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Danielle's Story

"Over time I became more confident wearing a swimsuit and then stopped caring what other people thought of me."

Throughout my life I've always been a bigger person. I never felt that I confidently fitted into the right crowds of people or that I was good enough.

This did turn to binge eating as a way to control my emotions and, over time, I got bigger. As a result, I would struggle to find clothes that fit me and couldn't shop in the same places as my friends. 

Beauty standards and social media really affected my mental health and self-worth during this time.

I found that scrolling through apps and news articles made me wish I was someone else, and made me think I didn’t meet the expectations society placed on women.

Just before I left to go to university I lost over four stones and my body dysmorphia became worse than ever.

I was unable to keep the weight off and soon piled it all back on, achieving my heaviest weight in January 2023.

At that time I didn’t accept myself or my body, but deep down I knew something had to change and that there was more to life than feeling like this.

Then my friend introduced me to powerlifting as they believed that, with the right training, I had potential to succeed.

With that thought in mind, we set a goal of me participating in my first powerlifting competition in August of the same year. 

Danielle in the gym, squating with a heavy barbell weight.

Over time I found that having discipline and consistency were the true keys to success.

I'd train at 4.30am before work and I'd sometimes go for a walk before my shift had started just so I could have a clear mind for the day ahead. 

Since then I did attend in my first competition, and whilst I didn't place it's given me motivation to do another competition/meet.

In June 2023, I attended my first ever cold-water dip event with my best friend.

I had heard about the benefits of cold-water dipping on the body and it truthfully it looked like a lot of fun. 

Being a big person, the idea of being in a swimsuit around strangers and going into the North Sea frightened me.

I was anxious about pictures being taken, and I made sure I’d only upload photos from certain angles and that those I didn’t like would be deleted.

But over time I became more confident wearing a swimsuit and finally stopped caring what other people thought of me. 

Danielle swimming in the water with her arms outstretched.

What I see is that I’m now living my best life. I'm enjoying and living in the moment, and that’s what I want to be seen on my social media.

Powerlifting and cold-water dips with friends are now vital parts of coping with my mental health. They've also helped me with losing weight and I got stronger. My life has done a 180 degree change.

My journey isn’t over, but I can confidently say I’m becoming a better version of myself and that I'm finally accepting myself for who I am.

Powerlifting and cold water dips with friends are now vital parts of coping with my mental health."

I now realise that my main barrier when it came to exercise was that I had never have the motivation or drive to do exercise.

Most times coming home from work, I'd sit in front of the TV or watch films on my laptop,and when it came to doing exercise, I simply didn't know what to do or what was right for me.

I knew how to do certain exercises in the gym but my knowledge base for building a programme wasn't there.

I'd find and follow exercise plans on the internet, in the hope that I had finally discovered what was right for me. 

I'd also find myself hiding away in my own little corner of the gym because I didn't want anyone to see me working out or think that I was doing an exercise incorrectly. 

A real mood-booster

When I started back in January 2023 I had no hope or faith in the journey I was about to embark.

My early motivation came from seeing results in the work I was putting in and seeing myself become stronger not just physically but mentally as well. 

The progression of becoming stronger was liberating and I knew in that moment I had found my sport.

The way I had to be so disciplined with my training and what foods I consumed helped me change my mindset. 

Through my gym, I've built up a small community where I belong.

During training we're always providing feedback to one another, or helping each other with techniques or tips to exercise better. 

I'm no longer the shy girl who hides in the corner away from everyone else. 

The impact of exercise changes the way I feel.

For instance I could be having a terrible day, but as soon as I carry out that first successful lift, I feel that I'm on top of the world. 

Since finding powerlifting, I feel that I've found my feet and built an amazing community of people who are eager to help each other along on our own chosen paths. 

It's changed my mindset completely - not only with the way I approach exercise now but with food too.

I'm slowly learning to have a good relationship with food as well as eating in moderation.

Since January, I have lost weight and now I am doing it for my own good and not for society or the people around me. 

The impact of cold-water dipping on the body and mind is an experience which is hard to place into words.

I've often found myself having a terrible day but as soon as I step foot in the sea all my worries and troubles truly wash away.

I often get asked "why do I do it?" or that I am crazy for doing it. And you know what? I may be... but I love it too much. 

Maybe it's the dopamine rush we get or how great our bodies feel after we've completed a dip.

I feel personally it's a question I can't give an exact answer to. You have to try it for yourself to truly understand the feeling.