By Rebecca Drew
MEET the woman who has finally beaten anorexia thanks to weight lifting after being tormented by the eating disorder which saw her weight plummet to just seven-stone for two-and-a-half years.
Patient care coordinator, Danielle Longo (25) from Seattle, Washington, USA, became obsessed with controlling her calorie intake after gaining ‘the freshman 15’ – traditionally the number of pounds a freshman puts on in their first year at university. This combined with the stress of keeping up with her work and two part-time jobs saw Danielle’s weight drop to 7st 1lb as she consumed just 400 calories a day.
Danielle was a UK size 2 and thought she was beautiful when she was at her lowest weight. It wasn’t until her ex-partner reached out to her that Danielle felt that she needed to make a change. She is now a super fit and healthy 9st 5lbs and a UK size 8.
“It started after I gained ‘the freshman 15’ and then I took on twenty credits of college classes and two part-time jobs at the same time and it was just way too much for me,” said Danielle.
“I was super stressed and overworked and I decided to take that out on my body. It felt like my eating disorder was the only thing in my life I could control.
“I knew if I ate less, ran more I’d lose weight and that consistency and those results were something I could count on in my crazy busy life at the time.
“I also felt extremely insecure in the beginning, until I got down to a certain weight and then I felt so delicate and tiny and beautiful.
“But I look back at those photos now and I realise I was anything but, I was very undernourished and was much more anxiety ridden than I am now.
“A lot of people in my life, who I love, came to me and told me I was too thin, that I needed to gain weight, that I needed to stop exercising but I was never willing to listen to any of them.
“The only person that was able to get through to me was my partner at the time. He approached me in the right way, it wasn’t an attack, it didn’t make me feel defensive or protective of my eating disorder.
“He just came into our bedroom one night while I was studying, left me with a bowl of pasta and I, of course, told him I wasn’t hungry. He said okay and just left the bowl there. He came back an hour or so later and the entire bowl was gone.
“Instead of pointing it out and making me feel ten times more guilty than I already did for eating it, he just came and sat next to me, held me and said that this has to stop.
“I started crying because I knew he was right and it was just a huge reality check and turning point for me. Also, when I started weightlifting I realised I wasn’t ever going to be able to get stronger and grow muscles without eating more food.
“I started reading a lot of female weightlifting blogs and watching videos, learning what bodybuilding competitors ate and slowly started learning how to fuel my body properly.”
Danielle’s recovery has completely changed her life and she has learnt that she needs food to function and shouldn’t feel guilty for it. She trains four to five days a week and is now focused on body building.
“It’s changed literally everything about my life. I took up weightlifting and learned that food is fuel, not a reward, not a punishment,” she said.
“Calories are nutrients and if you use that fuel properly you can train your body to do amazing things. I’ve also become a much more positive person, especially when it comes to body image.
“And that has been a very long road, believe me. But I’m strong now, I’m confident now, and I know I can overcome anything – even a mental battle with myself.
“The most difficult part is getting rid of the ‘eating disorder voice’ that continues to tell you all the way through recovery, and still even comes back every once in a while, that you shouldn’t do it, that you looked better when you were tiny and hungry.
“Telling that voice to shut up is the hardest thing ever because it’s such a loud, powerful voice in your head that overpowers all other thoughts. So, learning to quiet the eating disorder voice and only listen to my true self was very hard to do.”
Danielle’s family supported her throughout her recovery and she now hopes to encourage others to love themselves.
“Friends and family are very impressed and proud and tell me I’m so strong, but honestly I didn’t recover for them, I recovered for me,” she added.
“The message I want to convey is self-love and forgiveness. Most people with an eating disorder are wired to be very very hard on themselves and to feel immense guilt and shame. I mean a crippling amount of guilt and shame.
“My advice is to forgive yourself. It’s okay to forgive. You forgive other people for hurting you, it’s okay to forgive yourself too. And then once you can finally forgive yourself, the great battle of learning to love yourself begins.
“I think the first step to learning to love yourself is to accept that you deserve self-love, you deserve recovery and you deserve a life of happiness. Everyone does. Everyone deserves to love themselves fully and to forgive themselves fully.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/danilongofit