My name is Karen Talboys. I had gastric by-pass surgery at Lowell General Hospital in Lowell, MA on November 24, 2008. When I registered for surgery, I weighed in at 343 pounds.

As you can imagine, at 343 pounds, walking was a chore. I couldn't even walk from my car to my desk at work every morning without stopping to find a place to sit down to rest my back. I couldn't walk through an airport without resting at every gate I passed. Life was very difficult physically and my activity level was decreasing daily.

As I started to lose weight after the surgery, I looked around for some activity that I would like. I'd never been much for exercise, even as a kid, so what could I possibly find that I would like now?! The thought of joining a gym was just overwhelming. The Center for Weight Loss Surgery at Lowell General presented Nia after a regular support meeting – just a short, get-to-know-Nia experience taught by Nia Teacher and Trainer Maria Skinner. By then I'd lost about 75 pounds and was desparate to find something I might like, so I stayed to try the class.

  

Karen in 2009                             Karen in December of 2011

I was immediately struck by the gentleness of the movement and the fun of it! I've always loved music and dancing has always had an appeal for me, but I was always clumsy and graceless. I was never comfortable on the dance floor, at any age or size. I don't remember dance patterns well, and I just felt like an elephant in my own skin. But I started to attend the regular weekly classes with Maria and it became very clear, very fast, that Nia was going to be a bit different. It took me months before I could honestly say I stopped feeling so clumsy, and it was a long time before I would allow myself to dance in front of a mirror. But I fully credit Nia with teaching me how to be comfortable in my own skin again.

Moving to the dance patterns helped me gain confidence as my body changed. After a couple of months, I realized that my muscle tone and strength were improving, and I was far less self-critical about how I looked and felt. I learned to be kind to myself and listen to my body. As my weight dwindled and my strength and endurance improved, I found myself adding energy to the dance and increasing the aerobic level of the workout. When I broke my big toe, I danced in a chair, improving my upper body strength and flexibility. Now when I travel for work, I all but fly through airports – and I look for local Nia classes at all my destinations so I can see what other instructors bring to the practice.

Nia is really the only form of exercise I've ever experienced that meets so many of my needs. It has brought me together with other amazing women. It has introduced me to new music and new ways of moving. It has taught me how to love and respect my body – to understand my limitations and still be willing to stretch and challenge myself. For me, Nia has been a life lesson. The principles I've learned are easily incorported into my daily life, and I've learned that just moving through life has it's own joy, whether it's a graceful day or a clumsy one.

Today, I weigh 163 pounds and Nia is still my favorite form of exercise. I suspect it always will be.