Danielle is a nutrition and lifestyle coach who inspires young women to investigate their relationship with food, weight and body image so they can live a life free from self-criticism, calorie counting, and deprivation.
After feeling hopeless on anti-depressants and obsessing about her weight, Danielle began making changes towards creating a life full of natural health- emotionally and physically.
With the help of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, books on mindful eating, and lots of introspection, she has learned how to live depression-free, to love her body, and to take fantastic care of herself without the use of anti-depressants or rigid dieting programs. She now loves watching her life evolve, with a fun lifestyle that gives her the freedom to nurture all her passions: health coaching, blogging, Chinese Medicine, nursing, and creativity.
Danielle is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Registered Nurse, Owner at Bliss Acupuncture in Golden, CO, and the creator of Mindful Nutrition for Life, online programs focused on Mindful eating and balanced diet.
Danielle is an upstate New York native and currently lives in Denver, CO.
The Long Version:
I was born the baby of three girls in a suburb of Rochester, NY. We grew up lucky, in a house with a big yard and creek in the back, two loving parents, Catholic school tuition, and lots of snow days.
I have a vivid memory of when this all started. I’m ten years old, never one of the lanky kids, but certainly not overweight, and I’m in front of the full-length mirror in my oldest sisters bedroom, in my undies. And I’m saying to myself “this summer I’m going to have a flat belly.” Interesting thing, looking back, was that I had no plan on how I was going to achieve that. I just knew I wanted it.
Me with my childhood best friend
Fast forward to high school. I’m a cheerleader. I’m popular. I don’t have much trouble staying thin because I’m 16. But the bad habits had started. Soon as I had my driver’s license, I would hit the Dunkin’ donuts drive through alone, so my mom wouldn’t know I ate 3 doughnuts after lunch. I would sneak spoonfuls of ice cream, oreos, chocolate (always have had a sweet tooth!). And then I would feel panic that I was going to be fat- and hit the YMCA treadmill.
In college is when things really got complicated. My then-boyfriend had gone to bootcamp and I remember staying up one night, starving, wanting so badly to eat the fat-free yogurt I had brought back form the dining hall but utterly paralyzed in fear: What if he comes back and I’M FAT??
This theme continues through college, feeling a total lack of control around food and my weight. Like the ten year old girl who wants to will a flat belly so she can wear a 2 piece like the tiny girls. It took me another 5 years to realize that I was trying to control my food intake, calories burned, and weight because I lacked control in other areas of my life.
My senior year of college I broke down.
I was really excited about life, just a few months away from being a Registered Nurse, I had a job lined up, an apartment leased in the trendy part of town. What’s not to be pumped about?
Even though I had worked, and planned, and budgeted every little part of my life until it looked perfect from the outside, I was completely incapable of having a jar of peanut butter in the house. I would eat till I was sick, promise myself I would fast for the next day, run on the tredmill, feel absolutely starving, then justify eating until I was sick again. Repeat. It finally became clear that this just HAD to stop.
I found a counselor at an eating disorder center. She helped. She taught me how to eat regular sized meals throughout the day. She had me write letters to kids who made fun of me and made me feel fat. She made me yell at her. She had me eat small 6 meals a day instead of 1 massive binge. This helped. Not exactly in the sense that I was freed from my neurosis, but that I knew there was hope. She gave me hope that I could change.
College graduation. Happy! I was so proud!
I started working in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in June of 2007, when I was 21 years old. The first week of work I saw 3 kids die. A little foreshadowing of the year to come. A very painful year, yes, but the one that catapulted me to change everything.
By Christmas of that year I was a zombie. 6 months working night shifts, sleeping 12 hours a day, and seeing the grief of parent’s losing their children had gotten the best of me. I was scared to death of going to work for fear of slipping up and killing someone’s child. I had been mugged a block from my house and was afraid to park my car at night. I had disconnected from my friends, my sisters and was in a co-dependent relationship that was headed nowhere fast.
I had been depressed before, but not like this. So I did what I said I would never do, and that February I went to a psychiatrist and got me some antidepressants. I was ashamed and disgusted with myself.
Lucky for me, the meds worked. 6 weeks later I had broken up with the boyfriend, emailed the manager at the Children’s Hospital in Denver, and apologized to my friends for disappearing. I remeber sitting on the kitchen counter with my roommate, Kaylin, in awe of the previous 6 months, saying “Man, sorry, I lost myself for a while there.”
A few weeks later I’ve got an interview at Denver Children’s Hospital set up (people ask my, why Denver? My answer? Just felt right) I’m getting my legs as a nurse, hanging out with friends again. And just like that, I’m outta there. My year of hell shot me straight to the sunniest city in the US where I got a job in their much friendlier Pediatric ICU.
My best friend, Kim, and I drove my shiny new Ford Focus the 1,500 miles to Denver. We cried when we got the keys to my new apartment, and found out she had passed her nursing boards.
Kim and me on our way to Denver
A week later, I put Kim on a plane back home, and here I am in a new city and I don’t know a soul. I feel like I’m on an adventure in a new place, and I’m happier that ever. I love my new job, I start making friends, I buy a house, I’m happy. My eating issues have taken a back burner- and this is key for me. Happy=not obsessing about food. Do what makes me happy, and I eat like a regular person.
A year-ish after moving to Colorado, I start nannying for a little boy. His mom, Jessica, became my first spiritual teacher on a journey towards self-love. Years before, I had sworn off God and the Catholic crap, committing to lead a life of kindness above all else. Jessica opened my life back up to the idea of spirit, intuition, and God in a way that immediately resonated. She sees my joy and encourages me to get off the antidepressants. But I am SO afraid of going back to the cave of doom, that I wait.
A few months go by and a friend tells me that she knows someone who treated their depression with Acupuncture. That’s it! I’ll get acupuncture and stop my meds. So I find a groupon for a kind looking young acupuncturist, get the go-ahead from my MD, and 3 weeks later, I’m off meds, feeling great. Easy peasy!
Over the next year or so I continue to see my acupuncturist, Josie, for tune-up. Though I’ve had, and still have, ups and downs, I feel a huge relief knowing that I can never go back to where I was. Like I’ve found the answer and keep it safely in my back pocket for emergencies. I’m still working nightshift. Me and my then-boyfriend break up, get back together, break up, try long distance, yadda yadda.
One day, I’m thinking about Josie, and say, man, wouldn’t that be awesome? To work regular hours? Work for myself? Help people who want to be helped? Show people that there’s another way? And the on again off again boyfriend says, “well, then go be an acupuncturist!” So I do.
I was this close to going to school in San Diego, where he was just starting Law School. Even got myself a cushy nursing job, but something felt wrong. Sitting on a bench outside of Rady Children’s Hospital after a job interview, I cried my face off to a friend. Saying everything was working out perfectly- but something just wasn’t right. I told the boyfriend I wasn’t moving, enrolled in classes at the Colorado School and TCM, and 2 months later I was single again.
Now I’m in the zone. My heart is broken, but I’m letting it heal. I love Chinese Medicine school. I get an email from Josie that she’s offering a mentoring program, something about nutrition. With hardly any information I say yes, I’m in. I know I have knowledge to share and tons to learn. This is what happens when you trust the shit out of people like Josie- great opportunities!
With Josie’s guidance, I created Mindful Nutrition for Life in 2011. I also started re-examining my relationship with food, knowing this is my opportunity to help people let go of the pain of self-criticism. I’m able to work only 2 nights a week at the hospital, then one, then I stopped working nightshifts all together (Ya sleeping!!) I start selling my furniture at a local boutique. I graduate from Chinese Medicine school in the Spring of 2013 and feel blessed every day to be able to do what I love and get paid for it. My sisters are having babies and being an auntie is the coolest job ever.
Now I spend my days doing Acupuncture, hanging out with my Great Dane, making furniture, hiking, working my butt out at Fitness in the City, cooking, being with friends, doing nutrition coaching, saving kids lives, and waiting for my next nephew to be born.
one of my favorite pieces
I still have days where I freak out about food.
I hope sometime in the near future I can say, “wow, it’s been a really long time since I worried about that.” But what I do know, and with all of the “issues” that we identify with, that it is just a story. That when I get into a bag of hershey kisses and can’t stop- that is my story. I’ve been telling myself I am a binger for so long, that every now and then, I buy into it. But with each opportunity to shine light on my own imperfections, they hold less and less power.
And that is where I have found my freedom.
And I am here to show you that that freedom can be yours, too.
Thanks for reading ;)