Elena Kibasova Before-After

Celebrating a Non-Scale Victory-Zumba Instructor!

May 29, 2015

Celebrating a Non-Scale Victory with Kiba0003

As a Lap-Band post-op in 2008, and a revision to a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG) in 2013, ObesityHelp member kiba0003 (aka Elena) began taking a Zumba class at her local gym. She had no idea that taking a Zumba class would become an amazing Non-Scale Victory (NSV), new career and a passion.

"In 2013, I started taking a Zumba class at my gym. I stood in the back corner of a class of 60+ and mumbled obscenities under my breath as I tried to negotiate the dance moves. Slowly over time I moved closer and closer to the instructor and eventually became a familiar face in the front row. I went to class twice a week without fail. Even when I moved 30 miles away from my gym, I kept driving there twice a week just for that specific class. Some might think I’m crazy, but I’m willing to drive 40 minutes in rush hour for the sake of my commitment to my health.

I came to love dance fitness so much that I decided to become a Zumba instructor (even though the fat-girl voice in my head constantly said, “You can’t inspire others as an instructor – you are not fit.”). Sometimes it pays to tell your fat-girl voice to put a cork in it.

In 2014, I became licensed as a Zumba instructor. Within a month, I got several teaching jobs. During each class, I get an opportunity to get others excited about fitness. Contrary to what my fat-girl voice says, the state of my body actually makes me more relatable. I’ve been told that some people find a lot of comfort in seeing an instructor who continues to battle obesity and has the scars to prove it." ~ kiba0003 




After moving to America when Elena was seven years old, she started gaining weight and basically never stopped. By the time she was in college, Elena weighed almost 300 pounds and was miserable.  Although she ate relatively healthy (albeit in large quantities), played hockey and did gymnastics, her weight continued to pile on.  Despite trying various programs and methods to lose weight, she was never able to lose more than 20 pounds.

In her 20s, Elena learned she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which meant she had to come to terms with the fact that weight loss efforts would likely be futile without the help of a tool. In 2008, at her highest weight of 305lbs, Elena made the decision to have Lap-Band weight loss surgery with Dr. Tom Jones from Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital in the Twin Cities. By 2010, she had lost nearly 160 pounds and hit her lowest weight of 148 pounds.  At that point, Elena was able to integrate exercise into her life, however, it was always sporadic and uninspired.

Elena's weight leveled off at about 170lbs to 180lbs and maintained it until she got pregnant in 2012. After giving birth, she had an additional 60 pounds to lose. Although Elena did not experience any severe complications with the Band, she was experiencing esophageal dilation and her 10cc band was filled beyond capacity at 10.2cc's.  At the maximum fill with her Band, Elena didn't experience any restriction. Determined to live a healthy lifestyle, Elena decided to be proactive and revise to the Sleeve weight loss surgery in 2013 with Dr. Jones.  Weight loss with the revision has been slow but steady. Elena is back to weighing in the 170's, and happily holding strong due to a combination of healthy eating, exercise, therapy, and the commitment to her healthy lifestyle.

Along the way on her weight loss surgery journey, something unexpected happened -- exercise has become Elena's passion. Because of her PCOS, Elena realized that exercise would have to be a prominent part of her health journey, and knew the only way she would consistently exercise would be to find something that she actually enjoyed.  Elena took the saying "If you love your job, you will never work a day in your life" and personalized it for herself to be "If you love your workout, you will never exercise a day in your life!"

"If the former-fat me knew I had become passionate about exercise,
she would be throwing cupcakes at me in disbelief." ~ Elena

In Elena's youth, she played hockey, and promised herself that when she lost enough weight, she would get back into it again. Elena did just that!  She has been playing for several years now. It keeps her motivated and gives her an outlet for her competitiveness.

When Elena thinks back to her 305-pound self, it's hard to believe how far she's come. At her highest weight, she could barely tie her shoes, and sprained her right ankle nearly 10 times. From that, she never dreamed she would be teaching a fitness class and being an inspiration for others struggling with body image and obesity. For the longest time, Elena wished she had never been obese. But now, Elena realizes that if her experience can help motivate even one person to take charge of their health, then this struggle has been worthwhile.

Elena is sharing her passion for Zumba by teaching a class at the ObesityHelp National Conference 2015, in Raleigh, North Carolina, on October 16-17, 2015.  It'll be a dance fitness class with so much fun that attendees will never forget!

Photo credit:  Elena Kibasova

Yelena Kibasova


Yelena Kibasova is a 14-year bariatric post-op, certified fitness instructor and professional writer. She has spoken at numerous obesity-related conferences over the years, including ObesityHelp, Obesity Action Coalition and WLSFA. She is passionate about fitness for all levels and sustainable weight maintenance plans that combine physical, mental and social well-being. She coaches clients on habit transformation for weight loss and regain. Website: www.morethanmyweight.com. Read more articles by Yelena Kibasova!