January 30, 2015
When Patricia Moreno was growing up, her San Jose, CA, household wasn’t the fittest. Patricia rarely exercised, and her diet was heavy. “My mother owned a Mexican restaurant and we ate similar food at home—all tacos, tamales, rice and beans,” she says. “There weren’t a lot of vegetables and greens.” She remembers her father putting her on the scale when she was in third grade and gasping when she weighed in at 130 pounds. By her early teens, she was up to 212. The worst part about it, Patricia says now, was that her self-image limited her aspirations. “Dancing was very much a part of our household, and I loved it,” she says. “I dreamed of becoming a dancer, but I felt I was too fat.”
Then one day when Patricia was in high school, her older sisters dragged her to a Jazzercise class. It felt “fun, lighthearted and playful”—the same way that Patricia felt while dancing. She was hooked, and soon began teaching aerobics part time at a club near her home.
Going too far
By the time Patricia began college, she’d lost 70 pounds. After years of being “the chubby kid,” she was flooded with positive attention—and reveled in it. “But I still hadn’t learned to eat in a healthy way,” she says. “When my weight would creep up, the only way I knew to control it was extreme diets or working out more.” As a good habit spun out of control, she started exercising 5 to 8 hours a day, and throwing up after she binged on food. “Instead of going to classes, I was at the gym. Instead of going out with friends, I was working out,” she recalls.
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Patricia moved to New York City and, on the outside, quickly became a success: Her exercise classes were hugely popular, and she even cohosted a morning cable fitness show. But inside, things were very wrong. “All my self-worth was coming from the recognition,” she says. “I felt if I gained weight, I would lose everything.” By 1997, she was depressed and burnt out. “Here I was selling this image of health and fitness, yet I didn’t want anyone to know what I was doing to stay thin,” she says. “I knew I had to find a different answer.”
Patricia took up meditation, consulted life coaches, and began studying yoga and martial arts—activities that were about feeling strong rather than being thin. Then, on a spiritual retreat in 2002, she was asked to repeat a mantra while walking on the beach: “It was, ‘All I need is within me now,'” she recalls. “I thought, That’s it! We always have an inner dialogue going, That’s good, that’s bad, that girl looks good and I don’t look as good as she does. Maybe positive affirmations could block those negative messages so we could change our bodies.“
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Patricia developed IntenSati (pronounced in-ten-SAH-tee), a class that mixed mantras with strenuous moves. (Picture yourself doing a lunge while shouting, “I am powerful beyond measure!”) Her students joined in reluctantly at first, but soon started approaching her to say that the phrases had led them to examine their lives more closely. Other gyms started clamoring for their own IntenSati classes. Now, Patricia says, “People tell me that they lost 50 pounds or found the strength to end a bad job or relationship. This practice hasn’t just given me a life that I love, it’s allowed me to see others succeed.”
Over the years, Patricia, who now lives in New Jersey with her own family, has also made her diet healthier. “I eat as much fresh, real food as possible, like avocados, nuts and vegetables,” she says. “I don’t totally eliminate anything, because then I’ll just want it more.” That means even a gooey enchilada has its place—in moderation. “I love the food I grew up with,” Patricia says. “When I visit my family, that’s what we eat. It brings me back home.”
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Patricia’s Favorite Mantras
Repeat an affirmation over and over for 2 or 3 minutes at a time, suggests Patricia. A few she likes:
All I need is within me.
I am stronger than I seem.
I am braver than I think.
I have unshakable faith.
Miracles are taking place.
I am done complaining.
I am grateful.
I appreciate my life.
“I dreamed of becoming a dancer, but I felt I was too fat.”
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Last modified: January 30, 2015
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