WRITER: DANIELLE TEEL
My name is Danielle Teel. I am 23 years old. I graduated from Brigham Young University this past April of 2012 with a Bachelors of Science in Exercise and Wellness. I am happily married to my husband Ryan and no, we do not have any children. Yet. I recently finished a 200 hr intensive training to know all there is to know about yoga. However, the more I train and learn, the more I feel like I don’t know. I love to practice yoga on and off my mat. The postures are beautiful and they feel damn good. But even more so, the philosophy of yoga has saved my life and taught me that happiness exists inside of me. Not within external things. Not within jobs, houses, wealth, vacations, body image, clothing, clothing size, or any of the other silly things that we as human beings divide up our happiness into. Wholesome, true, blissful happiness comes from the heart. It innately rests within each one of us, we just need the courage to peel back the layers of heartache and trial that we have buried within us for so many years and take a leap of faith inside of ourselves.
I was 17 years old when I subconsciously lost sight of this concept. It’s sounds cliche to say, but so many of the things that I had relied on for my happiness, were gone and I felt a complete loss of control. Consequently, I resorted to feeling like I needed to control something- that something was food.
When it started I didn’t necessarily have a distorted body image. Sure, I got discouraged every now and again as the women in my family seem innately cursed with small boobs and large hips. However, my problem came from feeling the need for attention. I wanted to be noticed, I wanted to be perfect. I started controlling my food intake by reading food labels, eliminating “unhealthy” favorites and starting to exercise egregiously. In so doing, I developed a heightened sensitivity for my body size. Once this began, I started to feel like I could identify with something- I felt that even though I had lost so much that was important to me, I could cling to this identity that I was creating for myself. The danger in this is that I also began to lose sight of my “true self” and I began to sacrifice relationships and hobbies that were dear to my heart.
By the time my senior year of High School started in 2006, I was restricting my food intake to approximately 500 calories a day. I would measure everything I put in my mouth, I would count every calorie and I would spend most of my day preoccupied with it. I also got to the point that I would have anxiety if I didn’t make it to the gym everyday- ha, because heaven knows I had to burn off those 500 calories of food !:P I remember crying myself to sleep at night being so terribly depressed and so terribly…hungry. I remember hearing my mother crying herself to sleep at night and to this day that memory haunts me as being the absolute low point. My pinnacle of obsession became the space between my legs. I absolutely HAD to have at least a fist size space between my 2 thighs and I would do anything to get there. It was like fuel to the fire. But I thought it would make me happy. I had placed the value of my happiness-my freedom as an individual into this external thing.
Often people would say to me, “Danielle, you are so skinny, you’re too skinny” While there comment was intended to serve as a word of caution, little did they know that they were giving me the greatest compliment I could have hoped for! Then there would be others who would say to me, “wow, you are so in shape, I wish I could look like you!” To these people, I was disgusted. I thought to myself, “how could they want to look like me, don’t they think I look too skinny?!?!” By the time I graduated that year, at 5’9” I weighed 115lbs- a 20 lb loss from my normal frame. But it still felt too heavy. My parents tried so desperately to help me, they spent a fortune taking me to dieticians and psychiatrists but my heart was too hardened to hear any of it.
Fortunately, later that year I fell in love with an absolutely wonderful and fantastically caring, handsome man named Ryan. The fairy tale exists in that he saw through the disorder ( what I call “Tar”) and saw my “true-self” that I had buried so deeply within me. Despite this, my habitual routines continued- I went to college got married moved across the country, trained for and ran a marathon, but somehow I felt the ability to carry loads of heavy baggage with me along the way! The worst came just before the healing did- At the age of 21, I weighed 102 lbs, my % body fat well under 10% and a BMI of less than 13. I was miserable and deep inside of me I knew it, but I tried not to let it show. In fact, I hoped and prayed that I could find a way to break the spell so to speak. I wanted to let it go, I just didn’t know how.
So, I started a journal. Simple as that. I started a journal that summer of 2010 and while it was one of the most uncomfortable things I put into practice, it started me on the path toward healing. In it, I kept a record of goals. Some were long-term, such as “Have children with Ryan” ( This was a big one for me seeing as I hadn’t had my period in 4 years) Others were as simple as “genuinely laugh again” I also made a list of “Spontaneous Things To Do”-- this was perhaps the most crucial tool in breaking the spell of Tar. It included things like, changing meal times, letting Ryan chose the meal, try something new from the grocery store, take a nap, go out to breakfast, or heaven forbid...skip. the. gym. Each day I had to do something. It was kind of a fun, little game. The more I stuck to the small goals, which sometimes felt insurmountable; I began to break the spell. I was breaking my “rules”, I was peeling back the layers of buried heartache and seeing my true self. I started adding to my goals by including hobbies I had left behind; singing, art, baking, yoga, going out to eat and so on.
It’s been 2 ½ years since I started my journey away from “Tar” and back to my true-self. I look back on the person I was and I feel sorry for her but I also look back on that person as someone who helped me become who I am today: someone who is beautiful. Not beautiful because of a number on the scale, the amount of space between her thighs or the size of jeans she wears. The beauty I am is in me. It isn’t buried, it isn’t hidden behind a façade. It’s there, inside my heart; inside my spirit and inside this body of mine that is 30 lbs heavier, healthier and always will be, much happier.