by Phil Houseal, as seen in the Kerrville TX Community Journal, Feb 16, 2011
A young man walked in at lunchtime and came up to the counter to register.
“I’d like to sign up for swing dance,” he announced. Then he added the kicker. “I’ve just lost 100 pounds.”
With an introduction like that I just had to know more.
“Leonard” was not a dancer, and admitted he still weighed close to 300 pounds. But he was motivated to make changes in his life, and that path now led him through Club Ed.
So what motivated a self-admitted non-athletic, overweight, unmotivated man to literally get off the couch and on to the dance floor?
His answer: a movie.
It was the 1999 Blast From The Past - about a young man who emerged from a bomb shelter after 35 years. In spite of his naivete, he knew how to ballroom dance, which impressed everyone.
“It sounds silly, but this guy thinks he is a total loser, then gets out on the dance floor and impresses everyone. I thought, I’d like to learn how to dance like that.”
Leonard’s battle with weight began when he was 8 years old. For the next 25 years he followed the path of adding pounds until he got up to 375. What started to reverse the trend was when his mother was hospitalized, and Leonard began eating microwave dinners.
“I wasn’t even trying that as a diet,” he explained. But he noticed he started losing a couple of pounds. That encouraged him to take other steps, figuratively and literally. He cut the salt, then the cola drinks. He started walking so many steps a day (10,000) that he broke several pedometers.
All these small successes led him to the dance course. Of course, it’s not just about learning new steps.
“When you are a weighty person, you are not as sociable as you’d like to be,” he said. People don’t treat you the same. People laugh at you. Life is tough. I thought this would improve my life.”
So how is it working?
I got a report from the dance instructor that Leonard is having a grand time. Turns out he is light on his feet, and as a result of his new skills he has become more confident and outgoing. Other students in the class love him. Not a bad return on a $59 investment.
Before I let Leonard out of my office, I had to ask him what he would say to others who are working to overcome stigmas. His answer was heartfelt.
“No matter how bad things seem in our life, no matter the situation, you can do it. You can do it. You can find the time. You can make it better. You can sit there and feel sorry for yourself, and grab some more ice cream. Put the spoon down! Look inside and find something to motivate you. If you can’t accomplish it, don’t feel bad that you stumble - rally and go back at it.”
Leonard knows it is hard to keep going. His goal is to get down to 200 pounds.
“Don’t give up.”
Club Ed offers a slate of dance classes including country-western, ballroom, tribal, swing, and more. For information or to sign up, click www.clubed.net, or call 830-895-4386.