How I Didn’t Lose Weight Hooping

Here’s what I looked like before I started hooping:

And here’s what I look like now:


I’ve lost a little bit of weight in the two years and eight months I’ve been hooping. People often ask me if hooping is a good way to lose weight. Sometimes I tell them yes, that I lost 40 pounds since I started hooping. They always look at me in awe, and I always feel a bit guilty when I tell them this. It’s not un-true, I DID lose 40 pounds after I started hooping. Yes, hooping is good exercise, and yes, I’m sure you probably could lose weight from it. But hooping is not a magic bullet, and I did not lose the bulk of my 40 pounds by hooping.

That’s not to say hooping didn’t play a role in my weight loss. It did. It played a HUGE role, because hooping was the catalyst that made me want to actively lose weight and keep it off.

Weight loss was never one of my reasons for picking up the hoop. To be honest, I didn’t even think of it until people saw me doing it and said, “That must be a great way to lose weight!” The reason I originally picked up the hoop in the first place is I saw a video of SaFire doing it, and I thought, “Holy crap. That looks FUN.”

And hooping IS fun. I found that out very quickly. I practiced tirelessly, at least an hour a day for the first few months. I became addicted, practicing with the goal of one day being able to move as if I wasn’t even trying, like the hoopers I’d seen on YouTube. I got into filming and posting videos of my hooping, because I wanted to have something to gauge my progress by. Exactly five months in, I shot and posted this video:

It was a very scary video for me to post, because all I could see was my belly hanging out over my stupid plaid pajama pants. When I originally posted it, I called it something like “Fat Belly Hooping” and added a bunch of annotations basically apologizing for my belly. Here’s something I did not forsee: The army of fat belly fetishists that crawled out of the woodwork to subscribe to me. I liked to click on the channels of my new subscribers to see what kinds of videos they posted or watched. Imagine my disgust when this new slew of subscribers watched videos of, I kid you not, extremely obese women prodding their belly fat for five minutes at a time.

Didn’t do much for my self esteem, granted. But it did make me want to take action. I didn’t want people to subscribe to my channel to watch my belly jiggle. I wanted them to subscribe to watch me hoop! And I wanted to feel PROUD in that hoop. I wanted to feel GOOD about videos I posted, without worrying that some perv was checking out my goods. And not even the right goods, for crying out loud. So I re-named the video (took “belly” out of it completely), adjusted the annotations to be more self-loving, and set out on my goal to slim down.

So how did I lose the weight?

1. I counted calories.

I was spending the night at a friend’s house, and as we lay down to go to sleep, I noticed an interesting looking book lying on the table. It was called The Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude, and the whole thing was one giant graphic novel. I loved the style immediately. I’m not a big comic book fan, but for some reason, I love non-fiction comics. One of the best books I’ve ever read has got to be Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, but I digress.

The book is part memoir, part how-to, about this woman’s struggle with weight loss and how she finally got it under control by counting calories. I read the entire thing that night (and didn’t get much sleep), and as soon as I got home, I ordered a copy for myself.

Later that week, I figured out my “calorie budget” and started counting. I counted calories diligently for at least three months. I was inspired to keep going by one particular message from the book. I’m paraphrasing, but the gist of it was, “If you stick to your calorie budget, you WILL lose at least one pound a week.” And I did.

2. I ran.

Let me tell you, I never intended to take up running when I started actively working on losing weight. But I attribute my running for the bulk of my weight loss. My friend (a different one) had decided to start the Couch to 5K program as a way to get active. In a nutshell, the program takes you from no running experience at all to running a 5K without stopping by using interval training. When she first told me about it, I was like, “Okay, you have fun with that, I think I’m good on the couch.” I mean, I HATED running. I’d always hated running, ever since they made us do it in elementary school.

But I like challenges, and I like incremental programs, so I checked out the site. And I decided, what the hell, I’ll do it with her. At least I won’t be doing it alone. Also, I couldn’t ignore this particular statement from the site: “Each session should take about 20 or 30 minutes, three times a week. That just happens to be the same amount of moderate exercise recommended by numerous studies for optimum fitness. This program will get you fit.”

It did. In combination with the counting calories, adding in the interval training running really kicked up my weight loss, and, more than that, my positivity about my body.

And I did end up running in a 5K without stopping!

3. I worked out.

In addition to the running, I stumbled upon Zuzanna of Bodyrock.tv completely by accident. I was looking up yoga videos, and I found one of her trying out Locust pose, which wasn’t terribly easy for her. Then I went to check out the rest of her channel, and I was in love. For several reasons, the first being her badass accent.

I also liked the variety of her workouts, how short and manageable they were, and how she showed how to do every exercise.

I’m not gonna lie, I’m not much of a calisthenics person, and I wasn’t terribly diligent with these workouts. But I don’t doubt that they helped me lose weight and gain strength. I did maybe one or two a week for a while.

4. I distanced myself from unhealthy friends.

At the time I started hooping, I was very tight with a household of people. I spent almost all of my free time hanging out with them. They started hooping with me at the beginning, but quickly lost interest. They were smokers, and I wasn’t. They ate terribly, lots of fast food and Starbucks, and I didn’t. Every time I tried to do something healthy and good for myself, I received some sort of smart ass remark. For example, when I told them I was going to take up running, the immediate response I got was, “You know, they’ve done research and found that runners tend to die sooner than people who don’t run.” And when I said I was going to start watching what I eat, I simply got, “Why?”

Separating myself from these people was one of the hardest, but most beneficial things I’ve ever done for myself. I firmly believe that removing their influence from my life is what has allowed me to keep the weight off. Before I left, I was constantly in their swirl of negativity, about how bad the world was and how misunderstood they were (and by association, I was, too), how the slightest setback was a huge catastrophe worth harping on for ages.

The turning point really came when I got back from my first major hoop event, Hoop Path Retreat 3 in North Carolina. (I talk about this event a lot because it really did change my life.) At the retreat, I met all of these people with a passion for hooping, but more than that, a passion for life. They all seemed so happy, so positive, so connected with themselves and everything around them. I hooped more intensely than I ever had before. I spun FIRE for the first time, for crying out loud! Fire! I came home on a cloud of incredible vibes and all I wanted to do was share those vibes with my friends.

When I got home, however, I did not get two words out about my experience before I started hearing about all of the terrible things that had happened around the house while I’d been away. As I got filled in on all the perceived problems in their lives, I realized that was no longer the energy I wanted to be around.

How I finally left could take up a whole separate post of its own. The point is, it had a huge effect on my ability to maintain my weight loss.

~ * ~

So you see, it wasn’t so much hooping itself that caused me to lose weight. It was a series of conscious, diligent efforts that got me to actually drop the pounds. These days when I hoop, it looks more like this:

No more pesky belly, no more pervy belly-watchers. I’ve since deleted most of them from my subscribers anyway. I am still, however, rocking the plaid pjs. 🙂

I don’t doubt at all that hooping strengthened my core muscle and toned up my abs, and I KNOW it’s done incredible (and unexpected!) things for my arms and shoulders, but I don’t think that I would have lost as much weight if I hadn’t done the things listed above.

Oh yeah, there’s one more thing I actively did in all of this:

5. I chose to accept my body as-is.

I found out after dropping three sizes that no matter how much weight you lose, you’ll never quite hit that “sweet spot” where you feel thin. I always thought that if I could get into a size 10, all of my issues about weight would go away. Not so. If you’ve spent your entire life overweight, the tendency is to feel overweight regardless of how much weight you’ve actually dropped.

You can either obsess over it like mad, or you can start learning to accept yourself now. Which is what I finally did. I looked for things that I loved about myself. I told myself I was beautiful. I wore clothes that made me feel proud of my body, rather than clothes that I could just barely squeeze into.

Loving yourself is the best thing you can do for yourself, because the truth is a lot of weight loss is emotional. If you feel like you don’t deserve to have the body you want, you never will. If you feel like you already have the body you want, then it’s easy.

I’m still working towards my “ideal” body, but I am proud of the body I have today, and I feel great hooping in it. And I’m glad that my experiences with the hoop got me started!

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28 thoughts on “How I Didn’t Lose Weight Hooping

  1. Can I just say you are gorgeous? ‘Cause holy cats, I was envious of your moves in that second video. You do look really comfortable in your body, and like your body is a comfortable place to be.

    I’ve got my own practices I pursue in the name of health, and I’m do okay as far as being fit goes, but you’re really owning it. I applaud you.

  2. Pingback: Turn on, let go and flow | gathering momentum | jessicamullen.com

  3. What a great post – you are so right! I feel inspired to pick up my hoops again and excited about looking after my body and really loving myself, now.

    Everything you say about weight loss is dead on. For me, the exercise has to be fun – like dancing, rollerskating or hooping. Otherwise it feels like punishment.

    You’ve given me the kick up the bum I needed today! Thankyou!
    xo

  4. Amazing post! I love your hoops. Do you make them yourself? I’m still working on getting chest hooping and tricks down. Did you do SaFire’s video courses?

    Very happy for your progress and that you are in a happier spot

    • Yes, I make my own hoops, and I sell them online and in my classes. 🙂 I did do SaFire’s video courses, they were a HUGE help to me in the beginning. I actually started by watching all of her free tutorials (this was before she had the online courses) and trying to get the tricks down. Since then I’ve taken instruction from Baxter & Ann of HoopPath, and Rich & Spiral of HoopTech. These people in addition to SaFire have had the biggest influence on my hooping, but I’m inspired by everyone I watch.

      Thank you for your comment!

  5. Loved this post! I also have lost 40 pounds since January. But you have hit the nail in the head. There is no magic bullet. It’s about self love and a zest for life. I am a hoop instructor & I am constantly being asked about my weight loss and hooping. Teaching 5 hoop classes & 3 Nia classes a week has played a major roll in my weight loss… but more than that I did weight watchers online & stuck with the program. I am at my goal weight and so happy to be here. You posted my feelings exactly. Bravo to you and your accomplishment!

    • As a teacher myself, I understand completely. Sometimes it’s hard not to tell people what they want to hear if it will get them in the class, but every time I start, I have to catch myself and say, “Here’s the truth.” Usually, people really appreciate my honesty and are still interested in learning the dance.

      By the way, I am super impressed by your roster of classes!

  6. Thanks for sharing Jess!! I loved watching you dance last year at Hoop Path!! We met, but just briefly. Hope to see you again this year!!!
    Peace,
    Gypsy

  7. Thank you for this post. After watching a thread about plus size hoopers, some people said,”hooping will help you lose weight and then it won’t be a problem.” No,that’s not true. Not if you are really obese! I’ve been hooping for months and not dropped a pound. It really goes to show you how much eating does play a role in weight loss.

    Right now hooping helps me maintain my weight. I’m happy with that as is. I’ll use hooping when I feel like losing the rest of my weight but not till then. I am too stressed to focus on that. My life is too crazy

    I agree with point 5 because I accepted my 300 pound self first before I even thought about weight loss. When I moved, I changed my entire routine and lost about 80. I loved myself and I was proud of my body.

    • Congratulations!! It’s so true, so many people say they’ll be happy when they lose weight, but if you have that mindset you will never lose “enough” weight. Even on the Biggest Loser, they tell their contestants to start loving and accepting themselves the way they are right off the bat.

      • I know. I made my own plus size hoopers blog post the other day and I even mentioned that heavier people sometimes use their weight as a handicap (hooping or not). I know I do that when I can’t get a move. I try to wipe all negative thought from my hooping practice. It’s not my weight that is the bad thing, it’s my body that doesn’t know what it’s doing…yet.

  8. Exactly. I’ve got lots of people in my classes who say, “Oh, I don’t have your hips so this isn’t as easy for me.” On a move that doesn’t even require any hip work at all! And I’m like, dude, have you seen SaFire? Or they’ll say their boobs are too big (an excuse I don’t allow because I’m well endowed myself) or too small (an excuse I don’t allow because how could some people’s boobs be too small while others claim theirs are too big?). It’s just that your body hasn’t got the muscle memory yet, and you CAN get it with practice.

    Mega kudos for adding that “yet” at the end there. 🙂

    • I’ve done more things that I wouldn’t have done when I was at 220 let alone 250ish thanks to hooping. Hooping has given me confidence.

      My boobs are big and I used that at first when I was trying to shimmy the hoop up my body but it didn’t even look pretty. It feels much better now that I know what the hoop shimmy up my body feels like.

      I’m learning things that I have to change in moves because of my body. I have to figure out what is best hooping wise with my body because it’s different. It’s a challenge at times but I’m up for it!

  9. Such a good article, hooping is good exercise and it may even help you tone up, but ultimately diet and HARD interval exercise will only be effective.

  10. Great piece Jess. I can relate on almost every level. Except I haven’t managed the learning to like what I am bit. When I first came to the hoop it inspired me to want to look better in it. So I embarked on a period where I followed the process of eating only when I was hungry and only enough to stop being hungry. A sort of calorie counting in a different way and it worked. 2 Stone fell off and I felt great.

    After a year I let the gremlins back into my head, started working way too hard and for too long at a time and regained 1 of those stones and now I’m still struggling. But one day, perhaps today, I’m getting back onto that wagon and I’m going to go back to that place I was so proud of.

    • Sue, I totally thought I approved this comment when you posted it but apparently I didn’t! For shame. Anyway, yeah, the gremlins are sneaky bastards. And learning to like who you are takes time and is a process that I don’t think one is ever 100% done with, but moving in the right direction is the best thing we can do for ourselves. Thanks for sharing. ❤

  11. gah! i had a comment all typed up and then i had an issue with posting that made it vanish. let me try and remember everything i said…

    i found your site when i googled “hooping to lose weight”, and everything you said is so true. I sit here at work listening to everyone around me talk about this and that fad diet they are on this week. and the only people i ever see really lose any weight are the ones that exercise regularly and keep an eye on the things they eat. I gained a ton of weight with my first child, and after she was a year old i realized that the last 20 lbs or so wasn’t magically going to vanish. i counted calories and exercised and lost 30 lbs. when people asked how i did it they acted like they couldn’t do that. yet they can restrict themselves to a vegan diet for a week as long as they know they can eat garbage the week after that? i don’t understand.

    since then i have had another child and gained back 20 of the 30 i had lost. i started hooping recently as a different way to get exercise without buying expensive exercise equipment or going to the gym. I have literally no time to go to the gym the way i used to. your post is really inspiring, expecially the two videos. it’s amazing to see your improvement, and a great reminder that it will take time to look at home in the hoop. right now i kind of feel like i look like i’m having a seizure while a hoop is magically spinning around me.

    • Hahaha, yeah, I totally understand the seizure feeling. 🙂 You’ll get there. It helps to realize that while it may feel to you like you are twitching awkwardly, to the people around you who have never seen anyone hoop dance, it looks awesome! Hooping always looks more graceful than it feels. That’s actually one thing that totally blew my mind until I embraced into my practice. People kept coming up to me telling me how GRACEFUL I looked, and I had to bite my tongue not to laugh.

      But yes, losing weight is definitely not a magic bullet thing, but if hooping gets you moving and inspires you, then that is nothing to sneeze at! Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  12. Girl! Damn!!! U are amazing! I loved your second video. I need to tell you that i am a hooper (not a very good one still) and a dancer that has always had issues with weight. Specially as u say, my belly. I love what u have posted, and all the things that happened to you. And specially u said something very true, no matter how many weight you loose, youll always feel overweight once you have been there. Thanks you so much. U dont know the change that reading this has made in me. CONGRATS!!!

  13. I’ve actually just started hooping after a friend introduced me to it. I was wondering how you found the initial pain and/or bruising? I’m using a weighted hula hoop, so I expected a degree of bruising but OUCH!

    For me, weight loss would be a benefit, but most of all I just wanna be able to do cool tricks with it. How did you start out? I struggle to keep it up for longer than three minutes! I’m not looking like the sex goddess I planned to look like when I bought my hula hoop. I look more like a bow legged old man on ice.

    • Aw, don’t worry, everyone looks way clumsier than they expect to when they start. 🙂 But chances are you’ll look more graceful to others in a little while than you’ll feel!

      The pain and bruising goes away after a while, but it’s definitely normal! If you’re finding it really bad, take a day off in between sessions until it starts to calm down. How heavy is your hoop? If it’s one of those metal lumpy monsters, GET A LIGHTER ONE (I recommend about 1.5 lbs for beginners). If it’s a standard plastic beginner weighted hoop, just keep going and take a day off if it’s bad (super hot Epsom salt baths are your friend!)

      When I first started I was obsessed with learning as much as possible and I ate up tutorials, I practiced for about an hour a day in every spare moment pretty much. Watching tutorials helps so you have something to shoot for. Three minutes is a great start, you’re already ahead of a good number of the people I teach who struggle to get three rotations! Just keep going, focus on the stuff that feels good and stay there for a while, then try for something that excites you. And let me know how your journey is going!

  14. So I found your videos last night …. Watched them, decided I liked you, thought you were nifty… Read this post and absolutely fell in love with you…. I’m a run before walking kinda girl …. In this case it’s make ALL the hula hoops and then try your hardest to hoop ….. I’ve been trying to teach myself how to hula hoop since I was young and small I’m old and big now….progress is slow…extremely 😉 … I can barely keep the hoop up …. But I’m no quitter so try, try and try again …. But gotta say after watching your progression… you inspire me … I hope one day I’m as good as your starting point 😉 thanks for sharing your journey its super duper appreciated!

    • Thank you so much for the comment. 🙂 I’m sort of embarrassed by this post since I’ve gained everything back, but I’m working on getting in the emotional head space I need to be in to get back to a comfortable weight again.

  15. Girl don’t be embarrassed …. You’re beautiful both big and small … And I, like you, picked up this hoop not for some new miracle waist reduction plan…. Nope …. I just want to look graceful and do all that snazzy dancing with a hoop…. Lol, my goals are high …. Finally got the hoop to stay up for a solid 60 seconds this morning…. On my legs not my waist tho but whatever it’s an accomplishment. made my first colappsable hoop today too …. It’s a good day for sure…. Btw; Im inspired by your hooping dedication and journey…. Not by the size of you 😉 ❤

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