Hula hooping my way to fitness

Six years ago you might not have recognized Christabel, the now famous ‘Hoop Girl.’

If you had bumped into her on her campus, you would have seen a young woman well on her way to a career as a university professor, a serious student who had received her master’s degree in cultural anthropology. You would have also seen that Christabel was wearing baggy unflattering clothes, uncomfortable with her body, and tipping the scales at 180 lbs.

According to her, she was the product of living in a college culture that considered eating and partying a popular pastime.

All this changed when Christabel attended a conference on sustainability in Los Angeles. “They had this icebreaker exercise involving hula hooping, so everyone went out into the streets and had hula hoops. I was one of the few people in the group who couldn’t keep the hoop up at all. It was intimidating, but fascinating to me, so I decided to buy a hula hoop and take it home so I could practice.”

Christabel found renewed health and well-being through hula hoping, virtually by default. “It wasn’t like I told myself, oh I am going to work out now with my hoop. I was more like, now I have some time to go hoop in the park. That’s literally why I did it, because it felt good and I wanted to have fun with my friends, turn on the boombox and have an excuse to hang out together, but also stay active and be inspired by the different dances we were each doing.”

“I think it’s about creating a lifestyle, it’s about creating a way of living your life that feels good. It feels good learning to re-educate yourself about what’s really good for you.”

The self made ‘Hoop Girl’ soon began performing for movie openings, galas, concerts and guest starring in commercials. She was satisfied with her love of hooping, but was concerned that it wasn’t fulfilling a higher purpose in the world. “I was becoming aware of the obesity epidemic, and people needing ways to be physically active, and I realized I had to take something that I love doing for artistic reasons and find a way to tie it to a larger purpose—wellness.

Christabel created a company called Hoop Girl and began providing teacher training certifications, classes, hoops and instructional DVD’s to men and women all over the world. “What makes hoop dance today different from what people look at as hula hoping of the 50’s era is that it is a true dance form. It’s almost like crumping or breakdance, but it’s more fluid and less intimidating. It’s sexier, but also more accessible.”

Christabel is a proponent of what she calls body-mind fitness, a state of being that combines the physical body and the emotional body, the spirit. “Hooping gives people a way to bring wholeness and well-being to every part of their lives. It can be a spiritual experience for those who are able to make space in their mind and connect with a larger sense of the universe, than they might otherwise allow themselves to do. And it’s all through this very unassuming plastic ring that is accessible to anybody.”

Check out her website and get hooping!

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Hoop It Up
Find hoops, DVDs, classes, clothes, performances and everything else you need to wrap your mind around the Christabel Hoop Girl phenomenon.

Spin Me Right Round
Get more Christabel – in dramatic performances, how-to videos and playing around – at her personal video page on YouTube.

Get Physical
Featuring personalized programs and support, Women Fitness shares healthy recipes and gives you access to the weight loss experts.

Diet Right
To better understand Christabel’s diet shift, check out Vegan Action, a website that shows you how to – and what to – eat if you’re thinking of making the change too.

Laugh It Off
Does the dumbbell phone sound as ridiculous to you as it does to us? Really? Because someone actually made it and tried to sell it. For money. See it and other silly gadgets at First Page Fitness.

Living large… and loving it!

When Meryl took the stage with three of her plus-sized girlfriends on America’s Got Talent, she earned the respect of women across the country… and caught the eyes of most men.

Her fishnets drew attention to her thick thighs, and her corset hugged curves that most women cloak in sweatshirts. She climbed on stage in front of millions of people in lingerie, something few of us would be willing to do even if we exist within our healthy weight range.

But the vixen who made it to the semi-finals last season wasn’t always living large. She said she’s always been a big girl, but something about going from a 13/14 in Juniors to a 16 in women’s clothes caused her to start a painful phase of self-loathing.

“It killed me mentally,” said Meryl. “I couldn’t face having to shop in a plus-size store.”

In college, she decided to take Fen-Phen, a controversial weight loss medication that was eventually recalled. She lost the weight, but she also lost herself.

“I thought if I lost all this weight, I would be happier, more social, date more; I thought I would be perfect,” she said. “That’s not what happened. I wound up becoming totally anti-social. I didn’t want to see anyone. I had no energy. I was always tired and fatigued. And, yeah, I could wear clothes that were nice but I look at pictures of myself then and I was so sad.”

Eventually, Meryl was diagnosed with heart valve damage from the Fen-Phen and she was forced to ask herself if thin was worth dying for.

Meryl learned to love herself and accept her body in part because of the positive support she received through her song and dance troupe, the Glamazons. The quartet regularly performs in New York City and has appeared on The Insider, Entertainment Tonight, and Access Hollywood.

“When I decided to embrace my body, I started getting my boobs back, wearing bright colors and dressing sexier, and suddenly, I felt like a beautiful woman,” said Meryl. “The Glamazons are the result of that change in me. The group is an opportunity for girls who are big and beautiful to sing and dance professionally. We get travel and meet all kinds of girls who are inspired by us and who are moved by what we do.”

Meryl and the other Glamazons took inspiration to a whole new level in 2007 with America’s Got Talent. Singing sultry numbers like “Lady Marmalade,” “Hey Big Spender” and “Fever,” they made women of all shapes and sizes want to tie on something lacy and prance around like burlesque dancers.

Meryl said that dressing like you love yourself is part of the process to learning to love yourself.

“Dress according to your personality, not your size,” she said. “Covering up your curves just makes you look bigger. Wear clothes that make you feel good about yourself and that you feel good in.”

Once you’re outfitted, the next thing to change is your mind. Meryl’s shown it can be done, but the rest is up to you.

Feeling the big love? Watch Meryl perform “Lady Marmalade” with the Glamazons last season on America’s Got Talent.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Sexy Mamas
Check out the web site for Meryl’s group, The Glamazon Girls. These “America’s Got Talent” finalist may just be performing in a city near you soon!

Be Yourself and Like It
With the Woman’s Guide to Total Self Esteem, those high pressure board meetings or day care politics won’t seem nearly as intense as they do now.

Curvalicious
Follow the soft swells of plus-size fashion with Venus Diva Magazine, brought to you by ‘curvy’ women and teens on a mission to help big girls live big.

A+ Plus
At the Plus Size Clothing Scoop, you can stay on top of all the plus-size trends in fashion and activism.