Hip-Hop Health


Robanne Robin uses dance to teach kids to be strong

By Dan Domsic

Robanne Robin’s heart pounded in her chest like a jackhammer as she spoke with her coworkers.

It was the second time she had felt that feeling.

Then, also for the second time, she sat in a hospital bed after suffering a severely high pulse. The latest incident was three years ago, and she weighed 300 pounds.

While an intravenous bag dripped fluids into her body, she cried and at the same time, had a moment of clarity. She knew she had to make a change in her life.

By that point, Robin already had experienced a decade-long bout with anorexia and bulimia and was raising three children with her husband, Ray.

What she didn’t know was that her weight-loss journey would take her to a dance floor and a mission to help kids enjoy exercise and develop positive body images.

New choreography

Constantly struggling to keep weight off, Robin sought a doctor’s advice to help turn her life around before diabetes could take hold.

Robin investigated gastric bypass surgery after the doctor nudged her in that direction, a direction he saw as a measure that could lead to drastic changes.

Robin said she couldn’t participate in the life happening around her. She picked the surgery, a path so extreme she admits it could hurt individuals if done incorrectly.

“The good thing about being that desperate and that, I don’t know, let’s say hopeless, is that I was I was willing to do everything they told me to do, follow all the rules, including exercise,” she said.

She would eventually chronicle her experience in a book, “Half My Size!: One woman’s road to losing 150 pounds and getting her STRONG on!”

It was a little bit embarrassing to dive into personal matters, but the thought of others going through the same thing outweighed her embarrassment, she said.

“I bet you there’s a few teenage girls out there that are doing the same exact crap I was doing,” Robin said, referring to her past anorexia and bulimia. “And maybe they can take something away from that that they don’t have to treat their bodies that way.”

Robin said a person relearns how to eat after gastric bypass surgery, starting with things like chicken broth and pureed black pinto beans.

She started seeing results. While standing on a treadmill, she realized she had lost 30 pounds.

While working toward those results at the Fishers YMCA, friends suggested she try out a class called Hip Hop Hustle.

It’s now a part of her life four times per week.

“You almost have to look up and you’re into it 45 minutes, and you can’t even believe it’s almost over,” she said.

Knowing what it was like to not want to exercise as a child and adult, Robin got the idea to teach a hip hop class to kids at the Fishers YMCA as a fun exercise program.

After getting certified to teach it, the class grew, and starting April 15, she will teach nine sessions to youth.

Strong, not skinny

“If I can get them excited to come back to the gym and go to this class, I’m loving it,” Robin said.

The core of the class might be dancing to songs like Usher’s “Yeah” and the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” (a clean version, which according to Robin, was nearly impossible to find), but Robin takes time out to talk about her own philosophy – “strong is the new skinny,” meaning being strong and healthy is more important than a person’s weight, especially when kids hold themselves to unreasonable standards.

She said weight doesn’t determine whether or not a person is healthy.

Drew Goins, 10, said his favorite part of the class is that he can gain a lot of strength out of it.

“Before I came to hip hop, I thought I was overweight,” Kaira Wells, 9, said. “People kept making fun of me, and ever since I came back to hip hop, everyone’s been encouraging me and seeing how strong I got, and I feel happy about it.”

A recent WISHTV segment showed some of her students raise their hands when asked whether they thought they were overweight. She said it was almost heartbreaking to see and that being concerned with numbers on a scale can get people in trouble.

“I hope I can influence them to maybe have a different perspective on that,” she said. “Just rethink fitness isn’t just size and weight.”

After losing the weight and getting healthy, she said she felt like she won the lottery.

With a passion for hip hop and helping kids, she won more than her life back.


Meet Robanne Robin

Occupation: Nurse

Family: Husband, Ray; Son, Davis, 13; Daughters, Leah, 10, and Halle, 8

Hobby: Writing

Popular songs for her class, “Hip-Hop-a-Licious: Yeah” by Usher and “Boom Boom Pow” by Black Eyed Peas

Robanne Robin's class

Robanne Robin’s class


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