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Meet Jeanette DePatie of EveryBODY Can Exercise in Duarte/Monrovia

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeanette DePatie.

Jeanette, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Believe it or not, I wasn’t birthed fully formed out of the womb as a fitness guru who calls herself The Fat Chick. Like many of you, I have endured days of sadness and frustration. The journey from sad sack to magnificent fat chick was a long and bumpy, but very exciting road. Let me tell you a little bit about my story.

I remember the day quite clearly. I was in the kitchen with my husband and I was crying inconsolably. I was crying because I was fat and I believed being fat was cause to be miserable. My husband told me that I looked great. He assured me that he loved me just the way I was. The sad thing was, I would not and could not believe him. I tried to diet but found I couldn’t stick with it. I tried to exercise, but I really struggled. I hired a personal trainer but grew tired of the badgering and emotional abuse, and I quit. I tried a step aerobics class but was tired of struggling at the back of the class to lift my aching knees as fast as the other students. I tried to train for a marathon but wound up with a stress fracture in my foot by the third week. I felt like a failure, and I was miserable.

Now, fast forward to another day, much later, in Springfield Missouri, as I’m about to cross the finish line of my first marathon. It was very quiet. There was no “finish line” to speak of (they had taken it down hours earlier). But I limped across the sidewalk where the finish line had been, raised my exhausted arms in victory and sobbed like a baby. But this time, they were tears of joy. My friend Mary Ann and I cried together as we celebrated my first ever marathon finish.

Comes another day, later still. It was at least 95 degrees in our makeshift video studio. My friends Nora, Mary Ellen, Mary Ann and I had been doing aerobics in that heat for over four hours, shooting footage for my new exercise video, The Fat Chick Works Out! Ultimately, I moved to Los Angeles and started working as a writer and producer of interactive content. I bedecked my curvy body with sequins and rhinestones and walked the red carpet with celebrities and power brokers. Which led to yet another day in Irwindale, California. I spent the day with about 20 of my absolute favorite seniors dancing and talking and recording for over 8 hours for my newest exercise video, EveryBODY Can Exercise: Senior Edition.

So how did it happen? How did I motivate myself to evolve from that pathetic, sobbing creature in the kitchen to a triathlete, marathon runner, licensed aerobics instructor and personal trainer and fitness celebrity who proudly calls herself “The Fat Chick”?

Actually, a lot happened during that time of conversion. But it started with one little idea that changed everything. It was a simple idea, and in retrospect, an obvious one. It was very simply, “what if I stopped obsessing about my weight, and started living my life as if I were already at my goal weight?”

It was a revolutionary concept. I stopped weighing and measuring every morsel of food that went into my mouth. No more food exchanges. No more points. No more food journal. No weighing myself. And no more measuring my self-worth based on the numbers on a scale. I began living my life as if I were already thin. There were so many things I wanted to do after I lost weight. I wanted new clothes. I wanted a new hairdo. I wanted to teach aerobics classes. I wanted to be on TV. I wanted to be a Hollywood producer. And one day, I decided to stop wasting my life while minding my waist and to start living the life of my dreams, right now.

So one day, I went to the local YWCA and told them that I wanted to become an aerobics instructor so I could help other beginning exercisers. Frankly, some people looked at me funny. Several said that it wasn’t a good idea. I almost gave up. Then I met Ahmena, a loving, beautiful, joyful woman who taught aerobics at the Y. She also happened to be fat. I am so grateful to her. She taught me the mechanics of teaching a successful aerobics class. What’s more, she never doubted for one second that I could do it. Before long, I was teaching a class of my own.

I learned an awful lot from teaching aerobics. I learned that any type of exercise requires you to start from wherever you are. If you can only do five minutes of the class, then do five minutes. Then the next week, do six minutes. Do only what you can and don’t be embarrassed by it. Another thing I learned was that when you separate fitness training from the expectation of weight loss, it is really fun! I discovered that I loved it! And for the first time in my life, I really appreciated what exercise could do for me. I slept well. I felt great. Stress just melted away. I also saw what exercise did for my students. Some lost weight. Some didn’t. Some got off diabetes or blood pressure medications. Some found that they could now run up to our second-story dance studio without huffing and puffing. Some found a new, bolder and braver sense of self. Some simply found a way to spend an hour away from family and work obligations to take care of themselves. There was something for everybody. Ultimately, I became a certified aerobics instructor and personal trainer.

But I didn’t stop there. On New Year’s Eve my husband and I went to dinner with our good friends Jeff and Mary Ann. It was an eight-course dinner with a very nice wine. We drank a lot of wine. Mary Ann mentioned that she always wanted to do a marathon. “Me too!” I cried. (Did I mention there was a lot of wine?) By the time the fruit and cheese and midnight champagne arrived, Mary Ann and I had made a pact to do a marathon together. She was with my every step for 26.2 miles. The training was hard. Finishing was grueling. But it was one of the most spectacular moments of my life. I am so grateful to Mary Ann for helping me get there.

Over the years, I have had a lot of time to reflect about what it took to get me across that finish line. I had to accurately assess, without shame or embarrassment, exactly what my level of fitness was and devise a plan to gradually and safely ramp my exercise abilities to meet my goal. I had to learn to redefine success to something that was reasonable and achievable for me. I had to make sure that I wouldn’t walk and run 26.2 miles just to feel like a failure. And I had to learn to rely on the kindness of others. Without my husband, my parents, Mary Ann, Ahmena and many others, I never would have made it.

I learned to have confidence and I learned to have faith. I learned to find help and accept help. I learned that by making one small step and then another, I could conquer marathons and climb mountains. And I most of all, I learned not to waste any more of my life worrying about my waist. When I think back of all the lost years–the years I could have been happy and the years I could have been moving forward, it makes me sad and angry. But mostly it makes me determined. Not just to live every day of my life as fully and deeply as I can, but also to help others learn what I have learned. It’s a tough life sometimes, being The Fat Chick. I’ve been yelled at and bullied on television and national radio shows. I’ve been spat at by complete strangers in the course of sharing my story. But you know what? If I can help people reclaim one year, one week or even one day of your life, it will be worth it.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
There have been so many struggles along the way. Some people simply cannot accept the idea of a fitness teacher and expert who doesn’t look like a fitness magazine cover model. I am trolled constantly on social media. I’ve been screamed at on national television. I’ve dealt with doctors who don’t want to treat me until I consider a new diet or even weight loss surgery. I’ve had to accept that there are some people who will never accept me.

But that’s okay. It has helped me understand what others are facing–the ones I want to help. Because I’ve been there. I’ve cried and I’ve felt the hurt and the frustration and the sadness. But I’ve also felt the joy of overcoming.

Please tell us about EveryBODY Can Exercise.
EveryBODY Can Exercise is more than a company, we’re a movement (about movement)! We are known for making exercise fun and easy and accessible for people of many different ages, shapes, sizes and abilities. That’s why my new workout video has standing and sitting versions of the exercises. That’s why the dances are short (2-4 minutes) and can be mixed and matched based on how the exerciser is feeling that day.

I think that what really sets us apart as a company is that both our live classes and our exercise videos feature people of lots of different abilities dancing together. It’s not unusual in my classes to see an 80-year-old grandmother dancing along with her grandchildren or even great-grandchildren. In our classes, the students don’t all dance the same–they dance their best dance their body will allow on that day.

I think I am most proud of the way we’ve danced with people not just for days or weeks, but decades. I have students who have been doing our workout videos for 20 years. And I have students who have been taking my live classes for 12 to 13 years.

What were you like growing up?
I’ve always loved music and dance. And I’ve always loved to produce. In 5th grade, I remember telling my teacher I wanted to produce a school play. She laughed and gave me permission–thinking I would lose interest before I could pull the whole thing together. Two months later, we did a full production with costumes, makeup and sets for the whole school during assembly. We did this largely without input from parents and teachers, just because we thought it would be fun.

As a kid, I was kind of fearless. That is until the world started to bully me and constrain me. The world taught me to do whatever I needed to do to fit in. To stay quiet and be small. I’m still unlearning those negative lessons and striving to get back to the fearless, fabulous kid side of me.

Pricing:

  • EveryBODY Can Exercise: Senior Edition–$19.95
  • The Fat Chick Works Out DVD–$19.95
  • The Fat Chick Works Out! Book–$12,95
  • Love It! (234 Inspirations and Activities to Help You Love Your Body)–$9.95
  • Body Love Obstacle Course–Electronic Edition $99.00
  • Rock the Road Race Training Program $19.95

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Kelly Varner Photography

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