I am the self-proclaimed Northern California Pole Dance Ambassador. This blog is about pole dancing, weight loss surgery, health, fitness, aging gracefully, and life-in-general. I had gastric bypass in 2004 and lost 165 pounds. Pole dancing and yoga have helped me keep off the majority of the weight. I have struggled with my weight for my entire life and am on a journey of self-acceptance.
When I first started talking about interviewing pole dancers from around the globe, Shelly Lamb told me Anna Grundstrom was one of those I absolutely needed to catch up with. We have finally touched bases, and so here she is: Anna Grundstrom!!
did you first start pole dancing and how did you get into it?
I started taking classes New York Pole
Dancing back in 2007 and applied for an instructor position a few months later.
How do you feel pole dancing has changed since you started?
When I co-founded USPDF with Wendy Traskos, most interaction in the pole
industry existed primarily on YouTube. To see all these pole dancers meet for
the very first time at the inaugural US Pole Dance Championship in 2009, I
recognized that change was happening.
Having watched hundreds of submission
videos, I’ve seen a lot of technical and artistic growth throughout the years.
New tricks, concepts and movement styles are being presented all the time and
will hopefully continue. All art forms experience growth; stages of molding and
shaping. Pole dancing is no exception.
My personal journey has focused on
artistry, which was greatly inspired by my involvement with Brook Notary’s
“Pulse Project” 2 years ago. It’s had a major influence on what pole dancing is
to me. My individual style and approach to pole started to shift. My movement
became more inspired by inner dialogue and telling a story versus just doing
pole tricks. My body naturally responded to this new approach to pole dancing.
And while this form of self-expression probably existed within me all along, it
emerged as an “AHA!” moment while working on Pulse Project. Brook has been an amazing
choreographer who has allowed me to organically grow into who I am as a dancer.
Who are other pole pioneers that you admire?
I don’t follow the industry as closely as I used to since leaving USPDF in 2011. But I greatly appreciate any pole dancer that
takes the time to discover who they are as dancers and performers. I know from
personal experience that the process can be both fun and frustrating. As
artists, we go through this process of imitating, faking, failing, and ultimately
daring to push ourselves out of our comfort zones until all that’s left is the
What moves me most is witnessing a
performer’s artistic drive and purpose: what is their intention or story? And
what compels each movement choice? Dance is captivating when performed from
that raw space; regardless of difficulty level.
Do you own a studio? If not, where do you currently dance?
I don’t own a studio but
I teach at New York Pole Dancing at a regular basis, and spend time doing my
own personal practice around the corner from my house at Sacred Studio in
Brooklyn, which is also the current home of the Pulse Project.
us one thing about you that people might be surprised to hear about you.
I just got certified in Applied Positive
Psychology (CAPP) at the New York Open Center this month.
So the past week has been very fat-filled. People get so uncomfortable when you use the word "fat." Oooh, that's such a negative word. Or like you're fishing for a compliment (noo, YOU aren't fat! You're just big-boned!). (Side note: my bones aren't big...I have tiny ankles and wrists and I only wear a size 8-1/2 shoe...all while being six feet tall.) Well, fat doesn't mean anything different than when you call me large, curvy or voluptuous. And it's short. Three little letters. So it's easier to just say fat. I'm fat. Even when I was thinner, I was fat. I'm okay with being fat. (Not really, but those are my own mental issues I'm trying to deal with.)
Anyway, this week, Golda Poretsky's Ted Talk was posted on YouTube (Golda runs Body Love Wellness). The title is: Why It's Okay To Be Fat (you can view it HERE). Oh man, did that cause the trolls to come out. Look, I don't think fat talk causes trolls to come out. I think some people just have way too much time on their hands and I have watched so many different topics become fights because people looooove to sit behind the anonymity of their computers and spew hatred. It doesn't matter what the topic is. Happens in the BART Idiot Hall of Fame Group on Facebook twenty times a day. Anyway, I engaged a couple of trolls in defense of being fat. I think it's a waste of time. Mostly because they aren't going to change their minds. And I'm not going to change mine. But it was very sad. Sad to see how other humans treat each other. Anyone who says "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" is lying. But you have to put on a double re-enforced pair of big girl panties if you are going to put yourself in the public eye. Granted, if you do put yourself out there, you probably know the trolls will come out. And I have also been very lucky in my plus-sized adventures as I have not been directly attacked -- not anything like my online pals, Ragen of Dances with Fat or Lulu (the pole dancer from America's Got Talent) have dealt with. I really admire Golda for putting herself out there. I'm sure she knew a lot of shit was going to be flung her way and she was still brave enough to do it. I had to stop reading the comments on the YouTube video after awhile. I can recognize that these are just hateful people trying to get a reaction but it makes me want to drive to each of their houses and punch them in the face. I have enough stress in my life so I couldn't keep reading those comments.
Yesterday, I received an e-mail. It was one of those, wow this is an awesome opportunity type of e-mails. I, however, KNOW I need to get my work-outs in. (It happens every time, I say to myself, THIS WEEK I will go to the gym EVERY DAY...then I twist an ankle or get a cold.) I had gone to cycle class yesterday morning and was scheduled to do yoga at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco after work (Yoga on the Labyrinth...it's awesome). The e-mail was from Huffington Post. They were looking for plus-sized dancers to do a video interview that evening at 6:30 PM. Right in the middle of yoga. It was one of those things where I wasn't sure what to do. Yes, it would be cool. But sometimes I'm not super well-spoken in person, especially if I get riled up. I had hoped it would be a respectful piece (and figured I was safe since Ragen was going to be the main guest), but I worried. I worried that I wouldn't come off sounding knowledgeable enough. Or that I'm not steady enough in my beliefs that being fat is okay (sure, it's okay for everyone else but not for meeeeee). Anyway, long story short, yoga won out and I gave them the information for Roz the Diva. I adore Roz. She truly is a badass pole dancer and instructor. She's also very well-spoken. Super confident. And I knew she'd be a good choice. HERE is the interview (and you can read Ragen's comments on her blog HERE). Roz's part is somewhere around 11:30. Hey, in hindsight, I think I would have done fine in the interview. But I still think Roz was a great person for the job. I just wish they had spent a little more time chatting with her.
Anyway, I'm still coming to terms with being okay with my fatness. It is what it is. I am focusing on being healthy. Eating better and exercising more. I can't worry about the scale. I have enough anxiety in my life. Last night at yoga, Yolanda and I were taking pictures. A yoga site had started a contest called #mymatwashere. You were supposed to take photos of you doing yoga in cool places and then Tweet the pictures to them. We though yoga at Grace Cathedral was pretty cool. As I was scrolling through the pictures and whining about my fat rolls, I said, we should do #myfatwashere: taking photos of our fat selves doing cool stuff. So, I started using Instagram and Twitter (I'm lolorashel at both places) to promote #myfatwashere. If you have some pictures of you doing cool stuff around the world, please tweet (or Instagram) me and use that hashtag. I may be fat but I'm not dead. I love adventures and am excited to take my fat with me wherever I go (not that I have a choice).
So let's get this started. Here's the photo I hashtagged on both Instagram and Twitter. I did have some photos where my fat was smoothed out but that's not really how I look so I chose the photo where you can see my rolls. Where have you taken your fat?
Yoga on the Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco
It's no secret that I've been a mess lately. Fat. Unhappy. Poor. Angry. Sick. Injured. You name it, I've probably been it.
I feel like my life has been on a downward spiral for the past three or four years. I am sure there are a lot of factors at play but I feel like it started when my job (which was initially six miles from home) went virtual about five years ago. The first year was great. I got to work from home exclusively (although I somehow let myself get out of the habit of going to the gym every day, which was very bad). Then my boss unilaterally decided that I needed to drive to his house...25 miles away in really crappy Bay Area traffic. There was no easy way to get there via public transit so driving was my only option. By the way, I drive a Toyota Tundra, which gets 12-17 miles to the gallon on a good day. (I haven't had a raise in about 7 years, so adding that much gas to my expenses wasn't really all that awesome.) I did work a deal so that I could work from home two days a week, and I rocked that schedule (wearing yoga pants and flip flops) for about three years. It was, however, kind of a dead end job. The work was slow with the economy and I was very bored. But I did get to work from home two days a week and could wear jeans to work every day! On the days I was working from my boss' house, it also put me in a good spot to drive to Twirly Girls more often for classes.
Spiral downward (on the gym front).
Then, last September, my boss told me the news...I needed to look for another job. I was nervous, as I had worked with him for 9 years -- had left my previous firm with him to open his office and I had outlasted all of the partners he had taken on over those 7 years. But I was also ready for a change. I found a job somewhat quickly -- but in San Francisco. So now I not only needed to get up and put on big girl clothes and make-up every day, but I would have to take a train into "the City" (about 40 minutes each way barring any delays). Kiss what little gym time I was getting and my regular Twirly Girls classes good-bye. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is cheaper and often faster than driving but it sucks for many reasons (the first being, it seems to have delay issues four days a week;the second being, you're on a train with strangers who smell and hit you with their bags). The walking to BART and my office and back every day quickly (and sadly) took a toll on my body -- and the bone spur in my foot started wreaking havoc. I am now in daily pain. Three years ago, I was run/walking a 5k. Now I can't walk an entire mile without ruining my week.
More spiraling downward.
I have seriously been in a negative place for a very long time. I really don't know how to pull myself out of it. Anxiety. Depression. Fears. Worries. I sit at my desk at work every day with my chest tight -- hardly able to breathe -- and I worry some more. I sweat on BART while having a mini panic attack -- and I worry some more. I am taking sleeping pills to make myself sleep. Then taking Klonopin at work to make myself stay in my seat (I somehow lucked out with two bosses that have been described as difficult). I realize that all of the negativity is just pulling me down further.
I don't necessarily believe in The Secret -- I don't think that by envisioning a bike, it will magically appear -- but I can appreciate the thought that what you put out into the universe, you get back. I have watched that boomarang take me out over and over in the last few years. I am grumpy, which attracts more bad things, which just makes me more grumpy. I rant about it somewhere -- in the real world, on Facebook -- and feel better for a minute, but then the avalanche happens and I'm buried in more of my own shit. I don't really know if I believe in karma either. I've watched bad things happen to good people and good things happen to assholes. I don't know if "everything happens for a reason," or if shit just happens and sometimes you can see the lesson you might learn from it or maybe it just happened. I don't know.
But what I do know is that I need to pull myself out of this funk. Even if I am trying to practice Health At Every Size, I am not happy at this weight. I am not healthy (which I recognize is separate from my weight). While I am trying to improve my eating and exercise habits, I have resigned myself to the fact that I may not lose weight (while secretly hoping that I do lose at least a little). The last time I lost weight post-gastric bypass, it was a very long process (about a year and a half to lose 22 pounds) and I was exercising twice a day to make that happen. That doesn't seem healthy either. Now I have 50 pounds to lose. It is also hard with my bone spur to get a ton of "quality" exercise. In the span of only about a month, I have gone from having mild discomfort (probably a 3 out of 10 on the pain scale on a daily basis) to constant burning pain (more like a constant 7 out of 10, which sucks when you have to walk so much to get to and from work). Pain makes me want to be a grumpy asshole all of the time.
Anyway, the point of all this whining is that I'm actually trying to be a more positive person. Starting now. I want to eat better, exercise more and not let my own negativity bring me down. I have chosen to be where I am -- whether it's the place I live or the place I work. Those are *my* choices (granted, I've made some bad choices in life, but I have chosen to stay for my own reasons, and I need to recognize that...I am not being held hostage). Yes, I use food and shopping as my crutches, and since I have had less money to spend over the last few years, I have increasingly used food to soothe my anxieties. I am trying to find a less crazy therapist to help me work out those issues. I am not really setting any goals here in the numbers department. Eating better, working out and working on myself. Those are my daily goals. I can't really put numbers on them. But I just know I can't live in *this* place anymore.
I pass a ton of homeless people on my way to and from work. Dirty. Smelly. All of their worldly possessions in a shopping cart or a couple of duffel bags. I saw one man whose skin could only be described as tree bark. I certainly do not have a horrible life and it's about time I start realizing that and stop allowing myself to be dragged down into the muck. I used to be such a fairly happy person. I know she's still in there...she just needs a little coaxing to bring her back out.
If you have any items you'd like to donate to the raffle, please contact me directly at tazzie at yahoo dot com!
Come see pole performers from local Bay Area studios such as Twirly Girls, Club Etak, Poletential and Studio Botan.
If you are wondering who might be dancing this evening, here's who we have signed up so far! From Twirly Girls: Of course, the amazing Jimmy Gale! Seanmichael Rau! Robert Carstensen! Patrick Loranger! Grace Garcia! Diana Kottke and Kimberlee Larson! Alyssa Tran! We will also have the amazing Kate Cotruvo from Club Etak, Sasha from Etak/Poletential, and V-Girl from Studio Botan/Poletential. And I am hoping the super awesome Jill Anne might be able to join us as well!
The charge to get in is only $5 and tipping the pole dancers WILL be allowed (respectfully, of course). The dancers will be donating a portion of their tips to the fundraiser as well.
Also, BEFORE this event, the charity drag show will be held at Club 1220 on Sunday, June 23. And if you can't make either event, but would like to donate, please click HERE.
Warning...lots of ranting and side ranting ahead...
Lately, I have been going to aqua Zumba on Saturday mornings. Although I don't really feel like I get my heart rate up high like in a real Zumba class, it is low impact, which is what I need for the bone spur in my heel. A couple of Saturdays ago, there was a sub...a kind of chunky lady...and she did not teach aqua Zumba. She did a little bit more of a hardcore aqua aerobics class (I actually really enjoyed it). However, what I did not enjoy was her constant advice on how to get into shape. You must do this to be skinny. You must do that. Eat this. Exercise that way. STFU!!!!! (I did love the fact that after telling us how much we needed to be exercising, she admitted that after A YEAR, her regular class was finally seeing results.) Anyway, it resulted in a rant on my Facebook page about how I don't want diet advice from anyone (fat or skinny). It also caused everyone and their mother to come offer their advice. (Side rant: 24 Hour Fitness appears to employ the douchiest of instructors with all the bad information...my cycle teacher is constantly screaming about calories in/calories out...it's not an exact science, people, you should know that.)
It is so presumptuous to assume that all fat people are looking for advice on how to lose weight. Hey guess what, friends, I don't need and/or want your advice. Not about how I should exercise. Not about what I should eat. Every time I'm stupid enough to let someone else tell me what to do in that department, I end up fatter and more unhappy. If I don't come to you directly and ask questions or advice, you can pretty much assume that I'm not interested in what you have to say. What works for you may not work for me. And if you've never had a weight problem in your life (even if you've watched your mom struggle with her weight for years), you haven't been in my shoes and you don't know what I'm going through.
One person on my Facebook rant did bring up a good point...if I *were* interested in diet advice, an overweight person is going to be the expert. Then I'm an expert. We all know, right? We've done it all. Weight Watchers. Slim Fast liquid diets. All the drugs. Supplements. I've even done the surgery. And I'm still fat. If you want to know about diets, I already know all the information. However, I am starting to get frustrated with all of the bullshit memes on Facebook that insinuate that just because I don't have six pack abs, I'm lazy. I'm far from lazy. And I am certainly not interested in hearing advice from someone who has never had a weight problem (no, gaining and losing ten pounds doesn't constitute a weight problem). Guess what...if I ate only rice and chicken (I can't eat rice, by the way, but most people wouldn't know that because they are so fucking up on their high horse that they don't understand that not all people have the same nutritional needs), and did sit-ups all day, I still wouldn't have six pack abs.
One of my good friends put up a meme on Facebook that said an hour of exercise is only 4% of your day. It made me mad. Sure, 4% of your 24 hour day. Well, I have to sleep 8 of those hours, so 1/3 of the day is already gone. I also have to work, which takes up another 1/3 (more, really with commuting). Really, at the end of the day, after doing all the stuff I'm require to do to live, I get about three hours of "expendable" time each work day. In that time I have to eat (yes, fat people still have to eat to sustain life...we cannot survive off of our fat reserves), prepare for the next day, teach my class at Twirly Girls, go to therapy, workout, relax, etc. One of her Facebook friends came on to say I should sleep less to get my workout in. WTF?! Really?! Who has the ability to sleep less? Sure you might get away with it a night or two. Maybe even for a week. But at some point, you will be paying that debt back. So I suggest you not get into the habit (I am an 8-1/2 hours per night girl...it is what it is...fat or skinny, my body needs 8-1/2 hours of sleep to feel fully rested and functional). And there are plenty of studies that say not sleeping makes you fat too, so I guess I can't win. So no, a one hour workout isn't 4% of my day. It's 33-1/3% of the spare time I have after I do the things I HAVE to do. Don't get me wrong...I fully believe that I need to workout (currently, I am doing cycle, pole dancing, yoga and aqua Zumba...but yeah, I'm a fat, lazy fuck). But I don't need to be guilted that I've blown off my workout one day because I have all the time in the world to do it. I don't. Two things I don't get to blow off are work and sleep. Sorry. That's not me being lazy. That's reality.
I know why I'm fat. It's a combination of many factors. Some within my control and some less so. Some physical factors. Many mental. I battle addiction and eating disorders. So a "simple" three step plan to a perfect body won't work for me. In fact, trying to follow that plan will potentially only make me gain weight. I don't think I'll be able to get my weight fully under control until I find a therapist who truly understands my issues. I'm working on that.
I realize I am ranting again. But I just wish people would understand that we aren't all created "equal." But unequal doesn't mean one body is better than another. What works for you doesn't work for me. I can share what works for me and you can take what you want from it (this is something I really didn't learn until having gastric bypass surgery...each person is on their own journey). So next time you feel like offering unsolicited advice, keep in mind that the other person might not be interested and you may trigger an off-the-deep-end rant like this one on their social media profile. And if you really can't stop your own egotistical ass from sharing your story, at least preface it with..."I know everyone is different but here's what works for me..."
You don't realize how much stress affects your body until you're in the middle of it and you realize how unhealthy you're becoming.
If you are my Facebook friend, it's no secret that my new job stresses me out. I have spent the last seven months telling myself that I must not be re-integrating into an office well or I'm more sensitive or I'm just being stupid -- that no matter what, *I* must be doing something wrong to feel the way I do about this job. But every single person that has sat at this exact desk has hated this job. The last poor woman committed suicide (not saying the job is the only thing to blame, but I'm sure it didn't help her mental illness). Perhaps it's not me and there IS something wrong with this job. I have more and more things to do. And less and less time to do it in. I feel like I get exactly 10 minutes of time to myself every day. It's taking its toll on me.
So what does that mean for my well-being? I am exhausted but can't sleep. I'm taking sleeping pills but still waking up with crazy dreams many times during the night. I don't feel like working out. I don't feel like eating well. Not that I need any excuses for either of those...I kinda don't like to eat well or exercise anyway but now I have a REASON. Not really.
On top of that, I am still dealing with this bone spur in my heel. And it has gone from small aggravation to major pain in the...foot. This morning, I was measured for orthotics. My insurance covers the inserts but I get the pleasure of spening $300 to $400 on the TWO PAIR of ugly shoes they will go into. Pain has a funny way of making you less able to deal with stress.
So, I'm still here. Fat. Grumpy. Tired. But I'm still truckin'. :-D How is your life going?
This month, for our blog hop, we are answering some questions! Now, there are a lot of questions, so I will probably skip a few. Ain't nobody got time to read that much about me! :-D
How long have you been pole dancing? Three and a half years (since December 2009).
What’s your favorite song to pole dance to? Strangely, no favorites right now. I do like the Radioactive song that is popular right now.
What’s your favorite pole dance move? I have been working on plank/layouts.
What pole move is your nemesis? Pretty much anything that requires inverting or climbing.
If you have to classify your dance style, what would it be? I don't really know anymore. I used to like to be a little dirty and dance to loud rock songs. Lately, since my strength hasn't been improving, I've been working on my flow and have been dancing to softer songs than I'm used to.
What inspires your movement? Why do you dance? My class. Boys, Girls and Twirls is really what keeps me going. I have been very frustrated with myself personally and professionally. But knowing I have to show up every week for them makes me happy.
How often do you train, dance or attend class per week? I teach once a week and take Sean Michael's Saturday class at Twirly Girls.
Do you train on both sides when you pole? Why or why not? I do not. Bel's theory is that you don't bat left-handed if you're right handed, so training yourself on your weak side can put you at a higher risk for injury. I have heard many people argue the opposite, especially as you advance, that you better have trained both sides so that if you're 20 feet in the air and get into trouble, you have the strength on either side to get down safely. I guess I see both sides, but still am not advanced enough for it to matter.
If you’re not a full time poler, how do you balance work and pole? Friends and pole? Life and Pole? I am not balancing that so well lately. I am ready for a big life change soon, I think.
Why did you start a pole dance blog? I met my friend, Heather, through her blog, and I also started reading Jennifer's Pole Skivvies blog. Then I decided that I missed writing and needed an outlet, so blogging about my adventures seemed like a great idea. Who knew it would lead me to all the amazing people I have met!? I know some people question why I do what I do. I'm not the best poler, nor the best writer. I have a day job, so pole isn't my entire life. But it's fun. No, I don't necessarily think I will change the pole world. I don't think I'm so super awesome at pole that people should want to watch me. I just want people to see that regular people can also pole. That's why I like to say that pole dance is for everyBODY. Sure not everyone can do ALL of the tricks, but there is room for everyone to express the art in their own way.
What does your pole dance blog mainly focus on? My blog is actually not just about pole. I talk about everything. I talk about gastric bypass and weight loss (or gain) and health. Lately, I've had some health issues, so I've talked about bone spurs and heart problems. I even talk about depression and anxiety. I feel like so many people go through life feeling alone, like they are the only ones going through something so I guess my hope is that I reach someone and make them feel like there are people who understand them.
If you have ever performed, how do you usually prepare your performance? Performing makes me sick to my stomach but I do it because, I don't know...I feel like it's expected of me. I always have fun once I'm done and feel like I have accomplished something.
Also, since its May… does your Mother [or any maternal person in your life] know that you pole dance and what does she think? Ha! She's guardedly supportive. My Mormon mother actually came to a class once and she was ok with it, until Bel encouraged me to perform a piece I was preparing for a showcase, and the song was Darling Nikki. There went that support.
Finish this sentence. Pole dancing is….about friendships. I have met so many amazing people and I really love them all!
Boys, Girls and Twirls at the Lovely Rita Fundraiser at Twirly Girls in April 2013