TT Thursday – Lauren Kessler becoming a Ballerina at 55, Heirarchy of Weight Loss/Fitness, my Weight Loss Challenge Week 25

TT Thursday – Lauren Kessler becoming a Ballerina at 55, Heirarchy of Weight Loss/Fitness, my Weight Loss Challenge Week 25

(affiliate disclosures at the bottom)

Lauren Kessler : Becoming a ballerina at 55

At age 5, Kessler fell in love with ballet when she watched the New York City Ballet perform The Nutcracker.  Her parents indulged her dream of becoming a ballerina and at age 11, she was studying with André Eglevsky. After dancing with the American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet, Eglevsky retired in 1958 and founded a ballet school and the Eglevsky Ballet Company. He was even in Charlie Chaplin’s movie Limelight in 1952. The problem was that Eglevsky, like many, had specific ideas off how a ballerina needed to look.  Kessler wrote in a Shape article,

When I was eleven, I started studying with ballet legend André Eglevsky. One day, when my mother picked me up from class, Eglevsky called her into his office. I was a few feet from the door. Of course I eavesdropped. Her shape is wrong, I heard Eglevsky telling my mother. She will never be a dancer with that shape. She has the wrong body. I heard the words “bottom heavy” and “thighs.” And my throat closed. I walked, quickly but with all the grace I could muster, to the bathroom, where I shut myself in a stall and cried.

A few days later, feigning disinterest, I told my mother I wanted to drop ballet altogether. Now that I knew how Eglevsky saw me, I saw myself that way too. And so this moment was not just the end of my lessons, it was the end of my girlish lack of self-consciousness about my body, the end of that carefree period during which I didn’t give a thought to my physical self. I went from oblivious to self-conscious—and from self-conscious to self-critical—in a leap so quick I didn’t know it happened. There was now this voice inside my head that listed faults.

That quickly not only were her dreams of becoming a ballerina derailed but so was her body image.  Kessler continued to love ballet and went to see The Nutcracker every season with her mother, then later as an adult, and finally as a mother with her daughter.  She became a biographer as well as an immersive journalist writing narrative nonfiction.  An immersive journalist is like a travel writer except what the travel writer does with a place, the immersive journalist does with an experience, focusing on the events rather than primarily focused on themselves or their feelings as a diarist would be.  A good example of immersive journalist is John Howard Griffen dying his skin black and living in the Deep South for six weeks to experience racial segregation and prejudice first hand in his book Black Like Me.  Library Journal selected Kessler’s book Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer’ selected as one of the best books of 2007.  After Kessler’s mother develops Alzheimer and conflicted about her response to her mother’s changes, Kessler goes to work as a caregiver at an Alzheimer’s facility recounting her experiences about the people who have Alzheimer and their interactions with each other, their family and the staff as well as the care given by people who aren’t family but are drawn to this field.
Then in her fifties, Kessler went on a Nutcracker binge tour.  She saw six shows in two weeks around the country.  An epiphany slammed into her.  She still wanted to be a ballerina. Kessler wrote, “This ballet dream is freighted with, absolutely saturated and dripping with, the stuff of life. And by ‘stuff of life’ I mean fear, angst, pride, self-doubt, arrogance, fragility, optimism, pessimism, discontent, happiness, restlessness.

Kessler pitched her idea of becoming a ballerina and writing about the experience to Toni Pimble, cofounder of Eugene Ballet Company.   To her surprise, Pimble said yes if, and it’s a big if, she was fit enough and take classes in ballet to prove she was good enough to have a role.  Kessler was fit in a way.  She’d been working out for two decades.  Now she threw herself into making her body fit for dancing. Her new routines included “active stretching, yoga, Pilates, Barre3, water jogging, and this machine-assisted workout called Gyrotonics.”  When she felt ready, she enrolled into the company’s daily ballet class saying “It was fascinating being so close to the work that goes behind the art. In the audience, you see the satin and tulle, the elegance and glamour. Up close, you see muscles and tendons and sweat and stink.”

New York City Ballet blu-ray. Note: Kessler was in the Eugene Ballet Company and did not in this performance of the Nutcracker. And finally she did it.  She was cast as Clara’s Maiden Aunt, becoming a member of the Eugene Ballet Company and performed in public, not just once but throughout the season.  Kessler told Suzanne Gerber in a Next Avenue article, “It is worth the risk. This sounds trite, but it’s not about ‘succeeding’ or ‘failing.’ It’s not about that at all. It’s about stepping boldly, even if it’s a very small step.

Hierarchy of Weight Loss/Fitness

I’ve been focused on food and that showed in my series on chefs and their weight loss.  I think there is an initial stage in losing weight and becoming fit where your focus is on pounds, then changing eating habits, and then physical activities/fitness.  Now that I’ve lost 40 pounds, my emphasis is beginning to change.  I’ll be looking at people in their 40s or older who have changed their life/lifestyle/habits. It will matter less to me whether or not the person lost weight but matter more if the person pursued fitness in some way and did something inspirational or unusual.  That is why I was interested in Kessler’s story.

Like Maslov’s hierarchy of needs, I think there is a hierarchy when you are moving from very heavy and very unfit to heavy and fit.  I don’t think I have to become skinny or even slim.  I’m in my 50’s and actually at this age carrying ten to twenty pounds isn’t a bad thing. Calcium is stored in fat cells and so are a few other things the body can pull on.  Better to take it from the fat cells and not your bones or other areas that need their nutrients.  I’m not aiming to look like a model.  I’m aiming to be healthy, to be fit.

On the hierarchy of moving from very overweight and very unfit to fit, the bottom tier is often most losing weight first.  It helps to take some pressure of your knees and back.  The easiest way to lose weight is a calorie deficit.  A lot less calories goes in. The calorie intake is severely less then the calories you burn.  It’s a difficult stage because you feel hungry a lot.  I am still in this stage even though I am experienced stages 2 and 3. Many people may feel uncomfortable about how they look at this stage.  Getting tired or winded easily, aches in back and knees, finding it difficult to stand or walk for more than 15 minutes or so are not unusual symptoms at this stage.

Second stage up the pyramid is looking at what you eat and switching to healthier foods : typically a lot more vegetables and a lot less sugar, salt, fat and carbohydrates.  Out goes the ice cream and in comes the carrot sticks. Well, for me it was the cherry tomatoes. As people research different ways to cook healthier, they will encounter different food philosophies that they start to incorporate into lifelong food preparation. Protein intake may also decrease as people often develop a food philosophy in this stage that may affect how they view animal proteins.

Third stage is incorporating regular moderate exercise into your lifestyle.  Here is where some people start walking regularly, yoga, swimming,  bicycling or going to the gym.  By this time, you’ve probably lost 20-60 pounds so your body feels lighter and it’s easier to walk or do whatever.  Your weight may plateau at a new setpoint although you are both increasingly healthier and increasing muscle mass.  People often become comfortable with how their body look.

Later stages involve becoming much more fit with increasingly intense regular exercising whether it’s running, marathons (walking or running), dancing, hiking, or whatever.  At this stage, you may develop a primary addiction to one or more forms of exercising so that you feel you have to do several times a week or you just feel off.  A sense of accomplishment often has been built as people can look back over a journey that has taken months or years.  There will be particular milestones that stand out. Later stages may have you going to events or competitions.  You may be heavy and very fit and the majority of participants at these events maybe skinny and vocally mean about people who don’t look like them.  A thick skin and hardwon confidence comes in very handy. Often people will later become encouragers or teachers to people starting the fitness journey or they start advocating body acceptance. As I haven’t traveled this far, these physical and psychological changes up ahead are only ones I guess at.  Some people do become slim but many don’t.  It doesn’t really matter.  What matters is people become fit and studies show becoming fit is more important than the person’s weight in reaping health benefits.

The thing with a journey is that you know the stages you’ve traveled through and you have an idea of the one coming up ahead.  The stages beyond that blur together until you get there.  I’ve been and am in stage one and two. I am starting stage three.  I am a long shot from being an expert on anything.

Honestly all these stages?  They overlap a lot.  You may leave one to revisit it later.  Most often you’re sort of in two or three of them at the same time. It’s more your primary focus that tells you where you are on the fitness pyramid. I actually don’t think the fitness pyramid narrows and ends in a point; I think it becomes a widening branching path because as you become fitter you are able to do more things with increasing opportunities opening up.  Maybe it’s more of an upside down pyramid with your options narrow at the bottom and as you change, it becomes wider.

My posts will change as my journey changes me.  I hope you will still find some good takeaway and enjoyable reads along the way.

my Weight Loss Challenge Weeks 25

Last week I hit a new low of 208.9 and then went back to 210.  I am still experiencing that three pound yo-yoing.  I did hit a new low of 207.6 (a loss of 1.3) but am once again up to 209.8 but it’s evening.  I weight the least first thing in the morning.

I had a backslide yesterday — paid $560 to fix my car, went to emissions and when emissions finished, the car refused to start.  Since I have a stickshift car, the emission guys pushed me out of the stall, I shifted to second gear and my car started.   Needless to say, while I passed the smoke part of the emissions, I failed the engine check light part of emissions.  I drove to DQ for a hot fudge sundae and then I drove to the mechanic and they fixed the problem and now for a whole day I’ve been driving around with no problems. Five months ago the car had intermittent problems with not starting which is when I decided not to fix it to A) lose weight and B) I didn’t want to deal with it.  I did succeed at losing weight and hopefully changing enough I can risk driving without gaining weight.  (Disregard the hot fudge sundae please)

However, I still have to go back to emissions and the damn engine check light is still not working.  I bought a chocolate bar today.  What did I learn?  Sugar and I have an intimate relationship with frustration.  Sighs.  I’ll be good tomorrow.  I was semigood today though.  I had a salad as my meal. The car still frustrates me though. The intermittent working and not working made it harder to diagnose.  I think the previous person had the same problem.  Right now though the car seems like it is fixed except for whatever problems will show up once the engine check light is working. I need to bring it back in tomorrow to fix that.  The car is working though so I bought a lot of veggies and stuff but I also did a lot less walking and carrying then I usually do.  Part of the challenge for me is A) passing emissions or getting a pass from passing emissions and B) incorporating activity into my life even though I have a car.  I want to go hiking on Mount Lemmon for the first time and I need a car to get there.

Here is how I’m doing on my current HealthyWage challenges.

name end date goal expected ontrack?
Poundshedders 11/26/18 209.7 209.7 done
Big Losers 12/3/18 209.7 210.27 done
Healthy Wager 12/4 187.1 188.9 no
Falling Pounds 12/26 206.7 210.8 yes
Big Buck Losers 1/2 202.3 207.4 meh
Healthier Holidays 1/6 202.3 208.0 more or less (within my waffle zone anyways)
Scale Watchers 1/16 202.7 209.9 yes

Poundshedders is done.  Winners will be announced December 10th.   Big Losers finishes December 3rd but I’ve already done the final video weigh in at 208.9 so I don’t have to worry about that any more.  Healthy Wager finishes on December 4th which is five days from now.  I can extend another 6 months if I want to, which will be another $180 but still end with a $400 profit.  I will probably do that especially as I can use my $90 I just won towards that.  It’s really too bad I didn’t get to 187 pounds in time because that $760 dollars would have come in handy for the car.  Still losing 45 pounds in 6 months is darn good, I think.

Note: HealthyWage has a special added $100 prize boost for new people: Win Up To $10,000 In Cash Prizes While Getting Healthy. PLUS get $100 Prize Boost from through 11/30/18!



I Came Back to Ballet as a Grownup—Then Danced The Nutcracker with a Professional Dance Company
by Lauren Kessler, Shape,  Nov 23, 2015

Lauren Kessler
her own blog

Becoming a Ballerina at 55
By Suzanne Gerber, Next Avenue, December 8, 2015

Active Aging Role Model: Lauren Kessler, Late-in- Life Ballerina
by Megan Hammons,, May 2016

Lauren Kessler

André Eglevsky

Immersion journalism

Black Like Me

John Howard Griffin

I am an affiliate for HealthyWage because I like them and studies prove people with a little financial incentive to lose weight have a significantly higher percentage of success.  It worked for me on several 6% loss challenges so far. In the above post text, the HealthyWage links are affiliate links only but you can also choose to join by a friends link. If you join through the links above, I’ll get a small fee whether you and/or I succeed or fail. However, they also have a friends link where we both earn only if we both succeed at the main HealthyWager challenge — the added motivation of social pressure! If you join up by clicking this friends link, it adds a $40 to your HealthyWager award and $40 to my HealthyWager award but only if we both succeed. Neither of us gets the $40 if either person fails. The $40 is for HealthyWager challenges only and not the other challenges like the 6% individual challenge or the team challenge. I have not seen any info if that includes either person extending the challenge. The HealthyWage affiliate link doesn’t matter if anyone succeeds but there is no benefit for the friend, just for the affiliate no matter what kind of challenge they join. Joining through the friends link also lets you view your friend on the dashboard: you’ll see their name and what % they’ve lost so far but not the actual weight. That’s private unless you make it public.

I am also an affiliate for Amazon: “We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.”


6 Replies to “TT Thursday – Lauren Kessler becoming a Ballerina at 55, Heirarchy of Weight Loss/Fitness, my Weight Loss Challenge Week 25”

  1. What a great story! It makes me think that maybe Lauren Kessler would have been fine in a Latin American company, where some of the ballerinas are like Shakira, their “hips don’t lie” he he.

    1. Oh, I never heard that phrase “hips don’t lie”. I love colorful new phrases. I am glad you enjoyed the story. I didn’t realize that Latin American ballet companies don’t have the same expectations of the no-hip figures for ballerinas. That’s very cool.

    1. Thank you! And I’m happy you enjoyed her story. I thought it was really incredible that she was able to become a ballerina

  2. That teacher of yours wasn’t nice one bit. That kind of thing stays with you forever.

    You’re doing so very well. I’m proud of you.

    Have a fabulous day and weekend. ♥

    1. That was her Lauren Kessler’s teacher. And I agree with you — that was an awful thing to say about a person — at age 12 already deciding what they can and cannot do. Took Kessler 40 years to throw off his words and prove him wrong. I thought she was pretty amazing.

      Thank you for your kind support! Hope you have a great weekend!

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