FIFTY LAKES -- Patti Westlund spent most of her life hating her body, her looks and, ultimately, herself.
She had been overweight her entire life, constantly ridiculed by her classmates because she was the "fat kid." She weighed 106 pounds in kindergarten.
But before her freshman year at Pequot Lakes High School, Westlund took control of her weight problem without the help of fitness gurus or spendy weight loss programs and began her own fitness and diet regimen.
Patti Westlund, 1999 Miss Pequot Lakes-Crosslake, plays with her dog Sydney outside of her Fifty Lakes home. Westlund, 18, will give up her crown at the 2000 Miss Pequot Lakes-Crosslake Scholarship Pageant on Saturday. (Dispatch Photo by Jodie Tweed)
Two years later, she had lost 110 pounds and went from wearing size 28 clothing to sizes 14/16.
Last January, Westlund was crowned the 1999 Miss Pequot Lakes-Crosslake, a title that meant more to her than anyone in the audience that night could have possibly imagined. It was the culminating factor of years of hard work by the determined teen.
"Because I was told I was so unattractive and so ugly, I grew up thinking that. I literally hated myself. But with the crown and with the pageant, I've been able to look at myself and say, 'You're decent. You're not a dork.'" -- Patti Westlund 1999 Miss Pequot Lakes-Crosslake
"Because I was told I was so unattractive and so ugly, I grew up thinking that," said Westlund. "I literally hated myself. But with the crown and with the pageant, I've been able to look at myself and say, 'You're decent. You're not a dork.'"
Westlund, 18, who is the youngest of Gerri and Bob Westlund's five children, moved with her parents to their Fifty Lakes home from Roseville the summer before her freshman year at Pequot Lakes High School. She began exercising by walking two miles a day and started eating healthier. Her parents fully supported her weight loss goals.
Westlund's mom allowed her to buy groceries separate from her parents. She filled her shopping cart with a lot of fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods. After she'd lose 20 pounds, her parents would give her a reward, something Westlund wanted to do, like get a manicure or cross country skis. When her clothes would become too big for her, her parents would buy her a new, more stylish wardrobe and then donate her old clothes to Good Will to make it harder for her to gain the weight back.
"It was a little spendy, but it worked," said Gerri.
Gerri also bought her daughter a pair of size 16 jeans that hung in her room, a reminder of her goal.
"It was my motivation," Patti said of the jeans. "Whenever I felt I couldn't do it, my mom would say, 'Go get the pants.'"
She was able to fit into those jeans near the end of her sophomore year. While losing weight, she discovered her outgoing personality and people skills, buried for many years underneath her weight. She was also delighted to find out she had dimples, something she never knew she had.
With her new body and energy, Westlund became a cheerleader and a member of the tennis team. She was also involved with choir, student council, SADD, German club and was on the honor roll. She returned to her high school in Roseville for one day to show off her new body. Several people, including her close friends, didn't recognize her.
"Exercise used to be a chore for me, but now it's just part of my daily routine. I crave it and I need it to keep me going. (Losing weight) was the biggest challenge of my entire life," said Westlund. "It's still a constant battle. There are a lot of people who struggle with it. There are so many girls out there that are a size 8 or 10 and they feel they're fat."
When Westlund learned the Miss Pequot Lakes-Crosslake Scholarship Pageant was looking for girls for the competition last year, she decided to sign up. A talented singer, Westlund thought it would be a good experience. She never thought she'd become Miss Pequot Lakes-Crosslake and also win the talent scholarship.
"I didn't think I had a chance at all," said Westlund. "Before the pageant, I just said, 'You know what, Lord? If you want me to get this, it's up to you.' I pretty much left it all up to God."
Westlund, now a Pequot Lakes senior, is attending Bethel College through the post-secondary enrollment option program. She plans to major in pre-law and become a lawyer. She also works part time as a cosmetic consultant for Elizabeth Arden at Dayton's in Roseville.
Becoming Miss Pequot Lakes-Crosslake, she said, gave her a better self-image and escalated her natural ability to get up and speak publicly. She will give up her crown at Saturday's pageant.
"I know I'm going to be a little bit sad," she said of Saturday's pageant. "I know it doesn't say 1999 on the calendar, but I'm still Miss Pequot Lakes-Crosslake 1999. I'm very proud to represent the area. It changes your life."
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