She was the Overall Champ at the 1995 North American Bodybuilding Championships. Before she became a bodybuilder though, Ericca Kern struggled with anorexia and low self esteem for years. Bob talks to Ericca about overcoming eating disorders, maintaining a positive self image and finding balance.
Although Ericca credits bodybuilding as the sport that helped her break free from anorexia, she says she replaced her obsessive behavior about being thin with obsessive behavior about bulking up. "[Bodybuilding] was another extreme, and it was the control over the eating that made me feel like I had control over my life," she says.
After a six-year bodybuilding career, Ericca says she was dissatisfied with the direction the sport had taken—which was favoring an increasingly muscular physique—and gave up competing altogether. "I didn't like the body that I was in 364 days of the year, so for that one day on stage, it wasn't worth it," she says.
Today, Ericca says her relationship with diet and exercise is the healthiest it's ever been. She says that maintaining a positive body image takes time, and that striking a healthy balance is something she continues to work on each day. "It becomes not so much physical, but it's tied in more with the emotional and the spiritual [work] that I need to do for me, and I don't know what that is," says Ericca. "I'm still looking."
Ericca shares ways to recognize if you or someone you love may have an eating disorder:
If your perception of the way you look changes day to day. For instance, one day you think you look fine, and the next day you think you're fat.
If you're constantly depriving yourself of food or withholding something for another time. "Deprivation is a sure sign they people are going down the wrong track," says Ericca.
If you focus on unrealistic role models. "If your role models are all extremely skinny models, then you're looking at the wrong role models," she says.
Ericca's advice for combating eating disorders:
Ericca says eating disorders can develop at a very young age. If you are a parent, acknowledge your child's inner strengths, rather than superficial characteristics. "Parents need to pay extra special attention to reward, and notice and applaud the internal things, the beauty of the inside of the child, the things they do that show kindness and compassion and generosity," she says.
Replace the unhealthy, obsessive behavior with a positive discipline. Ericca says she broke the cycle of anorexia by replacing calorie counting with the discipline of weight training. At the same time, Ericca stresses the importance of focusing on the underlying emotional triggers so you don't end up going to another extreme.