How Zumba Helped Me Lose 30 Pounds And Become The Life Of The Party

Towards the end of high school, I was dealing with a health issue, and was forced to quit the dance team I was on. Not surprisingly, I gained almost 30 pounds. I was out of shape and totally self-conscious. My sister joked that I was one of the laziest people she knew because I’d always decline her invitations to go on a walk or do short exercise videos with her: “Why don’t you just go out and do something?” she’d say, shaking her head. And I’d get defensive. I had an excuse for every occasion—had to study, had to work, had too much stress.

The truth? I was lazy. But it was even worse than that: I completely gave up on being healthy, and my life turned into an endless ‘free eating day.’ I filled up on cinnamon sugar donuts and entire packets of Swedish Fish, and then I wondered why I was so low on energy.

As I began feeling physically and emotionally run down, I couldn’t find the motivation to make a change. I resigned myself to the fact that I would never be comfortable with my body, so why even try to exercise? I even pretended I was above caring about my body, as if I was on some level of elevated thinking others weren’t privy to.

I had totally lost sight of the fact that exercise isn’t just about achieving the perfect body. It’s also about feeling good and releasing your emotions through movement.

Related: Shop protein powders to kick up your workout energy.

Then, something changed. One of my favorite teachers was holding a Zumba class after school, so I mustered up the energy to go. I figured that even if I sat on my butt through the class, I could still suck up to the teacher and listen to music. What I never anticipated was falling in love with it.

I had totally lost sight of the fact that exercise isn’t just about achieving the perfect body. It’s also about feeling good and releasing your emotions through movement.

It only took me a few minutes of hearing the timbao in the salsa and the dembow of the Reggaeton to know Zumba was for me. I quickly became a dedicated participant. I learned the steps pretty easily, too, since I had previously had a dance background. I was singing, dancing, and laughing with my friends, and I felt like I belonged.

During those hour-long sessions, part of me almost forgot that my body was moving. My body was no longer a clunky nuisance, but something that allowed me to express myself. Zumba’s colorful music and fun moves helped me find my way back to dance, but also helped me forget my body insecurities.

When I went to college, I kept dancing—every single night.

Related: Shop products according to your personal health goals.

Watching myself in the mirror, I noticed something: I was really good at it. I exuded a natural energy and genuine happiness. Plus, I practiced at home constantly, starting to create routines in my head as I walked to class. It turned out I loved being under the fluorescent lights of the gymnasium.

Exercising so much had an impact on my overall health, too. For one, it made me want to eat healthier, because clean foods gave me the energy I needed to dance. It also made me branch out to other types of fitness: weights, pilates, and HIIT. And, during that time, I gradually lost around 30 pounds.

Soon, my university recreational center announced it was training new leaders for group fitness. I barely gave it a second thought. Zumba had given me a judgement-free fun space where I could goof around and do something body-positive. I knew I had the ability to inspire the same joy in others.

CaptureI went through a semester-long training course, where I learned to choreograph routines to make my participants feel comfortable and practice positive body image. At my university recreation center, exercise was all about mental health and general well-being, not about achieving the unachievable.

I started teaching the next semester, and the shift from participant to leader felt natural. The chance to watch people’s energies and attitudes transform after an hour-long session was the most empowering experience.

Exercising so much had an impact on my overall health, too. For one, it made me want to eat healthier, because clean foods gave me the energy I needed to dance.

A group of regular participants formed, and each week I saw them adding their own special movements to the dances and losing themselves in the music. Being able to lead this space was gratifying, and being admired for my passion and energy gave me more confidence in myself than ever.

Related: 11 Inspiring Women You Should Definitely Be Following On Instagram

Later, I even taught to a crowd of a thousand people at Indiana University’s annual Dance Marathon, a 36-hour fundraiser for a children’s hospital. The crowd wore neon colors, feather boas, and tie-dye wigs. To motivate people (which, after 36 hours, was difficult), I was asked to teach Zumba.

The people, as you might imagine, were worn out—their bodies languid and eyes drooping, despite the colors and feathers. As soon as the music came on (it was my favorite Zumba song, Magic Juan’s Baby Come Back), I burst out in movement and couldn’t stop smiling. It was contagious. The exhausted crowd followed suit, finally moving their feet and throwing their hands up. I looked out onto a sea of joyful faces: Zumba was giving them a welcome sense of relief, just as it had always given me.

People who do Zumba say it’s less like exercise and more like a party, and that’s definitely true. There’s no other way to describe the effortless euphoria it gives me.

Published by