I used to think my story was unique because of the sheer amount of weight I lost and because of the health I subsequently gained. But what I know now is that the weight loss isn’t all that unique. Plenty of incredible stories just like mine highlight tenacious, ambitious people making changes, losing weight, gaining health and sharing their achievement with the world. And it truly is a fantastic achievement. Sure, I lost half my body weight, about 122lbs., overcame Type 2 Diabetes and chronic hypertension, but my story is so much deeper than just changing body sizes. There’s an arc through it all that I couldn’t possibly describe at once. But I’ll try.
About 6 years ago, I made a decision to reclaim my health. I’d just had my second child, my daughter, and was suffering with Postpartum Depression. The tricky thing with PPD is that not many mothers talk about it. There is such shame in even uttering those words: “I have postpartum depression.” I remember searching the few people’s faces that I told, looking for signs of disgust, worry, and revolt. It was alienating. I couldn’t have loved my daughter more. I was fiercely attached, loved her with all my might and shared a bond that came instantly. But these big feelings I had after her birth were like an ocean. Vast, mysterious, deep. I’d already been accustomed to keeping uncomfortable feeling hidden, so that’s exactly what I did.
"Smile, Dani. Don’t let them know. You have to prove that you are a good mother. A good wife. A good girl. And good girls don’t talk about uncomfortable things."
Smile, Dani. Don’t let them know. You have to prove that you are a good mother. A good wife. A good girl. And good girls don’t talk about uncomfortable things. Although my struggle with PPD was almost like the “last straw,” it wasn’t the first time I had hidden away feelings that felt too big and too shameful to be open about. I became an expert at painting on the face I felt other people needed to see. Being the person they need me to be. Hiding my true struggles and occupying characteristics and roles that were more “socially palatable.” As an early teen, I began struggling with anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Growing up in a tight-knit Catholic school, I had to keep that shit on lock down. Whatever you do, don’t rock the boat. Go to church. Confess your sins. Conform. Be a good girl. This is your cross to bear.
Somewhere in my teen years, I began turning to food for comfort. Because look, when you aren’t letting out these feelings and emotions, it’s going to come out in some form or fashion. And because I’d been conditioning myself to stay “safe” (i.e. a “good girl” who doesn’t talk about uncomfortable things), I wasn’t openly working through these feelings. At first, food was my ride or die. I felt it would never let me down. It was there when I needed it. And I needed it often. I ate things that brought me comfort, eased the tension, and made me forget, even if just for a bit, that I was keeping all these feelings zipped up so damn tight that I felt like I couldn’t even breathe. And so my tricky little addiction with food began.
Fast forward some years later, I had gained over 100lbs, was pretty heavy into binge drinking and binge eating, was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, had chronic high blood pressure, and learned I had a hormonal issue known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I was 22. My life had just begun, yet my body felt worn down. So I doubled down on my therapy, hoping I could get things together enough to move past this painful portion of my life that had taken up SO. MUCH. SPACE. Yet made me feel so damn small.
I began working more through the anxiety, depression and OCD. I become a bit more open with a few trusted friends and family members. Through it all, my husband Travis has been the one person I could always be real with. He could see my ugly, raw, real, deep emotions and every time I’d look back in his eyes, searching for that familiar look of disgust, all I’d see was love. Understanding. Hope.
Fast forward a few years, and I had come to a place in my life that I was ready to start a family. We had a healthy baby boy after a tough journey with infertility, and a healthy baby girl a few years after that. But becoming a mother brought up that familiar flood of emotions I’d spent years stuffing down and attempting to tame and come to grips with.
"Motherhood will do that. Bringing forth life, embodying the essence of feminine energy, is a life altering event in a woman’s life."
Motherhood will do that. Bringing forth life, embodying the essence of feminine energy, is a life altering event in a woman’s life. It will bring out every fire in you there ever was. It’s a dynamic, energetic, fiery force, all its own, and with the birth of my daughter, those feelings came hard and fast. I had a natural, unmedicated birth. I was nursing. I was babywearing. I was cloth diapering. I was crunchy as shit and thought it would all be zen, and yet there I was, feeling that flood of emotions. The anxiety. The shame. The guilt. The self doubt.
I had spent so many years, so much time, so much mental effort to keep everything all zipped up, like a good girl, and here it was, nearly BURSTING at the seams, almost like a powerful torrent of water just about to surge from the dam.
And that was my moment. It was the moment I decided I’d take my life back. I never could have anticipated the changes it would eventually bring. I’d never even visualized what my future self looked like. I lived day to day, surviving one 24-hour period after another. I had dreams, but they felt distant, and that familiar narrative would pipe up and remind me that those dreams weren’t for me. They were for more deserving females. Women who had their shit together. Good girls who had it all buttoned up and didn’t feel ugly, raw, shameful emotions. Those dreams clearly weren’t for me.
But that moment I made a decision to lean into what felt so uncomfortable at the time: trust and love in self. I started, very slowly, valuing moving my body and feeding it well. I started opening up the conversation with others. I began owning my journey and sharing more openly. At first, I lived by “fake it till you make it.” I didn’t quite trust myself at first. But the more I invested in ME, my movement, my relationship with food, the more I saw and felt things change. I had several coaches and mentors throughout this process, each of whom were on my path at just the right time. And they were the fuel that kept me marching along. I truly believe that.
It’s been SIX years since I had that “moment.” The one where I sobbed in a puddle on the kitchen floor and swore I would do things differently and I’d finally reconcile with the deep, mysterious, raw, torrential wall of emotions that had plagued me since I was just a kid. I made that promise that day. I made it to myself, to my husband and to my two children. Six years later, I make that promise again each day.
I’ve had missteps since then. Once I lost the weight, I struggled with my relationship with food again. I also started grappling with my body image. There is so much going on behind the scenes in terms of body confidence after one loses half their body weight. When I left conventional medicine in favor of more holistic means of healing myself, I turned to seemingly “healthier” ways of coping. I used excessive exercise as my “therapy” and restricted food to feel the familiar need for control. What I’d come to realize was that each of these tactics were just strategies I used to zip myself back up again. To make myself physically and emotionally small - socially palatable. A good girl. And good girls are small, quiet, have their shit together, conform to society’s standards and zip up all the raw, fierce feelings they instinctively possess.
The data will say this: 122lbs lost. Type 2 Diabetes: GONE. Hypertension: GONE. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: MANAGED. But my story is so much more than data points, transformation photos, and a weight loss story. There was ALWAYS a larger arc unfolding without me even realizing it.
In these six years, I’ve reconciled with who I am. I am unzipping it all, and letting my raw, fiery, unbridled self fall completely out. Sometimes in bits and pieces. Sometimes all at once. And sometimes I catch myself zipping it back up to feel control or to make others feel comfortable.
Today, I feel such gratitude for my journey. It’s far from over, and just being present on this path brings me such equanimity. It’s a gift to just be here, witnessing it all, being present for it with my husband, my children, my family, my friends.
I have chosen to show up for myself by adopting daily practices that help me continue unfolding who I am, peeling back those sticky little layers of my ego. Today, I practice staying courageously vulnerable. I show up for myself by sifting through the continual torrent of emotions and feelings. Meditating. Journaling. Just BEING. Moving and feeding my body in a way that comes from a place of love. Honoring my creative gifts. Uncovering my intuition after hiding it for too long. Surrounding myself in support.
I am embracing that wild, unbridled part of me that I used to feel shame for. She is my life force. She is uniquely female: both soft and strong. Vulnerable and powerful. I’m learning to take that torrent of emotions and listen deep within. Listening to MY truth. She tells me I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. And I would never have gotten here if I’d just kept it all zipped up and played the good girl.
Here’s to women finding their power within themselves. Shedding skins. Finding their voice. Playing BIG. Surrounding themselves with support. Letting their fire BURN. And rising from their own burnt ashes.
Dani Raine lives in Texas with her 2 kids and husband Travis. They host a podcast called Life By The Raines empowering others to create their fullest, most awakened lives (@_lifebytheraines on Instagram). She has been a Psychedelic Gypsy Fitness member since April.