Danielle Ruhl's Story: A tale of Resilience and Victory
Danielle, we are excited to connect with you and enable your fans and readers to learn more about you personally and professionally.
You are a television star, a popular social media influencer, a unique music producer, and a champion in overcoming the personal challenges many of us often face. You have a track record of being authentic, personally connected with your fan base, and have built lasting friendships with them. I want to flip things around a bit and begin with the personal essence of Danielle Ruhl and begin with some of the relatable connections you continue to make with others. And how we believe you have bravely demonstrated to us publicly that being human and overcoming challenges is quite ok, relatable to many, and is a very integral and necessary part of living a successful life.
Danielle, at at least one point in your life, you struggled with weight gain, which is a reality for over 73% of us Americans. Can you tell us how you faced up to being overweight and give some insights into how you achieved your desired weight and then how you maintain it? I grew up around people who cared greatly about their looks and would reminisce on how beautiful they were when they were young. I believe this subconsciously added a lot of pressure for me to be perceived as beautiful.
When I was in Kindergarten, my mom wanted me to be a child model. She would drive me to Chicago in the afternoons to try out for different commercials and print ads. I still remember someone trying to teach me how to smile correctly and me feeling down on myself because I could not get myself to achieve their standards. The tryouts stopped shortly after they started.
I was rejected by most tryouts, and looking back, I feel as if this could have been the start of when I started having a negative relationship with myself and my body. I felt like I would never be enough or live up to the standards that I thought were set for me.
As me and my siblings grew up, I was always turning to food in order to distract myself from my negative self-thoughts. I was constantly comparing myself to my entire family, wondering why I wasn’t their size.
From a young age, I kept trying to diet but would fail each time. I would fantasize about just not eating, and even felt like a failure when I was unable to do that.
The first time I was bullied for my weight was in middle school. There were a group of kids that would call me fat, and I felt like I couldn’t escape it.
We moved three times growing up, and each time I showed up at a new school, terrified that people would immediately judge me for my weight. This only caused me to keep turning to food as it became harder to make friends.
In high school, I constantly tried every single diet in the book. The more I tried and failed, the more my self-loathing progressed. During my senior year, I was the heaviest I had ever been and constantly had to buy new jeans. I had a closet filled with jeans hoping I would be able to be someday able to wear my old ones.
In my freshman year of college, I started sorority recruitment. My friends were getting invited to all of the houses they wanted, while I got less and less invitations back. I was accepted into a sorority in which a lot of people from my hometown were in, but I felt unworthy as I was the only one who was overweight.
From there, my real obsession with losing weight started. I thought that I would only fit in if I looked like everyone else. In my freshman and sophomore year, I tried only eating 500 calories a day and working out to burn 1,000 calories a day. I lost 50 lbs very quickly. Once I achieved my goal weight, I reverted back to how I was previously eating, and throughout college, my weight continued to progress.
I had a demanding job post-college and would turn to food to distract myself from the long hours and stress. My coworker started Nutrisystem, and I did it alongside her. I was embarrassed to tell people I was on a weight loss program until I saw the support my coworker got.
For a year, I stuck to the plan and finally was able to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way. Having a set plan and meals readily available for me helped me learn portion control and healthy habits and eventually lead me to have a different relationship with food.
For me, trying and failing fad diets only continued my self-loathing. I realized that I needed structure and communication with friends and family about starting Nutrisystem (because they were incredibly supportive and proud). My advice would be to try something sustainable, truly research portion control, and plan out healthy meals in advance (i.e., meal prepping). Also, forgiving yourself if you can’t do it the first time if you have tried and failed, and having the confidence you will be able to achieve your goals in the back of your head.
I understand that you are a mental health advocate dedicated to others in promoting it. With almost 1 out of 5 people in America struggling with mental health, this is a huge need for us all to address. Will you share your personal experience on why that became important and any recommendations for taking a positive approach to better mental health in the craziest of times?
I started having suicidal ideations at the age of 8, and that's really when I started noticing that I felt different than other people did. But I had no idea that depression or anxiety or any of these words even existed. I would kind of get mad at myself because I couldn't shake the feeling. Knowing that I had an overall happy childhood and loving parents, and my sister and brother didn't seem to struggle as much — I just kept thinking negatively of myself because I didn't know why I felt the way that I did.
Those feelings only progressed because I didn't openly discuss them until college. The more you talk about it, the more you understand that so many other people have the same feelings, and it's not just you going through it. I found that the more I talked about it, the better it was. So even after college, I would be open about it with new friends that I would meet because I wasn't ashamed of it anymore. I didn't have to hide anymore.
Throughout my life, I have lost so many people to suicide and addiction. Some of these people were still in grade school. At least in my case, I wish that mental health was taught more widely so that young kids are able to realize that their struggles may be attributed to mental health and know they are not alone and can find resources and others who relate or can help. My story and their stories are what make me want to continue to vocalize these messages. Not only to help break the stigma but bring awareness to mental health in general for those who may not understand it.
I had a few traumatic incidents happen that added a layer of PTSD. Additionally, I realized in therapy that I blamed myself for these incidents for years. I was also able to attribute this incident to my lack of self-love and self-worth. It wasn’t until last year that I recognized this correlation. I was also in an abusive relationship that contributed to my lack of self-worth that I blamed myself for far too long.
I had PTSD for years and didn’t realize why so many “normal” interactions or instances would trigger me or cause me to have panic attacks or increased anxiety. I always minimized my own experiences and traumas by comparing them to others and thinking that there are always others who had it worse. This only caused more self-loathing and stopped me from fully getting the help I needed to overcome my challenges.
Knowing that there are so many realizations I had later on in life that I would have really benefited from understanding earlier is another reason that this communication is important to me.
Danielle, let's take this a little bit further and discuss your music and lyrics and how it demonstrates how we all can be empowered through the use of our individual artistic abilities to prop up our own mental state. A key part of your self-heal empowerment seems to be the journaling of your thoughts into music. Can you share with us the personal importance and how and why it works for you and certainly may for others?
I use two journaling apps every day. One of them is more focused on mindfulness, and one of them is tracking anxiety. I usually use both of them together. I log how I'm feeling on a scale of one to 10, and I write down why. Sometimes when you're experiencing anxiety or depression, you don't even necessarily know why you're feeling that way. So this app just really helps me dig into the source. Immediately after, they ask a prompt about something positive, like what am I grateful for today? So I think that it starts with helping you uncover why you're feeling a certain way and then ends with positive affirmations about yourself, your life, or other positive things that are going on. I think tracking how you're feeling is really important because it helps you start putting together the correlation between certain times of the year or certain situations that increase your anxiety.
I wrote The Way Down when I was 15. It was an internal battle I was having with myself about giving up and, ultimately, why it shouldn’t be an option. This is nerve-racking as many of these songs are very personal, but if even one person relates, it is worth it. :)
I was struggling with depression and anxiety and didn’t know how to communicate about it. I was sitting in a window seat on an airplane, staring outside of the window, wondering if it would be easier or harder to just jump than deal with the pain I was experiencing. Those moments passed the moment I looked to my right at my sister sitting next to me in the middle seat, and I realized there are so many amazing reasons to live life.
The impact of the fall (or giving up) scared me, but so did the constant thoughts of what the pain might feel like on the way down (thinking I would ultimately fail no matter what). Looking down can be scary for many reasons. For one, looking down at the mistakes I made, the fear of the pain never subsiding, etc. However, it is also looking down at all of the people who love you and what the future could hold if you hang on and think positively.
Sometimes it feels like I am progressing, but the climb can get steeper when I fall back into the negative patterns of emotions. But constantly looking at the view of the positives vs. thinking I will break as I fall is the best way for me to move onward and upwards.
When I see “you” or everyone in my life, it further emphasizes the light in my life and the reason that holding on and progressing is even more important.
Even if, at times, you are experiencing pain or feel like you are struggling to move forward, you are still progressing onward. Sometimes it may seem easier to give up than deal with the anxiety of what the future might hold. However, if you take a second to breathe and look around at all of the positives, and those who love you, giving up will be so much harder than pushing through."
You are also an advocate for people struggling with diabetes and the associated costs. A whopping 1 in 10 Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and 90-95% of those have the more serious Type 2 form of the disease. Will you give us some insight into why diabetes is personal and important to you? My sister was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes later on in life. Seeing how much her life drastically changed over the years broke my heart. There are so many different health complications that come with diabetes, and seeing my best friend in the entire world struggle daily lead me to research diabetes and become angry at the fact that there are not enough resources for those who cannot afford medication. There was a time period when my sister did not have insurance. She was unable to afford her medication, and knowing this was detrimental to her future made me feel for anyone else who was in her shoes.
For the 2022 season, you completed 14 episodes in the reality series "Love is Blind" on Netflix. What was it like being on a show where a part of your personal life is a shared stage with the entire world? It was tough after the show was released. There were threads of people diagnosing me with every single disorder in the book. And that was really difficult because I've been working on this with my therapist and psychiatrist for years. I felt like I was getting bullied for having mental health issues.
It was really hard to go through that at first, but then being able to connect with others that have gone through the same exact situation made things so much better. There have been people I've talked to that have said, “I didn't necessarily understand how I was feeling until you started posting about mental health or until I watched you on the show.
What are your goals or plans for looking ahead this year? I had never anticipated becoming an “influencer.” I am not the kind of person who can ever change who I am. I don’t know how to take aesthetically pleasing photos, make tik-toks or reels, etc. My main priority is to use my platform to continue to talk about the topics that matter most to me. I am not as concerned with the way I am able to communicate these topics but with ensuring I have the ability to do so on any scale. Growing my social media channels and creating music would be focused on continuing to have ways to greater communicate these topics. I am open to additional interviews and television opportunities if the opportunity presents itself as I truly do believe that my words have an impact on others, whether it be 1-1 conversations or communicating my journey on a broader scale.
Danielle, thank you for connecting with us in wonderful ways. I can honestly say this is one of the most valuable stories we will publish. As you mentioned, if just one person gets a positive boost knowing they are not alone with these real-life issues and gain understanding from your wise words, your time spent with us today is priceless. Our team is in awe of your courage and strength. May you continue to be the champion of love and hope for many. Blessings from the USA News team!