Hello Sexy, Goodbye 200 pounds - Angela's Story
“Mom, you cried that day you saw her? ” I’ve now come to expect my 4th grade daughter’s inquiry every time she hears Angela’s name. Each time I respond, “Yes, baby. I cried. For happy reasons.”
Life consists of the ordinary and extraordinary combined with moments that are profoundly pivotal. Hearing about the day I saw Angela and cried was a pivotal moment for my daughter – a moment that I am sure changed the very fiber of who she is and who she will become. The story begins a year and a half ago, when Angela was newly released to work out following gastric bypass surgery. Always active on the computer, she randomly came across a photo of me hanging upside down on a pole on a social networking site. So at age 47 having just lost her first 25 pounds, Angela came to OC Pole Fitness for her first pole class. She weighed 325 pounds. We had had plus-sized women before, but this was different. As if she read my mind, she looked me squarely in the eye and told me, “I’m going to lose this excess weight. I saw your picture and if you can do it, so can I.” There was something about her conviction. I believed her.
I remember her first class so vividly. Our warm up started on the floor and I felt instant angst the moment I asked the class to be seated on mats. I saw Angela evaluate the situation, grasp a neighboring pole and negotiate an awkward slide as she settled onto the floor. Yes, this was going to be very different, and I worried she would be ok. Physically. Emotionally. Socially. For so long I had been advocating pole is for everyone, and now everyone – students, instructors, and most importantly, Angela – were in this together in profoundly new ways. Still, I knew she belonged. And, thankfully, so did Angela.
Our warm up that day contained escalating floor work with Angela studying and copying my first few moves. We quickly hit an impasse. The rotations and partial body lifts I took for granted were not possible for Angela. I directed the class to continue, slithered over and guided Angela toward body tracing movements that mimicked our larger movements, whispering for her to just “keep moving”. So with each increasing level of difficulty, I established eye contact with this woman who knew she belonged, and delivered modifications that resembled what the rest of the class was doing – and Angela kept moving.
And, so it was. We had a system. Over the next several months, instructors delivered modifications, students accepted appropriation of time to do so, and Angela exercised the patience and discipline to keep moving. Because of her limited range of motion and strength, we explored creative paths doing the smallest movements over and over again until Angela gathered strength to add on more. She largely kept to herself, focused and determined.
Life got busy for me. Managing Felix Cane, operating the Pole Fitness Association, being a mother, and teaching mostly at the studio location furthest from Angela. I didn’t see Angela regularly, but saw her at various junctures. Then somewhere after losing 170 pounds, Angela waited outside my classroom door to take class and show me her progress. I remember hurriedly opening the door and greeting a woman I instinctively recognized I had a deep connection with. I hugged before I could process that the woman in my arms less than half her original size was ANGELA. Instantly overcome, I cried.
As a single mother, we learn to restrain emotion. It’s how we protect our children. Make them feel secure. But I came home that night naked. I called my partner, and cried again. This is the pivotal moment my daughter remembers. She asked, “Mommy, mommy, why are you crying? Is everything ok? Angela is so happy about pole fitness? You’re crying because you’re happy?” I answered, “Yes, baby. I am so proud of Angela. So happy for her. She never quit. Even when it was hard.” After a lengthy conversation, my daughter said, “She has a new life now, Mommy? You cried because she has a new life and you’re so proud?” And so it was true. All at once, Angela had a new life…and my daughter learned about empathy, compassion, health, perseverance, and celebration in glorious new ways – including timely validation about what pole fitness is and isn’t at an impressionable age where her peers were beginning to inquire what this pole dance fitness is all about.
Fast forward to today, and Angela has now lost over 200 pounds. She recently took my “Climbing and Inversion Fundamentals Workshop” – and there she was…in an inside leg hang just like the photo that originally inspired her. Just like she knew she could. Recently, I asked her several questions:
What does your surgeon think about your chosen form of exercise?
Pole fitness has reshaped my body in a way that surprised me, my surgeon, and his entire office. He calls my weight loss a shared effort, crediting himself with 100 pounds and OC Pole Fitness with 100 pounds. I defied the normal pattern of weight loss, showing him the strongest results for upper body and core he has ever seen - and it was all because of pole fitness.
How did you feel about your body before? And now?
I didn't hate my body, but hated I couldn't do so many things because of the size of my body. I hated that the diseases associated with morbid obesity were beginning to raise their ugly heads. Diabetes was winking at me and high blood pressure was holding my hand. Now, I'm healthier than many 20-somethings. I'm smaller as well which still surprises me. No migraines, no diabetes, no high blood pressure…I love all the things I can do in my body and how I can count on it for strength.
How has this affected your relationships with others?
Losing 210 pounds profoundly affects your relationship with everyone and everything, especially yourself. I've always been aggressive, but I've toned down. I don't know if I'm more self-confident (it takes some breasticles to decide I can try pole fitness at 325 pounds). Before, it was difficult to accept a compliment that wasn't about my intelligence and work skills. Now, I feel comfortable accepting a compliment and my thank you is truly sincere as opposed to just polite.
As for the obvious, am I receiving a lot more attention from men? Absolutely. I expected that as I lost weight. Surprisingly, most men see me as a tiny, fragile flower and don't realize how very strong climbing up a pole and hauling your body weight can make you until they cross a line. Yes, I have had to fight someone off and yes, I kicked his inappropriately touching ass. Then there are the men who have known me fat who are very supportive and happy for me that I’m healthy.
My daughters are proud of me and happy I'm going to be around for much longer now. My close friends have remained close friends and support me completely. They don't envy my weight loss and they let my success motivate them. The one thing that has surprised me, but tickled me pink is that the women in my personal pole community have been utterly phenomenal. I have received such love and support from these women. I never set out to be an inspiration or an ideal, but if anything in my story motivates someone to change any part of their life, then I'm happy to pay forward the love I've received. I love to tell women that it's not just your body that pole changes, it's your mind set that gets the biggest transformation. It's not even that you'll feel sexier, it's that you'll realize with each move you conquer that you can conquer everything in life. Any exercise program can help you drop weight, but some will help you connect with that place inside where you feel confident and sexier. Pole always does both, all the time.
By Collette Kakuk