An amusement park and a hula hoop saved my life.
I was overweight since childhood, but nothing pushed me to truly change until an afternoon at the local amusement park. My four-year-old daughter and I had climbed onto the pirate ship when I realized the attendant couldn’t push the safety bar over my stomach to lock in place. The teenaged attendant loudly informed me that I needed to get off the ride. Humiliated, I led my daughter to another ride, hearing the teenager laughing to his friends about the “fat cow” who couldn’t fit on the ride.
Enough was enough! I was tired of being taunted, shamed, and discriminated against because of my weight. I wanted so badly to be a positive and healthy role model for my beautiful young daughter. As she and I stepped onto the next ride, with the teen’s comment ringing in my ears, I pledged to return to the theme park with my daughter the next year—as a healthy, slimmer, hot mama!
The task of losing enough weight to qualify as a “hot mama” seemed daunting, particularly because my husband Keith and I had made several serious attempts to lose weight in the past, without much success. Keith and I had always been overweight, crossing over to “morbidly obese” after our wedding. To make things more difficult, we had two young children at the time (4 years and 6 months), and Keith had just lost his job. I had no idea how where to start, let alone on a non-existent budget!
When I examined all of the diets and workout regimens I’d tried in the past, I realized that they all had one thing in common: extremism. I had thought that if I wanted to be skinny, I had to run on the treadmill for five hours a day or swear off cake and cookies forever.
Instead of going down the extremist path, I decided to change my eating habits slowly. At first I just changed portion size, educating myself on the idea of “calories in vs. calories out.” Additionally, I allowed myself 150 calories of whatever I wanted every day, usually at the end of the night, when I found myself most wanting to binge on unhealthy snacks.
Rather than trying to quit eating the things I loved cold turkey, I found new ways to replace old favorites. When I realized that my daily Starbucks habit was costing me over 900 calories each day, I didn’t throw up my hands and say, “I’m never going to have Starbucks again!” Instead, I changed my daily order to a drink that was less than 150 calories. I altered many of my favorite recipes to be healthier and learned about healthy, delicious substitutes.
While I was learning about what I should and shouldn’t be putting into my body, I remembered seeing celebrities using a hula hooping fitness program. There were no local hooping classes, so I used Google to find Hoopnotica, a Los Angeles-based fitness company. I ordered a hoop and Hoopnotica DVD online so I could teach myself how to hoop.
I didn’t spend five hours a day with my hula hoop. In fact, I set small, attainable goals for myself. I began hooping with Hoopnotica for only 15 minutes a day during the open gym time at the YMCA. I would stake out a corner of the gym, set up my hoop, and try to tune out the snickering from the guys on the basketball court. It took two weeks before I could keep the hoop spinning on my waist, but from day one, I felt a tremendous difference in my core strength, confidence, and energy. Within a few days, I stopped looking at the clock during my workout and found myself actually looking forward to my time at the gym. This had never happened before.
Two months after I picked up my hoop for the first time, I began to master some hoop tricks. I also started to lose a significant amount of weight, much to the surprise of my husband. Keith was impressed by my preliminary results and how much fun I was having, so he decided to teach himself how to hoop as well. He had never thought his weight was a problem. He was “big boned,” he said, and only needed to lose 20 pounds to look fit. But when he lost the 20 pounds and could barely see a difference, he knew that he had much more work to do.
From that moment on, Keith and I committed to helping each other lose weight by hooping and making lifestyle changes together. We increased our workouts to 30 minutes of hoop time a day, and within a year, had each lost over 100 pounds! Embarking on the journey together helped us maintain our weight loss commitment.
Today, we are both professional hula hoopers. In addition to being group fitness instructors and personal trainers, we own a hooping business in upstate NY. We have been certified Hoopnotica instructors since 2010 and now also work directly for Hoopnotica as the Director of Teacher Development (me) and the Lead Master Trainer (Keith). We have been able to travel all over the country, certifying others to become Hoopnotica instructors! Our lifestyle changes impacted every aspect of our lives, allowing us to share our passion with others every day.
I returned to the amusement park with my five-year-old daughter a year later, and together we rode on the pirate ship. I walked away with a new belief in what I could accomplish if I only believed in myself. I have found the person that I always wanted to be but never thought I could. Now I have the great privilege of empowering others, including my children, and helping them become the best that they can be.
I’d like to leave you with my Top 5 Tips to Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle:
1. Love what you do! If you haven’t found a fitness activity that you love, keep trying new things, from Zumba, to hiking, to hooping, to running, until you find the passion buried inside of you.
2. Small steps add up to BIG changes. Don’t be extreme! Do things that you will be able to maintain for the rest of your life.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I posted all over social media about my lifestyle change: Biggest Loser-style before pictures, sharing new recipes, challenges I was facing, successes I had. I was astonished at how many people believed in me and helped me keep going at a time when I didn’t quite believe in myself.
4. Keep trying new foods! I used to hate vegetables. When I began my lifestyle change, I decided I was going to have to change my tastebuds as well. It sounds impossible, but it isn’t! I tried new veggies and would sneak them into recipes when I still didn’t like them, and today I actually crave vegetables that I never would have touched before.
5. Look for the Non-Scale Victories. I learned to appreciate and savor the triumphs I had off the scale just as much as when the scale moved. I celebrated when I fit into a new size, when I simply made a good choice, when I made it through the day without binging, and many other things. I focused on the small things to keep myself going, rather than beating myself up when I ate the wrong thing or didn’t workout during the day.
Team Quest – We are here for you! Share your transformations and triumphs with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or email them to us at [email protected]. Remember that these transformations took hard work, discipline and a plan. Quest products are a delicious component of, and not a substitute for, an exercise regimen and effective diet. The Quest Community is always there for you if you need help, inspiration or motivation!