The Amazingly Fit Fitness Guru
For many years, Patricia Moreno’s fans did not know that behind her successful TV fitness career, she had a secret. A really big secret. One fateful day, Patricia’s Producer wanted to know why her weight was bouncing around because putting on weight was not what television fitness celebrities were meant to be doing. Patricia’s secret—bulimia—could no longer be contained, forcing her to face herself. Since that crushing moment she has written a book, become a mother and developed intenSati, a new way to exercise that focuses on physical fitness, but more importantly, mental fitness—cutting out all the crap we tell ourselves in our heads. IntenSati’s taken off, with over 300 teachers across 12 States, Canada and Dubai, its changing people and their bodies in incredible ways.
Most of us go through some kind of suffering but to turn it into a business, and a philosophy is jaw dropping. I spoke with Patricia on the phone, connecting over this crazy thing we have in common. Here’s our beautiful, honest chat.
You suffered from being an overweight child. Tell me how that affected you?
I grew up in a family with 11 kids—I’m number 9—and so much emphasis in my house was on how you look. My Mom was very much a believer that when you look good then you get more out of life. A lot of value was placed on that. Put your make up on, what are you wearing, don’t wear that, wear this. And I was so chubby, even as a baby they called me chubby, and that impacted me greatly. We had a Mexican restaurant and there was so much food around all the time and my Mom was always on a diet, going from bingeing to dieting and she didn’t know how to control her weight so she would go to extremes. That’s what I learned. <strong>
By the time I was in third grade, I remember my parents weighing me and they were appalled that I weighed so much. I was 130 pounds. I remember them gasping. So that set the tone for me. I felt very ashamed and it lead me to sneaking food, hiding food and really being uncomfortable eating around people because I didn’t want them watching what I ate, or say ‘don’t eat that’. It bred a lot of guilt that I wasn’t pretty enough, not good enough. I had older sisters who were beautiful and thin and I felt like they were the perfect ones; they were small and petite and I was like 5,’10” and everything was big about me, even my feet. So I think that was the basis for me thinking, this is not cool, people don’t like this, I’m not OK. But also there was no structure or rules around food, my house was always full of junk food so really there was no wonder I was overweight. And then when I got to my early teens I was 212 pounds.
My Mom took me to a weight-loss doctor who gave me diet pills and shots of cows’ urine to suppress my appetite. Then I started taking diet pills and stealing my Mom’s diet pills. And then I found exercise and I was like, oh my God, this is the best thing ever. I got into the opposite. I still didn’t know how to control my food but I could exercise eight hours a day no problem because it didn’t hit that sore spot. Taking food away from me made me feel sad—how come they could have it and I couldn’t—but exercising was different.
I could OUT workout everybody and it was good way for me to control my weight.
When did the bulimia kick in?
Bulimia started for me around 18 and I probably finally admitted it at 27. Ish. In the end, the exercise didn’t really work for very long because of my bingeing and purging. I got so depressed; It got so extreme that I couldn’t really eat in front of anybody. I couldn’t even go grocery shopping because I would be so afraid to run into my students because I imagined them looking at me and thinking, she shouldn’t be eating that. Even though I was thin. What really changed everything for me was being found out through my work. I was being touted as a thin, fitness professional on TV, supposed to encompass how you lose weight and keep it off and there I was gaining weight. I was pulled into the Producer’s office and he asked me why I was putting on weight. I thought, I can’t keep this up anymore. To me, it was game over. I was so ashamed, mortified. The worst thing that I could ever have imagined happening, happened. I think that scared me enough. It made me go OK, if you really want to be this person you have to deal. You have to learn to deal with food.
I bet that TV Producer didn’t know you were bulimic right, they were just asking why you put on weight?
Yeah, he didn’t know it was bulimia but he said, “You can’t teach people about this unless you have it yourself. If you don’t know how to get your weight under control then you can’t have this career.”
That must have tied into those messages you got when you were young that you weren’t enough.
For sure. The line I often use now is, ‘I was trying to sell something I didn’t own.’ There was no integrity in that. No power in it. And eventually you get found out. It was a great lesson and a great wake up call. I told one friend and she found an expert in bulimia and I saw that women for five years. It was a process and took me a while to actually fully completely stop.
Did bulimia turn into a means to cope with the ups and downs of life?
Oh, absolutely. I think that it starts with a feeling that, like you said, that something’s wrong with me; I’m not valuable, I’m not seen, I’m not heard, I’m not loved, some version of that—which were all true for me—and then it became a coping mechanism. For me I wasn’t good at communicating or saying I’m sad, I need help, or I don’t how to do this so I didn’t have a way of processing my fears or doubts. When something happened and it didn’t always have to be bad, it could be almost good, right, but something that stressed me out and I didn’t know how to deal with it, I binge. And there were times where it didn’t even have to be a really big binge. Like being in a fitness competition where I would only eat a salad, of iceberg lettuce, and I would have to vomit that. It was never too little. It was always about stress. I didn’t know how to handle my feelings so that would be my way to numb them. And I don’t know how you felt about this but the feeling of actually vomiting was so good, it was such a relief. During the bingeing I would go under a trance, this non-stop eating trance…
Not think about it or what you’re doing…
Yes, otherwise I would have to stop myself. Because it was insane to be doing what we were doing. So instead I would go out of my mind somewhere, not be present while I got all the food in there. Actually what I think I really became addicted to was that feeling of overeating because it felt so disgusting, where you get to the point where you feel so physically full, then it was a release of that awful feeling. But not just feeling awful about the food I ate but whatever the other awful feeling was that started it in the first place.
I used to feel that like too. I got addicted to that post binge high, I used to go for a run, wash my hair, put on a new outfit and tell myself I was doing just fine.
Yeah it’s so crazy.
Thank goodness we’re not there anymore.
Oh no, God! That you can’t even be present in life. Like everything was about what are we were going to eat or not eat.
Yes, every day. I felt very aloof during my bulimic years. Distant. That’s one thing that’s been mind blowing in recovery, discovering that a whole bunch of good feelings have catapulted into my life. Have you noticed that too?
Completely. It changed everything. I don’t think I ever felt the level of connection with people, or joy. You know, I think the sadness and depression was there and I lived there more than the higher places. Now, if I get down, it’s only for a moment. I just don’t live in that place anymore. Now that I am re-introduced to the love and joy and peaceful of not doing it anymore, the darkness and hangover was too big it wasn’t worth it anymore.
I related to your line in the Goodlife Project Interview about having a fear of the fat girl. How did you learn to deal with that fear?
A lot of what intenSati is about is figuring out what’s driving you. If you’re always complaining about something then that thing stays present. If you’re running from something then you’re still focusing on what you’re running from. So I got to the point where I realized I am not going to spontaneously burst into that 12-year-old fat girl. It’s not going to happen. But I had to cultivate trust, not only in my body but in myself. I have evolved, I am more awake, I make more conscious choices. I know that if I choose to eat the birthday cake and I get that full feeling, which used to trigger an immediate feeling of wanting to vomit, I can have an adult conversation with myself and say, It’s OK. You’re still scared, I get it, it’s OK. Or I can be like, Alright, stop now. It’s awareness vs. worrying, oh my god I’m going to be fat, I don’t’ want to be fat, if I get fat I’m going to get fired, they’re not going to like me. That fear, without awareness, is what causes us to do things that we think are helping us to calm our nerves but don’t. I had only ever imagined myself as fat so I had to upgrade my vision of myself to my current state because I was far from fat. I had to let that [me] be my grown up version. It takes time and awareness but if I am running from her then she is always going to be there.
I read something recently that stuck with me: we have a body and a consciousness and we think that our consciousness is in our brain. But actually the body is IN our consciousness. The body is a cause unto itself. There is no volition in our body if our consciousness is not there. If we’re dead our body doesn’t feel or move, that is a function of our consciousness. So the ideas and images we hold in our minds about our bodies become true as they are a reflection of our consciousness. Otherwise if five people ate the same thing and did the same thing they would get the same result but that’s not the case. So if you say, I’m fat I’m fat, then your body listens to everything you say. That’s part of the message we teach in intenSati.
Oh I wish my Mum could take one of your classes. Speaking of Moms, did you have to forgive yours?
Oh my gosh, YES. For many years I was so angry at her, thinking everything was her fault because she was the one always telling me that I wasn’t good enough. And then I realized that that was the best she could do. And how much she struggled herself. Once you get a little bit older you can see that everybody is doing the best that they can. And it was out of love. My Mom’s not alive anymore but I have forgiven her completely and actually have so much more compassion for what she tried to do and I really let her know that she was the perfect Mom because I believe the work I’m doing is the work I’m supposed to be doing. And the work came out of my own suffering and we were the perfect partners for this. I got to evolve. And she tried to evolve— like your Mom, they put us on diets hoping we wouldn’t have what they had—but she didn’t have the understanding or tools we do. And who knows, hopefully our children take what they get from us and evolve, and do better than we did. That’s when life is really good.
What a beautiful way to look at it. How are you around food with your daughters?
What I‘m trying to teach my daughters, which I never learned, is to have some structure and rules around food. There were no rules for us, the cupboards were always open. I made potato chip and baloney sandwiches, and put twinkies and cupcakes in my lunch because nobody was watching. So I want structure. You get to have one but not the whole box. Or one a week or one a month but not every day. I think that’s balance. And also paying attention to your body, what feels good when you eat it, what doesn’t feel good when you eat it. I think that we’ve lost the ability to tune into the natural intuition of our bodies. We have too much of, don’t eat this and do eat this and this has too many calories, instead of what feels good or not.
Can you share a transformational story from intenSati?
People get present to how many of us are negative about our bodies and how common that is. A lot of what I talk about is how it’s insanity to hate your body. Because it’s your body! It’s not this separate entity on its own. It’s under your care. So hating it is like hating your child or your most valuable prized possession. Your body requires your attention and love. It requires constant choice about what you put in it, exercising it, resting it. So hating it is almost a way to get ourselves off the hook from really dealing. I had to deal: I realized I couldn’t binge and be fit and thin. I had to stop bingeing. So hating your body or blaming your Mom for starting you on a bad journey is still not going to have you living in a healthy body. So it’s a process of loving the body that you have as it is and then taking action from a place of love vs. hate, which are two very different things. So these conversations are ones that a lot of people get it —because we all do it—and I share that I do it too.
So a lot of the results are either people actually losing weight because they are really doing something about it or it’s just tears because they have never spent any time being nice to their bodies. I ask people “did you say anything mean to your body today? Did you complain about your legs? I want you to apologize, take it back, say to your body I’m sorry, I love you, I cherish you and I’m going to treat you well.” And that acknowledging of themselves makes people cry. Having people face what they are doing, whether it’s unhealthy: being bulimic, smoking, drinking or an action of self-loathing, is powerful. I think that’s what gets a lot of people coming back. They have to be present to how they’re treating themselves. If you really do want to live a life that you love, in a body that you love, then you must learn to be loving and sometimes that’s saying no to the box of cookies.
That’s very powerful. When is intenSati hitting New Zealand? Thank you so much for sharing Patricia.
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