Spoiler alert: it has nothing to do with losing weight
The day before my 24th birthday, I broke up with my girlfriend. It was my first time being in love and that breakup ripped apart my whole being. I cried constantly, completely heartbroken and alone in a new city. I cried myself to sleep, I cried in the bathrooms at work, I cried on the phone to my friends back home. I soon became sick of my own crying but I didn’t know how to stop.
Then I saw a flyer for a pole dancing studio. It was the first thing to distract me from my heartbreak — event for a moment — so I called and scheduled a free intro class. When the class ended I was sweaty, my muscles ached, and I smelled disgusting… but I also hadn’t thought about my ex in two hours. I handed over my credit card and, for the next few years, those dance classes became my new obsession.
I attended dance classes 2–6 times a week, channeling all of the pain, betrayal, and confusion I was feeling into my movement. When I was ready to date again, I danced about it. When I felt like I was the hottest human on the planet, I danced about it. When I hated my job, I danced about it. Everything in my life, no matter how blissful or devastating, I turned to dance to process it.
For the entirety of my life up until this point, I’d believed that the only reason anyone would work out was to get or maintain their version of an ideal body. Exercise was never presented to me as something anyone did for for any reason other than weight loss. Sometimes that goal was thinly veiled by the notion of “health,” but it always came back to body size and perceived attractiveness.
While I did lose weight while I was dancing, it was never the reason for my dancing. My goal, every single time I stepped into the studio, was to delve deep into my feelings and process them so I could face the next day refreshed. Dancing scared off my doubts, liberated my feelings, and electrified my life.
It’s been over four years since I last stepped into the studio. And in that time, my body has changed. She’s larger that she used to be and she doesn’t carry strength in all of the muscles that she used to. Since I left the studio, I’ve been told that I could stand to lose weight…