Interview with Jeanette DePatie: Author of The Fat Chick Works Out
Junonia: How did you come to write a book called The Fat Chick Works Out?
Jeanette: Let me give you a little background about me. I was very obsessed about my weight. Even though my husband always said I was OK, I couldn’t accept it. So I went to the library to look for yet another weight-loss book and I ran across some books about size acceptance. I discovered that my chances of being and staying very thin were about 15%. I said to myself, if I tie my happiness to this idea that my body must be a certain size, then I’m giving myself only a 15% chance at happiness. Those odds suck! I wouldn’t bet on a horse with those odds!
Junonia: So what did you do about your own happiness?
Jeanette: I became convinced that WHAT you do with your body is much more important than the number on a scale. What you feed your body, how you exercise, play, sleep, love, and find joy in your life—those are important. I have always loved exercise, so I started to research the idea of teaching exercise to people of all sizes. And I became an aerobics instructor. I love teaching. But I wrote the book because I wanted to make my style of teaching available to more than the few people I directly teach.
Junonia: Let’s go back to the title, The Fat Chick Works Out, how did you choose that?
Jeanette: I don’t like to use the term overweight--I prefer the term fat. It’s a descriptor like blond hair or blue eyes. When I talk to kids, I teach them about that word –and that is really powerful. A kid will say, you’re fat, and I say, yes I’m fat, and you have brown hair. Isn’t it great that we’re all different. That’s why I called my book The Fat Chick Works Out! I don’t like euphemisms, because I find it’s a way of apologizing for my size. Fat is just the way I am. Not everybody resonates with it, but a lot more people do than I expected.
Junonia: Tell us about becoming a certified trainer and what you have learned.
Jeanette: There is no special certification for exercise for fat people. However, there are some key things to look for if you are older, heavier, or just starting out.
First, it has to be fun. If you aren’t eager to go back and try it again, look for some other form of exercise.
It should be a non-competitive environment where you feel safe doing things your way. If you don’t feel you can modify, or if the teacher isn’t super excited about helping you, find somewhere else to work out.
Remember, you have to start where you are. Add 10% a week. A lot of people hear that and are discouraged. They feel 10% will take forever. But they need to understand that it is cumulative. When I started training seriously for a marathon, I could do 5-6 miles walking and running, at a time. It took me a whole year to train up to do a marathon. 10% adds up! There is chart in the book that shows you that if you can do 20 minutes now, you could be doing a lot of exercise at the end of the year! And by ramping up slowly, you won’t be on crutches.
Here’s another great tip: D.I.F. That stands for duration, intensity, and frequency. The 10% rule can apply to any of them – but only change ONE of those things at a time.
Junonia: What do you recommend people wear?
Jeanette: I am not a fashion expert. I tell beginners to just wear comfortable pants and shoes that fit well. A t-shirt from Wal-Mart will work. As you work out more, there are some options out there, Junonia has the most selection, most sizes and more technical clothes for the widest variety of sports. I’ve been a customer for years. As an instructor it is very important to have the right clothes to convey a professional appearance. I gave Junonia a shout out on a slide show I did for CBS on 15 tips for fat exercisers. Click here for Junonia’s collection of workout gear for the gym.
Junonia: OK here’s the basic question: Why should anyone, and especially fat women exercise?
Jeanette: My youngest student is 8, oldest is 82. I have watched the difference it makes in people’s lives. A lot of people talk about the long-term effects, and those are important, but there is also the instant gratification part. You start feeling better from the first day or two you start to exercise. When you feel better, your life works better. Women feel better about themselves, their lives, they improve flexibility, and sleep better.
Junonia: What is your advice on getting started?
Jeanette: I always tell my students the hardest dance step in any aerobics class is the “walk in the door” step. Don’t worry about what anyone else is thinking about you--only worry about what you are thinking about you. That’s where you get your power. If buying beautiful workout clothes makes you feel great, you rock and roll. Go with whatever works for you.
Junonia: Let’s go back to the Fat Chick Title, where did it comefrom?
Jeanette: One day I woke up and I decided I was The Fat Chick. I gave myself that name and that title is my power and my choice. The reaction from other people—I can’t control it, so why try? It really has given me a lot of joy. Sometimes I get rather amazing looks at fitness conventions – I just did one in Beverly Hills, and there is a lot of botox and a lot of silicone and a lot of people looking at me funny. People are a little unsure, but I find the more that I keep a sense a humor, stay positive and own it--the more people gravitate to what I am saying.
I grew up in Wisconsin, I’m just a Midwestern girl at heart. There are a lot of people out there like me. As a group we can decide we are OK and not waste money on things that make us feel bad about ourselves, but spend money on things that make us feel great, powerful and part of the world.
I interviewed Jeannette before I read her book. I was impressed talking with her, but after reading the book I’m a total fan. I devoured the book, reading it straight through! It is simply great. Designed as a 12-week guide to action, it is filled with completely solid information you can trust. It’s not just the information you’ll love. It is funny, well written, and Jeanette absolutely nails how it is to be a larger woman trying to get active. She just keeps zinging you with her understanding, her joy, and she makes it just impossible to say no. I promise you will want to buy extra copies for friends, because you’ll want to keep one for yourself! You’ll keep coming back to it for practical advice and inspiration over and over. With Jeanette you will be safe, injury-free, and you will enjoy the journey. In fact, read the whole book. If you don’t like it, return it for a full refund. When (not if) you use this book to set and achieve one of the goals you’ve always intended to accomplish, I’d like to celebrate that with you and our readers. I know with Jeanette at your side (and in your face making you laugh) you’ll achieve even more than you dreamed possible. Keep me posted!