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GUEST COLUMN

How I was inspired to new weight and vigor by ballet leotard, tights

Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 11:12 am

It is amazing what a leotard and tights will do to inspire you.

It was just over a year ago, June 2009, that I decided to take better care of myself and improve my health.

It all began when I enrolled in a ballet class at Fort Wayne Ballet. You see, the last time I participated in a ballet class was in 1955. So I completed the paperwork, signed up to take a class and purchased the black leotard and pink tights, required by the ballet when one becomes a student in the adult class.

Upon arriving for the first evening class, I entered the studio with its three walls of mirrors. This gave me a full front, back and side view of my body and from every angle possible. I quietly said to myself, “Oh, my goodness. You need to do something about your weight and get into shape.”

My fellow classmates were of all ages. I decided on the spot to take charge of my health, improve it and make the necessary lifestyle changes that would be best for me. On that date in June I weighed 40 pounds more than I do today. At the time I wore size 16 clothes, and today I am wearing a size 10. My goal was to lose weight and improve my body shape.

With the encouragement of ballet Director Karen Gibbons-Brown, as well as a very special person in my life, my journey began. These two encouraged, understood, inspired and picked me up when the challenge seemed to get tough. I am very grateful to them.

It seemed in a short time that people noticed I was losing weight, my posture had improved and many compliments were coming my way. I will openly admit it was not easy cutting calories, eating healthier and fitting exercise into my daily routine, but as I shed the pounds and firmed up it was a new lifestyle for me.

A few months into the program I realized I could participate in activities that I had not in years. My newfound energy, attitude and zest of life flourished. After the summer ballet session, I enrolled in another fall class in 2009 as well as a tap dance class. You might say I was somewhat hooked. I also decided to begin a walking program and even try a little jogging, which I had not done since 1975.

My eating habits became very healthy, meals filled with fruit and vegetables, fish and chicken, a minimal amount of red meat. Also, I eliminated desserts from my diet, except on a special occasion such as a birthday, and then the portion was just a taste.

I added whole grains in the form of cereal, certain breads and dark rice. I found that as I ate healthier, I continued to feel better and better and my energy increased. I am a Type 2 diabetic, and with the weight loss, change of eating habits and exercise under my physician's direction, I was able to reduce my medication from four tablets a day to one. That was accomplished in just six months.

My cholesterol was reduced significantly, and my clothes kept getting bigger and bigger. I did have a goal in mind and decided to purchase only a few new items until I was close to my desired weight.

To get my body in shape, I enrolled in Pilates and Zumba classes, as well as ballet and modern dance. Also, I continue to walk and jog a little. You might say I do keep moving. I cannot forget the senior stretch classes a few times a week.

This summer I enrolled in the Fort4Fitness program, which culminated last weekend. This past summer I did participate in the 5K Runners on Parade and Matthew 25 run and did surprise myself that I could really do it.

I feel terrific, and all because I put on a leotard and tights and walked into a room of mirrors. You see, I am a septuagenarian, but many days feel like a teen.

Fort Wayne, if I can do it, so can you. Just give it a try to see how much better you will feel. Get out of your chair, start moving, and don't forget the leotard and tights. And stand in front of a mirror.

Marita K. O'Neil-Maloley is a Fort Wayne resident and is 72 1/2 years old.