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Hula Hooping My Way to Not Being Asked If I'm Pregnant

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I have lost about two inches off my waist, and at least four pounds, by hula hooping in two weeks. It has changed my life!

This is going to sound obnoxious, but it is quite true. I have always had great metabolism, have never fluctuated with my weight, just never really concerned myself with dieting and all of that.

I never needed to, I guess.

Then I had two little boys. Still, my body wasn’t too shabby, but it was absolutely altered. Especially after my second was born, the pooch just never quite left. I was asked by strangers four times in the second year of his life if I was pregnant—one of whom, when I flatly denied it, asked, “Are you sure?” Oh yes, I am sure.

I didn’t try very valiantly to lose the faux pregnant belly, I’ll admit. I didn’t try a thousand diets and exercise plans, but I did try Jillian Michael’s “30 Day Shred” (of “Biggest Loser” fame). It was a tough and seemingly effective workout, but very high impact. Frankly, even an empty bladder could not withstand the force of twenty minutes of jumping jacks and air jump roping. I was peeing my pants constantly. The laundry alone became a factor in my lessening motivation.

The laundry, but also the sense that I was being punished, worked against my desire to continue. Even watching “The Biggest Loser,” I thought, “Geez, I know these people have issues, becoming this obese somehow, but do they really need to be screamed at? Do they deserve boot camp treatment?” One week, several people actually gained weight because of stress—even working out several hours a day and eating hardly anything! It did not feel like a winning solution for me, and seeing as how I could not even complete thirty days of the “30 Day Shred,” my theory was proved. Punishment is not motivating in the realm of caring for your body.

The philosophy I have recently adopted is that I do not deserve to be physically punished for having a pudgy belly. I am not going to beat myself into submission. I don’t need to hurry or meet a goal by a certain time. My life is not in danger due to my 5 to 10 pounds of flab I “need” to lose. I understand there are plenty of people whose lives are in danger due to their weight problems, and that is a real problem that merits real help I don’t pretend to offer. But I do feel like there is an enormous community of otherwise healthy-but-flabby mama types who are beating themselves up for that extra bagel they shared with their kids this morning, and that’s just not ok. Food is a gift, not an enemy. It is supposed to give us life, not become our life in such a negative way.

That’s why I started hula hooping. I started because I like it! I decided to only do things that my body wanted to do at the moment. Sometimes that’s hooping for 20 minutes, then running on an elliptical for 30. Other days it’s just hula hooping. Or just the elliptical. Or adding some weight stuff to either. Whatever feels good and whatever I have the time to squeeze in. I have gotten such better results doing this than counting calories or doing random bouts of anguish on the elliptical, and so far, I’ve been sticking to it longer because, previously, I had been feeling agitated.

For the past year or two, I have ached to move around somehow, hating sitting on my arse all day, or moving in spurts managing the schedule of two small children with whom constant interruption is a constant companion. But I’d sit there and think that if I wanted “results” or to get “in shape”, I’d have to do an aerobics video or bother with the gym and do hard, awful things with my body, then showering and all that. So I just stayed inert on the couch.

I finally just said hey—what can I do inside the house with the boys that makes me feel good? And here it is. I grabbed my $3 hula hoop from Target and started whirling it around while my kids watched Curious George one day.

I practiced getting a rhythm, getting it to stay moving at a rhythm that felt like second nature, and then I added arm movements to it, and I think that’s really been the kicker. I do it for either two or three ten-minute rounds a day throughout the day, twenty minutes at a time, or if I’m really ambitious, thirty minutes. I usually do this while watching TV just to keep going. I started to move my arms about half the “tempo” that I had the hoop circulating in a motion like I was swimming through the air: kind of extend my arms forward, then press them back like I was swimming. I did that for as long as I could, while hula hooping—which, at first, was maybe thirty seconds and then my shoulders would be killing me. But now I’m up to 3-4 minutes of that in maybe a week-and-a-half span of time. Then I’ll let my arms rest, then start moving them when I feel comfortable doing it again. I just try different foot positions (feet closer together is a lot more work and harder to do at first, feet further apart helps you get your balance better when you are beginning). I learned how to do strong, slow punches when I’m hooping. I’ve found that whenever you engage your arms, you stand up straighter, your heart rate is a little higher (it’s never painfully elevated—probably not even as much as running would elevate your heart rate) and you just use more muscles.

When I’m done hula hooping, I do downward dog (the yoga position), go into a sort of pushup very slowly to the ground, upward dog, then lift myself into down dog again. I do that however many times feels good—some days it’s once or twice, other times it’s six or seven. There are no rules. Besides, it is nice to stretch after repetitive motion. I also randomly do bicycle crunches throughout the day, as much as I can stand, whenever I want to change the pace of my day or get out my jimmies. Bicycle crunches are when you get in a crunch position and touch your elbow to the opposite knee while extending your free leg and just slowly “cycling” that way. It works all the ab muscles at once—which is more efficient for me, with petty little sibling rivalries interrupting my exercise all the time.

It takes a little education, as a parent, to teach my kids that Mommy gets a couple minutes a day to move around without being interrupted. I try to choose good times to do it in the first place. I don’t think twenty minutes is exorbitant, especially when they are watching PBS or playing with blocks right in front of me and we’re all still talking. I persist, pay them attention, and they have learned that it’s just something I do sometimes. Everybody’s happy.

I am so excited to see how strong I am becoming. I can do all sorts of stuff I couldn’t do no matter what I tried before. And I find that I just crave movement. This is a reasonable outlet for me. It requires almost no effort apart from getting up and shimmying for a few minutes a day.

So have fun with your hula hoop, girl! Dance around with it! Come up with cool new moves once you get your groove going. I feel like my whole body is more coordinated already. I try different stuff—like walking while hooping or moving side to side and incorporating my arms—whatever. I just experiment with what my body can do and sometimes it leads to really good exercise. Once I succeed, I just go with it and find that over a few days, my body just moves more fluidly on a normal basis. I have better posture. It’s just cool. I have become an infomercial for hula hoops.

But hey, fitting into my size 8 jeans legitimately is a darn good feeling. If it means I “have” to hula hoop to feel strong and fit—hells yeah, I’m hooping my way to health, baby.

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