approximately100 calorie) snacks during my day (one specifically right when I left my office at the end of the day) so that I wouldn’t be starving at my main meal times. The other problem I had was my portioning–I would just keep eating because something was on my plate. These days, I cut my food in half and leave the extra part aside before I sit down to eat.  I did the food journal for about 6 months until I had a steady idea of what my calorie intake looked like and had a better sense of how much calorie content is in a lot of the typical foods I eat. I set myself a calorie intake goal that was appropriate for the goal weight I was aiming for. I was starting to lose a little bit of weight now.

Zumba!!

Then at about the 8 month mark into the year, my sister took me to the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater which offers a great adult extension dance class schedule of ballet, Zumba, Samba, West African, hip hop–and many other dance options. We took a Zumba class and I fell in love! Don’t get me wrong, I was still not on any kind of cardio workout so I had a very low endurance during class. It was difficult, challenging, and exhausting to say the least, but I was hooked. From my younger teen years, I had always been involved in choreographed dance and competitive cheerleading so this had a similar appeal for me in that we were memorizing dance moves and putting them together, and working out all at the same time! There’s something that I love about building a routine and putting it to music. I decided I was going to take Zumba class twice a week and get myself more in shape. Ben was one of my instructors there and he was an incredible inspiration and motivator for me to continue on this better living lifestyle. He had a bit of “tough love” in the way he made you work your butt off but then feel so good after class. He would help to make sure you were maximizing the way you were positioned to make every muscle work harder. And it was effective because I could start to see much more definition in my muscles. This was really when the weight started to come off. In one class of Zumba, depending on your weight and how intense you work out–you can burn around 500 to 600 calories!!

Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in NYC at 52nd & 9th Ave

 

Multi levels for performance and dance classes

 

The ground floor used for many of my Zumba classes gives pedestrians a full on view of dancers getting their groove on and major booty shaking

Once I had made the commitment to do my double shot of Zumba classes twice a week along with monitoring what I ate, in about 1 1/2 years, I lost enough weight to really make a difference–about 25 lbs. I always look back at my photos from October of 2011 in Barcelona with my family and notice the major changes in my physique.

Barcelona October 2011

After about another year of consistency, I had lost another 20 lbs. and felt really good staying at this weight. I had come down about 4 dress sizes!

Hudson River kayaking August 2012

 

Next page: Maintenance