By Josh Saunders
A six-stone (90lb) anorexic shares her incredible transformation from malnourished to muscular after learning to love her body.
Erika Jennings, 25, struggled with eating disorders for seven-years battling the urge to starve her skeletal body and purging whenever she ate.
After being rejected by sweethearts online and fearing she was ‘fat’ due to her muscular legs, she started dieting at 15.
Her fixation with becoming smaller left her shrinking food portion sizes continuously and reducing the calories she allowed herself to consume, until it dropped below 300 a day.
But in 2013, at a dangerously low 6st 6 (90lb) while lying depressed on the floor she had an epiphany that she must become her ‘body’s friend’ and start loving herself.
She switched to a high-carb vegan diet, started treating herself with bubble baths and repeatedly told herself that she was ‘beautiful, strong and capable’.
Now a healthy 10st 10 (150lb), she’s focussing on building a more muscular physique, working out three-times-a-week to forge thicker legs and a bigger butt.
Erika, from West Virginia, USA, said: “It started out as a healthy diet, then it progressed to a diet where I would only eat 1200 calories a day.
“I started to see results then kept lowering things, taking smaller portions then switched to low fat options, then no fat and then not eating at all.
“At my worst, some days I was eating a maximum of 300 calories a day, other times I wasn’t eating at all, within a year it was a full-blown eating disorder.
“I kept starving myself as I hated my muscles, I wanted to get rid of them, it got to the point where I was really tiny with no shape or body definition.
“It’s really shocking to look at now, I never realised how I was because whenever I looked in the mirror I saw a monster that was big and disgusting.
“On one of my worst days, I was so depressed I was lying on the floor, suddenly I heard god say to me ‘you are your best friend’ and that experience really changed me.
“Suddenly I was overwhelmed by the way I treated myself and the way life was going, I decided to learn to love and accept myself.
“That led to all kinds of stuff from taking bubble baths to showing my body I cared and love it, I was still battling my eating disorder but knew that if I tried to love myself I would beat it.
“I built a relationship with myself, by saying that I was ‘beautiful, strong and capable’, I started meditation and focused on healing my body.
“Ten-months later, I started on a high-carb vegan diet and the nourishment helped to eliminate my depression, I felt so good and even though I was consuming up to 3,000-4,000 calories a day I felt like I was bouncing off the walls.
“I realised that it’s ok not to be perfect and to gain weight, I learned to embrace the thickness of my thighs and love my body.
“I switched my emphasis from burning calories to becoming fit and building muscle, I started working out at home doing exercise and gaining more weight.
“I fell in love with my thicker, bigger body, I used to hate my thighs and wanted to be smaller but now I love my body and having a fuller curvier figure.”
Erika’s issues with appearance began during her teen years, when she started to believe she was overweight due to her curves and muscular legs.
Her obsession with becoming ‘skinny’ led her to starve herself between a self-destructive routine of binge eating and then purging.
Erika said: “It was a difficult time, I started questioning myself and my body after several boys I had fallen for didn’t like me back, I felt like the odd one out.
“I had an inner self-hatred for how I looked, people would make comments about me being curvier or bigger, they were just jokes but it made me question myself.
“Even during my eating disorder, I felt like a giant trying to fit into my surroundings, in reality I was weak, sickly and small.”
Erika was blinded to how dangerously underweight she was, at her worst she had a body mass index of 14.5 – a healthy range lies between 18 and 25.
On top of her extremely restricted diet, she would exercise excessively – some days cycling up to 30 miles in a bid to work off any remaining ‘fat’ on her body.
Erika said: “It was terrible for my malnourished heart and I didn’t even care, thinking about that now hurts.
“I was so determined to get skinny that even if it killed me recovery wasn’t something I was trying to do, I was just focusing on being skinny at all costs.”
But after her epiphany and deciding to start appreciating her body in 2013, Erika began the long road back to health.
She stopped weighing herself, calorie counting and avoided potential triggers as she battled to undo all of the negative habits she’d built up over her seven year struggle with eating disorders.
Supported by her family and husband, Wayne, 30, she was able to gain nearly four stone (60lb) and has now built an impressively chiselled yet curvaceous physique.
Erika said: “My life is 100% different and better, before, I was so lost in my head, always wondering how I could burn more calories, how I was going to eat less, how much cardio I could do.
“I have gained a lot of muscle and I’m proud of the person I’m becoming, some people see self-love as vain but it’s about appreciating yourself so you are more free to live a full life.
“I make the joke that I went from having a body like Gollum to Aragorn because Lord of the Rings is one of my favourite films.
“I love my whole body, becoming more strong and growing my butt, I hope that by seeing my transformation it encourages others to recover too.”
You can follow here at @erikathetiger