Diving in: How Patty Deters reclaimed her lifeJul 30, 2020 02:24PM ● By Melanie Wiseman
Patty Deters with trainer Ryan Teal
“I’ve always believed I was fat—even when I wasn’t.”
Throughout her life, Patty Deters struggled with self-esteem issues, partially due to her weight.
“In high school I was a cheerleader, but I was always at the bottom of the pyramid because I was always 20-25 pounds heavier than my girlfriends,” said Deters, 58.
Even in college, her swim team nicknamed her “Cutie Curves” because at 145, she was 40 pounds heavier than the other swimmers.
As an adult, Deters balanced two jobs, several volunteer commitments and three kids’ busy schedules. She never really learned how to cook, so she frequently turned to pre-packaged frozen and fast food for her family of five.
Over time, she developed a few health problems on top of the underactive thyroid she’d known about since she was a teenager. Deters struggled with high cholesterol, high blood pressure and severe anxiety. By the time she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) at age 50, her 5-foot 5-inch frame carried 276 pounds.
“When I was diagnosed with RA, I thought it was a death sentence,” said Deters.
That fear became more real in 2012, when a close friend died a week before their reunion with 12 others. A year later, two more friends had serious heart attacks.
“That shook me,” said Deters. “She was smaller than me and in better shape than me.”
It was a wake-up call for Deters.
“I realized how big I was, how many things I’d passed up doing with my family because of my size, and that if I didn’t take control of my life, I was going to be dead at 53 like my dad,” said Deters. “I decided I wanted to live.”
When she returned home from the reunion, she quit her second job, retired from her volunteer responsibilities and hit the gym.
Getting her feet wet
Despite her newfound determination, Deters tried countless diets with no success.
“At the gym, I busted my butt for six months but didn’t lose a pound,” she said. “I decided there was no one who could help me.”
That was before personal trainer Ryan Teal encouraged her to take the 12-week challenge at Mesa Fitness in Grand Junction. A couple of weeks in, she mentioned she swam competitively in college.
“I told him I love swimming but won’t put on a suit until I weighed 175 pounds,” she said.
He told her she should do what she loved to do—period.
Deters reluctantly donned a swimsuit for a training session in the pool with Teal and her workout partner, Marivel.
“I was super embarrassed because of my size, but because I had those two with me, it gave me the boost of confidence to walk out of the locker room to the pool in my bathing suit,” said Deters. “Once I swam a few laps, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face if you tried.”
At the end of the 12 weeks, she’d lost 33 pounds.
In addition to challenging workouts, Teal taught Deters about nutrition. After logging her meals and making small changes in her diet, she saw improvements in her blood work. Her blood pressure and cholesterol were normal, her thyroid issues were under control, and her RA basically in remission.
“I wanted to lose weight,” she said. “I had no idea I could change my health.”
Ditching the scale
Getting back in the water was a major triumph for Deters, but she still combatted moments of self-doubt when she stepped on the scale. So Teal ordered her to get rid of it.
“I used to wonder 20 times a day what I weighed and now I weigh myself every two weeks,” she said. “It’s so freeing. To live every day for a number is not healthy.”
Deters still trains with Teal, who now lives in Boston, via video chat.
Currently, Deters swims three or four times a week and uses the MySwimPro training app to log her workouts. She’s even a brand ambassador because of her glowing praise for the app.
To date, she’s lost 75 pounds.
“Our weight and self-esteem are not the same thing,” said Deters. “You can love yourself heavier and you can love yourself lighter. The scales don’t get to decide how you feel—you do.”
With renewed confidence, Deters competed in the Western Colorado Senior Games in 2016 and 2017 and the Huntsman World Senior Games (HWSG) in St. George, Utah, in 2018.
“For HWSG, I wanted to swim the 400 IM. It’s a grueling race,” said Deters. “I placed second in my age group and qualified for nationals!”
At 57, she swam in five events and placed in three.
“Winning first place wasn’t what it was about,” said Deters. “It was about who I believed I was at that moment.”
“When I started swimming, everything stopped hurting,” she said.
No matter your age or your past, she’s a firm believer: You can always start over today.Follow Patty Deters' fitness journey online at www.reclaimingpatty.com or on Facebook @PattysFitnessJourney