After struggling through a family hike in 2017, Danielle Patera, who weighed 340 pounds at the time, decided to make some changes. By eating fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and exercising more, she lost 153 pounds, and loved her healthier, more active life.
“The ease which I can do things is insane,” Patera, 29, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin told TODAY in 2019. “Losing weight has allowed me to be myself and find who I am and speak out and stand up for myself.”
Like so many people, 2020 was tough for Patera. She experienced a knee injury, a torn Achilles tendon and became lax with some of her healthy habits, mindlessly snacking at times. In early January, she candidly shared with her Instagram followers that she gained weight and she shared a side-by-side comparison of her at her lowest weight of 187 pounds and her current weight about 25 to 30 pounds heavier.
“I’ve been transparent in that I’m no longer at my lowest, but haven’t showed any transformation pictures that show this,” she shared. “A lot of things happened in those two years and to only be 30 pounds up from Onederland (any weight 199 pounds or less) to me is great. A new relationship, moving in with my significant other, learning balance between our eating habits, torn Achilles tendon ... Then the year of 2020 pandemic, going from on my feet a good portion of the day to sitting at home for work in my apartment getting little-to-no steps in during the work hours.”
While she stressed that she wasn’t using all these changes as “excuses,” Patera said she wanted people to understand how life sometimes gets in the way of weight loss, maintenance and exercise.
She’s certainly not alone. Loads of people reached out to her privately to admit they gained weight through the stress of the pandemic. And, Patera faced injuries that made exercise almost impossible at times.
“When the pandemic hit that is when my ankle flared up,” she told TODAY. “I wasn’t able to get into (my doctor’s) until June because of the pandemic. So, I’m sitting over here working out at home because the gyms are closed. I really want to do cardio but I can’t. I am doing strength training."
Finally, in the summer she received an MRI and doctors realized she had a tear in her Achilles tendon and she needed to be in a boot and had to undergo physical therapy. Just recently she was cleared to use the elliptical machine for short periods of time.
“I couldn’t really work out at all,” she explained. “The doctors specifically said you can only do upper body and abs … Now my upper body is pretty toned.”
Being vulnerable felt difficult for her — but also important.
“In the moment you might feel like you’re alone in the process,” Patera said. “But people comment saying they’re struggling, too, that puts it into perspective that everyone was struggling dealing with the pandemic.”
Patera has been learning to be kind to herself and accept setbacks with grace, though she admits it’s tough sometimes.
“I always remind myself you're not where you were and where you want be, but you're still a heck of a lot farther from when you first started in 2017. And that in itself is a milestone accomplishment,” she said. “I always have to reflect and give myself that information that I’m still doing good.”
Patera also wanted to show that weight loss “is not a straight path” and felt pleased by all the support she received.
“You have some good days that you’re at a record low and then other days, you’ve been on track for three weeks, and you’re up four pounds and you’re like, ‘How the heck is that possible?’” she said. “You kind of have to get into the mindset of trusting the process.”
While she started tracking what she eats, controlling her portions and resuming some normal exercise, she sometimes feels frustrated with her progress.
“I lack patience, 100%. That’s something I’ve been trying really hard to work on because I know where I was and I want to get there quicker,” she said. “Quicker isn’t healthier.”
Patera has learned a lot about herself and is working on loving herself more.
“I can practice being more kind to myself,” she said. “I did notice a shift in my confidence a little bit and I have to always remind myself that weight loss shouldn’t have to do with your self-worth and self-confidence.”