Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images Erica Lugo
While Erica Lugo was helping contestants achieve their dreams of losing weight on The Biggest Loser, she was quietly dealing with an eating disorder, the trainer revealed on Tuesday.
Lugo, 34, said that when people watched her on TV, she “was sick.”
“I was mentally and emotionally miserable,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “Physically my body was going down the wrong path even though it was celebrated for being ‘small.’ I did everything in my power to remain ‘tiny.’ I restricted food, I thought about binging and purging and to [be] completely honest I did, YEARS AGO. I would sit in the bathroom while filming and cry. Cry for hours [because] the eating disorder thoughts kept telling me ‘just purge, it’ll help keep you thin.’ “
Lugo said that one night on the Biggest Loser campus, she spent 10 hours on her bathroom floor crying and convincing herself not to purge her food.
“I sat in the bathroom with my knees tucked to my chest crying and stopping myself from purging,” she said. “Up until the very minute I had to leave for set the next morning. Yes. I sat in that bathroom for over 10 hours. I never did purge but those thoughts came rushing back from my past.”
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Her eating disorder began years earlier, Lugo said, after she lost 160 lbs. with a healthy diet and exercise. She sought help after six months and improved, but filming The Biggest Loser – plus spending days at home during the COVID-19 pandemic – brought back those disordered thoughts.
“I had felt pressure while filming. Not from anyone but myself,” she said. I wanted to break the ‘trainer’ mold of having to fit into a certain size. Having to be thin with a 6-pack. I was happy to show young girls that you can be strong, thick, curvy and a badass. But the old mentality and eating disorder thoughts came rushing back. I struggled with restriction, with wanting to always have a high caloric burn.”
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Lugo said she sought professional help this year and is doing better.
“I’ve gained about 10ish lbs. since I was at my thinnest. I’m not as ‘jacked’ as I once was. I have a little more jiggle,” she said. “I’ve come a long way to accepting that my body may not be celebrated anymore for how ‘small’ I can become but celebrating how strong I can be. Mentally, physically and emotionally.”
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Lugo said she decided to write this post after getting a rude comment on her Instagram that she looks “big and not proportioned,” and rather than focus on their words she wanted to reach out to others dealing with eating disorders.
“To the woman (and men) who struggle in silence. I feel you. I understand you,” she said. “The world doesn’t understand internal struggles and it’s up to us to seek help to cope. There is a way out. There is help. You are stronger than your ED even when you feel you aren’t.”
If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237 or go to NationalEatingDisorders.org.