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It’s amazing how much life can change in a short period. When I think back to who I was this time last year, I barely recognize myself.

In 2014, I was well into the first year of running my own company, offering accounting services to small businesses. Somewhere along the way, though, I realized that my work-at-home arrangement was keeping me holed up in the house for days on end.

Each morning I woke up, walked 20 steps to my office, sat in front of the computer all day, and then moved to the couch to spend the evening in front of the TV. I had become a recluse. And the longer my life continued at that pace, the easier it was for me to withdraw from the outside world.

My body reflected my sedentary lifestyle, and as my 20-year high school reunion drew near, I made a decision: I had to do something — anything! — to alter my life.

Then one day as I was checking my email, I came across an offer for a gym membership from my health-insurance company.

The Life Time club was close to my home, it offered so many activities, and I could join without having to talk to anyone. I was in.

I nervously set up an introductory appointment with a fitness adviser, who analyzed my body composition and then interviewed me as part of an overall health assessment. That’s when I realized how ashamed I was of the person I had become.

Somewhere in that 34.9-percent-body-fat hermit, the person I used to be was lost. That harsh wake-up call reinforced my determination to make a change.

In Search of a Better Fit

Over the years, I had tried pretty much every fitness trend, including kicking along to Cindy Crawford’s videos in high school; Tae Bo-ing with Billy Blanks in college; and doing Bikram yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, and barre workouts in my adult years.

I’m really good at starting things, but hadn’t been good at sticking with them. I’d read about a new fitness trend, jump into the routine, and lose interest after a few weeks. Then I’d find the next thing, and start the cycle again.

This time, though, I had a plan of attack: I purchased a Fitbit and used it as a reminder to step away from the computer. I signed up for a group fitness training program, and hit the treadmill and weights. But after a couple of weeks, I got bored.

So one day, I decided to check out a Latin Fusion group fitness class. Even though I’m thoroughly uncoordinated, I love music and dance. After one session, I was hooked. I then tried Dance Jam, and loved that, too. It didn’t feel like a workout; it was a party. For that hour, I didn’t think about anything but the music and steps.

No matter how many times I messed up the moves, rhythm, or timing, I kept coming back to these classes. Some days I would be on, some days . . . not so much. But it didn’t matter. Every workout was different, and I never wanted to miss one.

I found myself planning my days around classes. My Dance Jam time became my sacred space. I noticed gradual improvements, but instead of focusing on burning calories, I escaped into dance for an hour. There was something so freeing about it.

Goodbye to Shy

Despite attending classes for several months, I still kept to myself. I showed up when class started, then dashed out when it ended. I did everything I could to avoid connecting with others. My self-confidence was at an all-time low.

Then one day, after months of passively observing the group’s Facebook page, I got the nerve to post a question for my favorite instructor, Andi Loo, about one of her challenging routines. I was soon flooded with feedback and positive guidance from fellow classmates. Even better, Andi messaged me immediately: She knew who I was and made me feel part of something.

With Andi’s encouragement, my shell started to open and I began to get to know the people around me. It’s amazing what life can offer when you let down your guard! The community of sisterhood within the class is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, and I’m inspired by every woman I dance next to.

Not only have I found my way back to health and wellness, I’ve also discovered the benefits of friendship and support.

Out of the Shadows

No transformation story seems complete without the statistics of how much weight and how many inches were lost. But truth be told, I never measured either of those things.

A year later, I can say my old clothes no longer fit. One day while I was shopping, the saleswoman insisted I had the wrong size, and to appease her I tried on the jeans she handed me. To my surprise, they fit — and they were four sizes smaller than what I used to wear!

In reality, though, size is just a number. My big transformation happened within.

When you feel better about yourself, the rest comes naturally. I now want to eat healthier. I am open to meeting new people. I leave my house daily, and I’m learning to push boundaries to explore all that life can bring.

Somehow in those box steps and kick-ball changes, I stopped caring about how I compared with others and started celebrating my own growth. I went from self-loathing — picking apart everything I saw in the mirror — to self-acceptance and love. I found a sexy side of me that I didn’t know existed. And I learned that anything is possible.

I am embracing life, moving from a place of hiding in the shadows to one of dancing in the light. With one fitness class, I found the confidence, strength, and vitality that I’d somehow lost over the last several years.

Sure, with exercise and healthier eating habits, pounds melted away. My body became leaner. My lifelong Buddha belly turned flat.

More importantly, though, I’ve learned to live life boldly. And as far as I can see, life’s possibilities are endless. I just had to find the dancer within.

Success Summary


Meet: Lisa Brannan-Blair, 39, a self-employed accountant and entrepreneur living in Austin, Texas.

  • Big Achievements: Dropping four pant sizes,  “finding confidence hidden within me, and breaking through my barriers of shyness.”
  • Big Inspirations: Her Dance Jam instructor and the other dancers in the class: “There is a strong sense of community and support within this class. I think my story is everyone’s story: We’re all working to make ourselves a little better.”
  • What Worked: Discovering her fitness fit: “It’s so important to just find what’s right for you. If you dread doing it, then try something else. There are so many fitness options out there — find the one that makes your soul sing.”

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