Member stories: how FFC member Shelby took advantage of Pilates benefits and how they helped her in her weight loss journey.

When I first joined FFC as a new Chicagoan in 2004, my kids were two and four. I remember watching people do Pilates through the studio window and thinking, they look so graceful and… healthy. Not to mention lean and strong. I said to myself, I’ll never be those things. No way can I do all that stuff on those machines. No way will I ever lose this baby weight I’ve been carrying for five years now. Fast forward to 2016, when my kids convinced me to join again. I convinced my best friends Alan and Emily to join, and Emily happened to be a devotee of Pilates and tuned into all the Pilates benefits. So I sucked it up and agreed to try it, psyching myself up to have a positive attitude and a beginner’s mind.

Do what with my what?

I went home and cried roughly the first four times I took Pilates mat class with Carl Corry. It was humiliating and hard and upsetting. He was patient but firm, as were Cameron and Charles, who also teach there. There was so much I couldn’t do.

I kept coming back, though, because I committed to my friends that I’d try it for 6 months, twice a week, at least, to take advantage of all those Pilates benefits. And I worked on my attitude by thinking about what I’d say to my kids if they came home feeling like I did. I’d say this: “You can’t expect to be good at things right away. But if you like what this is, keep going. Get better. There’s nowhere to go but up.”

It is SO HARD to take your own advice.

But I kept going.

But… there was other stuff in the way.

There were two more things holding me back: a bunch of extra weight and some health problems that left me unable to use most of my abdominal muscles. I went to PT to address the problem which was a huge first step. (I also cried the first time I felt those muscles fire.)

And the weight was literally in my way in class. I’ve been struggling with it since I had children almost twenty years ago, and I lived with severe endometriosis my whole adult life, until five years ago. I also had some disordered eating and body image issues holding me back.

So while I sorted through my ego issues about Pilates and went to PT, I also did things like buy a full length mirror and a scale for the first time. I started to tease apart how I felt about my body from what I ate every day. Not because anyone told me to — it just seemed like they were different things.

About the weight.

After almost a year of working on something as simple as walking by a mirror without grimacing or feeling guilty about what I had for lunch, I decided to talk to FFC’s registered dietitian, Amy Silver. I have a friend who was working with a nutritionist and her success made me think, maybe this is be worth trying. After all, my insurance covers it. What did I have to lose?

My friend Alan joined me. We both knew it was good to have a buddy; that whole accountability thing. We could help each other.

At our first appointment I cried (are you seeing a pattern?). As she passed me the box of Kleenex I’m certain is always ready for this moment I said, “I’m just so tired of having this relationship with food.”

So. Much. Chewing.

At first, food felt like a part time job. I had to think about it all the time. I had to learn how to plan a whole new way of eating, I had to figure out how to get the right food to my office. I had to learn how to cook vegetables — all kinds, so I wouldn’t get bored.

And the chewing. I have to eat SO MANY vegetables. I didn’t have the chance to be hungry because of all the vegetables I was constantly shoving in my face.

Related: check out this member story about how a trip to Turkey changed FFC South Loop member Oscar’s perspective and how chewing more slowly changed his life.

Within days I noticed that my blood sugar was always… fine. I was never hungry. I never felt woozy or shaky or so hungry I could eat everything in sight. My digestive system was… happy. And then… the pounds started coming off.

But… not 100% happy.

Contrary to current wisdom around feeling confident and able to “see” yourself as healthy, I didn’t believe I could lose this weight at first. I also didn’t believe all of life’s problems would be solved if I succeeded.

Mostly I just thought, I’ll try this. Maybe I’ll feel better. Maybe it will work. Maybe not. “Don’t get too excited. These pounds have been part of you for 20 years,” I said to myself.

After seven months of mostly good behavior and making the changes more and more permanent, I currently weigh only 7 pounds more than I did 20 years ago – right before I got pregnant when I was 26. (My highest recorded weight was 193 and as I type this, I’m at 163 lbs. I’m 5’2″.)

Now and then, I feel sad for former me because I waited so long, but we do what we can when we’re able. I’ve spent a long time not believing in myself and it’s like an old record with deep grooves.

And I feel conflicted about all the success I’m having because I can’t seem to believe it. But Amy keeps showing me my sheet, and it keeps showing that the weight is coming off. I can’t argue with the data, as much as something in me wants to take success away from myself.

So now I have more attitude adjustment to make. Better late than never. And I know I can conquer my own attitude because I still go to Pilates, sometimes four times a week.

Now and then, I feel sad for former me because I waited so long, but we do what we can when we’re able. I’ve spent a long time not believing in myself and it’s like an old record with deep grooves.

Putting it all together.

FFC Oak Park Pilates benefitsI’ve been taking advantage of Pilates benefits for over a year now. It’s the only exercise thing I’ve ever done that gets both harder and more fun as I get better at it – roughly every six months. It gives me more energy and focus than even yoga, swimming and running used to. My Friday 7 AM group reformer class with Carl is one of the best hours of my whole week, and I have a pretty great life. I might even get licensed to teach, if only to learn something totally different and understand how my body works.

And the weight? Well, I’m working on my attitude even as I have to replace clothes almost constantly. 30 pounds is what a huge bag of dog food weighs, after all. And when I look in the mirror now, I see someone who looks the way I believe I am “supposed to,” which sounds odd, but it’s the most accurate thing I can think of. I mean, it also feels good to appreciate my own body, don’t get me wrong. REALLY good.

I also have noticed that in life overall, since I started working on myself consistently, I’ve started to take a longer view of virtually all things. My dad tells me it’s old age. I prefer maturity.

In the end, it’s only sort of about the weight. It’s more about feeling like myself, and feeling like my body can do anything I want – including whatever Carl, Cameron and Charles can come up with in Pilates mat class. Bring it on. I’ll be able to do it really well in a decade or so.

Post written by FFC Oak Park member Shelby Bower.

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