In this post, I’ll expand on a prior one about my experience with Ballet Beautiful. I described in my testimonial how the program changed my mentality which contributed to my success as much as improving my eating habits and exercising routinely did. Since then I’ve received a few questions on the details of how I used BB to achieve the results that I did.
A little insight– right before starting BB, I hadn’t regularly exercised in several years. I was about 140 lbs and a US size 8. Binge and emotional eating were huge hurdles. I saw exercise as a form of punishment for eating poorly or too much which is exactly what led to a herniated disc in my lower back.
I needed a workout that was no to little impact yet still effective and didn’t require equipment or much space (I lived in a small NYC apartment). BB met all this criteria. I should also add that no prior dance experience is required. The focus of the program isn’t on learning and performing choreography (although now there are various streaming videos available that do incorporate dancing). Rather, BB is executing ballet inspired movements that strengthen and tone the physique.
In early 2012 I purchased the Ballet Beautiful Classic DVD Bundle which contains the Classic 60-Minute Workout DVD and the Blast Series DVD. The Classic 60-Minute Workout/Total Body Workout is broken into 6 sections: Bridge Series, Abs, Inner Thigh, Outer Thigh, Arms, and Standing. For those seeking an all-encompassing full body workout this is it! The Blast Series/Body Blast has four workouts, each 15 minutes in length which are designed to be mixed and matched. If you’re short on time, even a single 15 minute workout helps. Each exercise is typically performed in 4 sets of 8.
Though I previewed both, I decided to start using the Classic 60-Minute Workout/Total Body Workout first. I was only able to do this a few times a week in the beginning. Though the exercises looked simple enough, I found myself really struggling to get through a segment. I had to constantly stop and take a few moments to recuperate before I was ready to push on. I found that I couldn’t last until the end, so I made it a goal to get through the entire thing… somehow.
I think I would’ve been more discouraged had it not been for Mary Helen’s personability. Yes, in some shots she seems to breeze on by but she isn’t afraid to show that even she is challenged by the workout. Her positivity and encouragement left me so inspired that when her book (Ballet Beautiful: Transform Your Body and Gain the Strength, Grace, and Focus of a Ballet Dancer) came out, I immediately got a copy. The book touched on the heart of why I couldn’t lose weight in a healthy way and keep it off. I never addressed my deeply negative mentality which caused self sabotaging behaviors.
I started to put the principles of Mary Helen’s book into practice in addition to doing the workout at my own pace but consistently. Most of the time my workouts were limited to only a couple of sections in a session. I also took breaks between almost every set. By the end of 2012, I lost over 20 lbs and my weight would stay anywhere between 115 lbs and 118 lbs.
So with all of that said, here are my answers to some questions.
What was your routine for losing weight using BB?
I did only the classic workout dvd five to six times a week. This seems to be the ideal amount of workout time in a week for weight loss. In addition, most of the time I was eating according to the principles in the BB book (which isn’t a diet). Speaking of which, I highly recommend reading and applying it in conjunction with the workouts. One of the principles that stood out to me in the book was emphasizing balance as opposed to flat out restriction. At each meal, I tried to eat whole, minimally processed foods that were nutrient dense. I had a treat on a daily basis but eventually worked my way to being satisfied with a single serving size. Treats would be things like chocolate which was typically high quality dark chocolate, cookies, or candies. Sure, I had my days of overeating and indulging a little too much in things like fried foods and such but I would just “forgive myself and move on” as MHB says.
Did you manage to keep the weight off?
I was able to maintain the weight loss for the next two years until I got pregnant with my first. I stuck to the same routine (moreso out of preference.. I just really liked the classic dvd) and eating according to BB principles. It took me a good chunk of time to be able to do the entire workout. It never became easy for me even though I was getting noticeably stronger. Plus, there are small tweaks Mary Helen shows you to make each exercise a little more challenging. For example, putting on 2 lb thumblock wrist weights for the arms section or doing bridges on your tiptoes. Lastly, since I lived in the city, walking was my primary mode of transportation so I suppose that didn’t hurt.
What did you eat in an average day?
I’ll preface this with some random notes! I tried to use how I felt physically to gauge how to even out my meals overall throughout the day. For example, a blend of mostly protein with carbs helps me feel satiated longer. Try to limit not so healthy food cravings or treats to a single portion. Drink plenty of water. If you feel thirsty that means you’re already dehydrated.. so get to drinking! And if all else fails, forgive yourself and move on. I certainly had my share of days of being lax and eating more than I should’ve but I didn’t allow those slip ups to completely derail my progress. It was so much easier getting back on track with that mentality rather than a perfectionist, all or nothing approach.
Breakfast: Whole milk plain Greek yogurt, raw honey, granola, blueberries. Or whole mashed up avocado on toast with crushed red pepper flakes and sea salt and protein like a handful of almonds or one or two hard boiled eggs.
Lunch: Any carb I felt like (e.g. quinoa/rice/pasta) with some kind of protein (meat, eggs) followed by fruit.
Snacks: Some days I would just feel hungrier so I’d snack on random things. Stuff like almonds, granola, fruit.. whatever we had around the house really. Before dinner, I might sneak in a square of chocolate.
Dinner: I tried to look back at the rest of the day and see where I needed balancing out. For example, if I felt I had too many carbs earlier, I would eat a salad with lean meat cooked with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil/butter, salt, and herbs, cheese, dressed with French vinaigrette. Or a lean meat, a carb, and always non starchy vegetables which weren’t overcooked to try to preserve vitamins. To be more specific, on my plate would be a whole chicken breast, quinoa/rice, broccoli rabe cooked with EVOO/butter and chopped garlic.Or there were times I just needed a steak with a buttered potato. Either way, dinner would always include unlimited servings of non starchy vegetables.
Dessert: Typically more chocolate and not even the highest quality. My husband got me hooked on Gertrude Hawk’s Peanut Butter smidgens at one point. Even so, I was able to restrict myself to a serving. It was easier to do this when I ate slowly and savored each bite of something I knew wasn’t good for me.
To finish, here are some tips that may be helpful to anyone interested in BB.
- Allow yourself breaks.
When I was starting off, I felt like I was spending more time pausing and catching my breath than working out. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! You don’t need to push yourself to the point of burn out in order to get results. Additionally, proper form is absolutely imperative. If at any point I felt my form starting to let up from exhaustion, I would pause the workout, shake it off/get some water/catch my breath, and then pick up where I left off. Correct form will ensure that you’re working the muscles that those particular exercises are meant to target and safeguard from possible injury. The strength will come, I promise!
- Have fun with it!
Developing a “ballerina mindset” helped me to see BB as a lifestyle as opposed to just another exercise program. A practical example would be of Mary Helen writing in her book about how imperative good form is in daily life. Not to worry– that doesn’t mean you have to start busting out into arabesque on the street! It means being mindful of your posture and, like a ballerina, holding your neck long, shoulders down and back, and engaging your ab muscles as you walk. Good posture means strong core and supported spine. Also, while no special equipment is needed to do BB, I did buy a pair of pink canvas ballet slippers, a nontoxic yoga mat, and some leotards. Little things like this helped me feel graceful and beautiful during my workout.. almost like a real ballerina! Finally, if you’re not liking a particular routine BB isn’t limited to dvds nowadays. As mentioned before, there are workouts that incorporate dance routines if that’s more your vibe, workouts that are more or less intense, and workouts that are very targeted. You can buy streaming videos individually in the store or sign up for the monthly BB custom workout. BB customs is a monthly subscription which gives you two new videos per month, access to all videos in the streaming library, and custom workout plans that take into consideration your goals and availability.
- Be flexible.
While being consistent is important, being overly strict can cause unnecessary stress. Remember, your mentality is just as important as what you eat and how much you exercise. If you start to see all of this as an unrelenting chore, that just makes it all the more difficult to maintain long-term. Say you’re really pressed for time one day. If 15 minutes is all you can fit in, that’s still beneficial! In terms of eating, say you’re going out and maybe the food offered isn’t the healthiest. Perhaps, make a mental note to eat half and then get the rest to go. One tip MHB suggests is, when getting a salad for example, ask for toppings like cheese and dressing on the side. In the bigger picture, it’s all about BB fitting into your life and supporting you mentally and physically.
- Mentality and reflection.
This is kind of related to the point above. Mentality! It’s great to have specific goals such as wanting to lose 10 lbs. But, if you make numbers the front and center focus of why you’re taking up BB, it can feel impersonal. When I stopped honing in on numbers, more important reasons came forward. I wanted to be able to manage my back pain and strengthen my spine so that I could walk or maybe run again. I gradually saw exercise as a form of self care versus torture. I would track my workouts in my daily planner. This helped me to take things bit by bit, day by day, or week by week and greatly eased my anxiety. I wasn’t hyperfocused on the end goal and thus instead concentrated on the actions necessary to reach that goal. I didn’t feel overwhelmed and become impatient over results, which in the past would be when I quit. Find meaningful, personal reasons for your goals.