By Tanita Matthews
ANOREXIA saw this woman’s weight plummet to just FIVE STONE, but after being diagnosed with LYME DISEASE she finally found the strength to fight back – while consuming up to TEN THOUSAND CALORIES a day.
Danielle Van Kay, (29) an eating disorder coach from Amsterdam, Netherlands, was 18 when anorexia began to take a hold of her in July 2006.
An insecure teenager, Danielle’s developing body, along with the trauma of her parents’ unstable marriage and some wayward comments from others about how her size stacked up and compared to her slim mum, left her self-conscious. She tried every fad diet under the sun to lose weight.
One diet in particular began to give the desired results and before long, Danielle was obsessed with her calorie intake, portion sizes and exercising. While most girls her age were out with friends, Danielle preferred to spend her time in the gym.
For three years Danielle’s weight played on her mind but finally, at the age of 21, she began to study nutrition and dietetics at university, which she claims silenced her eating disorder until she started feeling ill with unexplained symptoms.
After a year of multiple doctor visits and expensive blood tests, Danielle finally got a diagnosis: Chronic Lyme Disease. Unlike Lyme Disease, which is a bacterial disease caused commonly by tick bites, Danielle’s condition is a persistent and painful strain of the infection, which is the result of an immunity to any of the conventional treatment methods.
At a young age, Danielle had been bitten by a tick on her left knee. The tick was removed by her mother and Danielle carried on as a relatively healthy girl for much of her young life. The diagnosis triggered Danielle’s eating disorder all over again.
At her lowest weight, Danielle weighed just 5st 11lb some days only eating 800 calories. Her diet consisted of mostly fruit, vegetables and protein bars but it was her mum who urged her to get better. Danielle is now at a healthy weight, although she no longer weighs herself.
“The eating disorder slowly became background noise when I started university. Unfortunately, the universe had different plans for me,” said Danielle.
“Within that first year of my study I started getting extremely exhausted, brain fogged and the main issue was getting these extreme muscle pains.
“I did my absolute best to ignore all the pain and exhaustion and powered through that first year of studying, exams, parties and so on.
“I knew there was something wrong with my body, but no doctor had the answers. My blood panels constantly came back with good results.
“After I finished my first year of nutrition and dietetics I completely broke down.
“I had a successful recovery attempt prior getting ill with Lyme, but once I got sick and was bedbound, anorexia came back.
“I believed I wasn’t going to have a normal life anyways due to Lyme, so why would I give up control over the only thing I knew: food and my body?
“I wasn’t committed to recovery until the worst day of my life came knocking on my door.
“I started having insane eye pain, which turned into the most unbearable pain ever. Docs couldn’t figure out what it was, and they blamed (the) Lyme.
“My mum kept repeating ‘an underweight body can’t heal itself’ so I decided to eat and eat and eat and take the leap of faith.”
Danielle says that the road to her recovery was difficult and that she worried that she wouldn’t be able to stop gaining weight.
Danielle sought the help of a holistic healer for the eye pain. Gradually the pain became more bearable. This treatment, alongside Danielle’s uptake of calories saw her health and spirits steadily incline.
Danielle’s inspiring Instagram page, showcasing her work as an eating disorder recovery coach, is awash with pictures of a sunny, happy young woman who is now back to a healthy weight thanks to her sheer determination.
“I was scared sh**less, but I had nothing to lose and that’s how I gained back all the weight in seven/eight months. I ate up to 4,000 to 10,000 calories per day,” said Danielle.
“It was mainly lots of nuts, peanut butter sandwiches, coconut butter, chocolate, bread, pastas. You name it, I ate it.
“I finally gave in to my insatiable hunger.
“I’m spontaneous, have dinners with friends, I go on dates, had a relationship with an amazing supportive guy, let my guard down with people, go out and my body bounces back quicker from pain attacks.
“I’ve learned to be very body positive, however I do believe more in body neutrality. Our bodies are ever changing and that’s a beautiful thing. We all have bad body image days, so do I, but also; that’s totally normal.
“As scared as you might be, just do it. It will be the hardest fight you’ll ever have to fight, but damn; it’s so worth it. Be committed and don’t waste your precious years on this demon that’s called anorexia.”
To follow Danielle’s journey, please visit: www.instagram.com/daniellevankay