In May 2017, Danielle Patera traveled with her family to Kentucky and they decided to visit a local rock formation. At the time, Patera weighed 340 pounds at 5 feet 9 inches tall and wasn’t worried about hiking through the park. Yet she immediately felt winded by the inclines. Then she faced a huge challenge: Pulling herself over a boulder.
“I saw my sister do it. And she jumped back down to help my mom up and my mom got up. And I struggled. It took me 40, 45 minutes,” Patera, 27, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, told TODAY. “That trip made me realize that if my 54-year-old mom could do this with no problem, and I am struggling, I needed to make a change.”
When she returned home, she spent two weeks researching different eating and exercise plans. She decided a simple approach would work best for her so she focused on consuming fewer calories and tracking what she ate, while exercising more.
There was one part that felt especially challenging to her: Going into a gym alone.
“I asked my brother to go with me,” Patera explained. “I told him ‘I want to make this lifestyle change and I need to lose 150 pounds. I’m going to start and see where I end up.’ And his exact words were ‘Holy crap that’s insane.’”
Her brother, Charles, went with her for a month. Having her brother's support really helped.
“I don’t think he realized how much I needed that,” she said.
She was also confused by nutrition. For the first few weeks she ate salads with light dressing for every lunch and dinner.
“I was so scared that I was going to flop,” she said. “I was really clueless for the first month and I am surprised I lost so much weight.”
In the first month, she lost about 30 pounds. As she continued exercising she expanded what she ate, eating more fruits, vegetables and lean protein, and learning how to make lower calorie versions of foods she loved.
“I learned how to make my own low-calorie pizza dough with fat-free Greek yogurt and self-rising flour. I know that seasonings are better than sauces,” Patera said.
While she consistently lost weight, she still hit plateaus. When that happened, she'd change her exercise routine to boost her weight loss again. She added in weight lifting and more intensive cardio, for example.
“I had zero arm strength. I have never been able to do a pushup or a pullup,” Patera said.
Since June 2017, she’s lost 153 pounds to weigh 187 pounds — her goal is to weigh between 170 and 180.
“I’m very happy at this weight,” she said.
More importantly, she loves all the things she can now enjoy, such as riding roller coasters, roller skating, going to sports events and flying.
“The ease which I can do things is insane,” she said. “Losing weight has allowed me to be myself and find who I am and speak out and stand up for myself.”
Patera shares her advice for others hoping to lose weight.
1. Don’t wait.
“Start now. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t wait for Monday,” she said.
Starting can be easy, such as researching what to do and setting a start date. But taking the first step is important to losing weight.
2. Ask for help.
Patera’s brother Charles’ encouragement kept her motivated. Having him and her family behind her helped as she made sometimes difficult changes.
“I don’t know if I would have been able to maintain going to the gym without my support system,” she said.
3. Hold yourself accountable.
After about losing 50 pounds, Patera started an Instagram account, Danielle Gets Fit, to help track her exercise and eating. It also kept her focused on her goal.
“I was holding myself accountable,” she explained. “You can’t let your followers down either. They are looking at you for support and that means if you went to the gym maybe that is pushing someone else to go.”