Fitness Fridays: How Danissa Morris Overcame Binge Eating, Fear Of Food And Body Dysmorphia Following Weight Loss
Danissa Morris, unlike many of the women who’ve been interviewed for Fitness Fridays, was never really active before she started her fitness journey. In fact, fitness meant so little to her at a certain point in her young life, that while working at a popular gym, she would consume McDonald’s at the front desk.
Throughout this journey there has been many many ups, downs, high points, and low points… but the things ive gained big time is SELF CONTROL- AND SELF DISCLIPLINE I often times run into social situations where i have to practice both of these… iam in control of my actions, and what i do and dont put in my mouth… "no im not being sexual for all you pervs out there…lol" 😏…… anyway…. Ive been out with friends and while they have cupcakes, or fried chicken, or whatever they desire… i will either pass all together on the food choices, or bring my own meal… while on the outside this may look easy, let me tell you, its a battle in my head at times going back and forth with myself about the choice i want to make… which is either, eat the cupcake, or dont eat it…. i chose not too MOST of the time…. why? Because the version i see of myself will not get there eating foods that will forever be here… cupcakes, pizza, cookies… this stuff will ALWAYS BE HERE!!!! am i saying ive never eaten a family size bag of doritos, and cheesebread in one sitting? HELL NO… and i enjoyed every bite… but there is a time, and place for this… i may go weeks without a cheat meal and if i want to indulge, i will do just that.. but when its not the time, i have to have self control and enough discipline to walk away!!! If weight loss/fat loss is YOUR goal then know your limits, know when to say no, know when to tell yourself "itll always be there" reach your goals…. and dont allow small moments of indulgences keep setting back your effort for a healthier you…. #npcbikinicompetitor#eatcleantrainmean #legionofboom#npcbikini #girlswithmuscle#zeroexcuses#themffitnessfamily#progress#eatcleantraindirty#noturningback#fitnessislife#GAINZ#fitnessfreak#npcbikinicompetitor💪💪💪👌✔✔
It wasn’t until one of her co-worker’s and friends pulled her aside at her highest weight, 203 pounds at just 5’3″ tall, that she received the wake-up call she finally needed to change things. But with no past experience in sports and training, the 26-year-old went through some major ups and downs to get where she is today. That includes struggling with a binge-eating issue that landed her in the hospital, developing an aversion to food due to fear of regaining weight and getting sick again and body dysmorphia. So how did she overcome all of those obstacles to help other women both with their physical and mental health? The Indianapolis native shares her story.
MadameNoire: Way before you had this transformation of your body and the way you consume food, were you active before? Did you partake in sports or things of that nature?
Danissa Morris: Absolutely not [laughs]. No sports. All I did really, if you want me to be extremely honest, is hang out with friends. I got into the wrong crowd of people, did a lot of stuff I wasn’t supposed to be doing, and that’s really all I did in high school and after high school. It took me a while to really get it together.
At what point and age then, did you decide as you said that “Ok, I want to look like the picture I have in my head of what I should look like”?
I’d have to say I was about 22, 23. I actually worked at LA Fitness and worked there for five years. I went to a doctor’s appointment and the doctor told me I was about 187. I kind of didn’t take it too seriously, but it was like, “Wow, I’m really big!” But I was working at the gym and one of my buddies who worked there came up to me and he told me straight up, “Hey, I want to be honest with you. You’re a beautiful girl, but you’re getting big. I’m literally just watching it happen. You’ve got to get it together, eating a bunch of garbage up there at the front desk.”
Because you guys were close, you didn’t take that personally?
No. He was the sales manager at the time. He called me to the lobby and was like, “Yo, I’ve got to be honest with you.” You could tell he was kind of nervous to say it, but he said it and he was right. I was eating McChickens. You have to pass McDonald’s to get to the LA Fitness and I would stop there every day and get a large coffee with 25 sugars, literally, 25 sugars and six creams, two McChickens, two chocolate chip cookies and a frosty, every single day. He’d seen all that and said, “You’ve got to get it together.” That was it for me. That was that push that got everything going and I took off from there.
The week is halfway over, and ive been kicking all kinda ass…. I have some weeks of feeling like i didnt make any progress, and some weeks i feel like i can go do a photoshoot right then and there… learning to listen to my body, and knowing that iam a WOMAN, with a menstrual cycle, hormones, and a body that can fluctuate after a few hours.. we hold water, some more than others, stress contributes too, and 90% of us stress over life…. we r not meant to be "perfect" but you can be the best version of YOU and do your DAMNEST to be awesome!!! my mind tends to wander into negativity almost forgetting how far ive come, and thinking im not good enough….. i cannot keep discrediting myself like that. I know i bust my ass for the physique ive created, and the hard work i do day to day… so, the devil can go ahead and miss me with his tricks…. its a whole beast in the making over here… ✔👌#npcbikinicompetitor#eatcleantrainmean #legionofboom#npcbikini #girlswithmuscle#zeroexcuses#themffitnessfamily#progress#eatcleantraindirty#noturningback#fitnessislife#GAINZ#fitnessfreak#npcbikinicompetitor💪💪💪👌✔✔
What have you worked yourself down to?
It fluctuates between 128 and 130. The highest I got was 203, and that was after my doctor’s appointment.
Oh, you still got bigger after that revelation?
Oh yeah. When I started my actual journey, I guess you could you say, I weighed myself and I got up to 203.
You did get down, you did lose the weight, and you were able to watch what you were eating for a time. However, you said you didn’t have a good hold on food. So could you explain how you went about your fitness journey and lost the weight?
I started doing more research on weightlifting. When I tried to lose weight initially, it was a lot of cardio. The typical, modern diet: “I’ll just eat better.” But that’s only going to take you so far. And I just ended up becoming a smaller version of what I already looked like. My body composition wasn’t changing. I’m like, “I’ve got back fat, rolls and stomach and all of that.” There’s a picture of me that I posted in a swimming suit. I had lost the weight by that picture and I don’t remember how much I weighed by that time, but as you could see in the picture, I still had the thighs, and the gut and all of that. So that’s when I looked into weightlifting more and more about nutrition, carbs and proteins and macros. Then I picked up my first fitness competition. That’s when I really learned about nutrition!
I saw you were saying you prepped for 15 weeks for competition only to binge eat after you completed it, consuming the bad foods you had eaten before. I read that the binge eating caused you to get really sick and have swelling. How did that scary situation, having an edema and having to go to the hospital for it, change the way you looked at food?
After my show, I was lost. For 15 weeks, I had a meal plan. I was following a meal plan, a piece of paper, that showed me what to do, when to do it, how to do it. I had a coach at the time, I’m not going to bash her because she did what she could, but after all that I felt lost. So I was like, “Well, I’ll eat this then.” I ate what I wanted to eat. And you know, by the time you get to the stage, it’s called peak week. The week before your show you’re ripped. You have abs, you’re depleted of water and you’re lacking carbs. Carbs are the enemy because you think, “They’re going to make me get big again.” But what I know now is, after you compete and you simply drink water, you’re going to re-hydrate and your muscles will look full. Same with eating some oatmeal, you’re just going to look more full. But by the time I finished competing, I was petrified of carbs. Still, I did binge eating for two weeks straight. I ended up sick. I ate everything under the sun. I would literally eat to the point where I wanted to cry and then sit there and ask myself, “Why did you do this to yourself?” I had developed a terrible, terrible relationship with food. After that, I would calculate every little thing, killing myself with cardio hours and hours a day. It actually kind of progressed into an eating disorder. I’m not going to downplay it.
So how have things changed now as far as the way you deal with food?
I went through that for about, probably, a good five to six months last year after my show in April. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t really leave the house. I was going to the stores and even though I was small, I was picking up all the XL clothes because in my mind, that’s how big I was. In my mind, I was huge. So yeah, that body dysmorphia is real. But now, I could not be happier where I am now. I had to take the steps to get some help. I have a coach now, his name is Andrew. I had to get my metabolism together. I was like, “Ok, I can’t do this to myself.” I was killing myself with hours of cardio every single day. If I had an event planned with friends, then I’m sitting here trying to figure out during the week how I can take this or that out of my diet or don’t eat today and maybe I’ll eat tomorrow to prepare for it. It was ridiculous.
The way I was, it was affecting my relationship with my boyfriend, with the people around me. Now, we go out to dinners and we could not be happier. I eat balanced meals all day. I do maybe 20 minutes of cardio a week. It took a while. It happened in phases for me. And me personally, as a trainer, I want to speak to women not from the standpoint of “I’m in shape. I lost weight and you can too,” but more so, from the standpoint that “I can relate from both ends of the spectrum.” I know what it’s like to love food so much to the point of where it’s making you unhealthy. I also know what it’s like to be afraid of food to the point that it’s making you sick, physically and mentally. I just want women to know it’s Ok. It’s all right. It happens. It’s not even that it’s normal but it does happen, and it happens to a lot more people out here than they’d like to admit.
To all my fellow women struggling…..Take a good, hard, long look at yourself and know that you are not perfect, nor should you try to be… iam 100% my worse critic. My body has been one of my biggest accomplishments yet i still complain and pick out things i hate… try to find the good in YOU!!! and tell yourself… YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH!!!!! If you have to repeat this every morning, every night, or even every hour…. do it. And keep pushing!!!!!! 💪💪💪👌👌#npcbikinicompetitor#eatcleantrainmean #legionofboom#npcbikini #girlswithmuscle#zeroexcuses#themffitnessfamily#progress#eatcleantraindirty#noturningback#fitnessislife#GAINZ#fitnessfreak#npcbikinicompetitor photocred @buttman257
Now that you’ve got a grip on everything — you’re eating well, not overtraining — what keeps you motivated for the long term? Because as you found after your fitness competition, people reach a goal and then they don’t know what’s next so they binge eat or start backtracking on their hard work. So how and why do you keep it going four years later?
Honestly, I would have to say it’s my health. The way that I feel. And to be honest, women. The women out here, they need that person that they can see who has that bad habit falling off. One who can say, “I used to weigh this much” but who likes to be able lead by example. I like to practice what I’m preaching and find that balance. I get bloated and have pizza and wings with my friends, too. I like cookies like the next person, but I don’t let it consume me. I think about my goals first and the things I want to help people around me with. We have pitch-ins at work and they’ll ask me, “How do you eat that around all this food?” I’ll be around everybody else while eating my asparagus and cod and they’re eating all the stuff they got shipped in. I just choose to eat this way because at the end of the day, that food ain’t going nowhere. There’s a bakery here with the best donuts in the world and people will say, “Hey you want to get a donut?” And I’ll say, “The bakery on 16th Street? That’s not going anywhere. I know what that food tastes like.” You know what I mean? I’m not missing out on anything.
Also, I want to be a support, because I wanted to say that my mother told me I couldn’t do it. Black woman to Black woman, especially from your mother, you want that support. You want to hear that you can do this. I lost a lot of friends along the way, throughout this journey in changing my lifestyle. I had more people calling my phone to party than to ask me how I was doing. Once I put the drinks down and the party life, I lost almost all my friends. No support with it. No one wants to support someone who wants to do better, I noticed. There are a lot of people who can get discouraged by even family telling them they can’t do it, they’re not good enough or it’s never going to happen. That’s a bunch of bull. It can happen, and you’ve got to let all those voices be a motivation. That was a lot of my motivation when I saw the chips and the cookies. Those people, that motivation, helped me walk away from that.
Has your relationship with your mom improved since then?
Oh yeah! Absolutely. She doesn’t really like talking about the fitness stuff. I don’t know if it’s a jealousy thing. She’s never been supportive of it. Even at my competition she wasn’t supportive — she was mad because of the traffic. But you live and learn and it makes you stronger and better. Now I just want to be that voice to people who are in or have been in my shoes. I’m kind of done with personal training on a physical level. I can make anybody sore, but I can’t help them with their mind in that way. And that’s what I want to do, connect with them on more of a mental level.