High Schooler Goes From Anorexia To Competitive Powerlifter

By McCarton Ackerman 10/20/15

Antonia Caruso bounced back from an eating disorder to refocus her life on something positive.

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Antonia Caruso
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Plenty of people transform themselves during their high school years, but one girl from Maine took that to a whole new level by overcoming anorexia and training to become a powerlifter.

Antonia Caruso, of Scarborough, Maine, was in an inpatient rehab facility for anorexia on two occasions during her freshman year of high school. After finishing her second round of treatment in July 2014, she returned to cheerleading and trained in the weight room with the football players. It was there that she met Jeff Quirk, a volunteer coach for the football team, who saw the natural aptitude she had for weightlifting.

"I instantly knew she was so coachable, and then she kept coming back, kept coming back, kept coming back," he told the Bangor Daily News.

After nine months of intense training, she entered into the novice division at a local bodybuilding competition and came in fifth place. She plans to continue training for another year and focus on a diet rich in calories before entering her next competition.

But most importantly, Caruso, now 16, is at a healthy body weight for her height.

“I never imagined that I'd get so into it, but it's literally my favorite thing to do now," she said to the Portland Press Herald. "Mentally and physically, it's a huge part of my life. Mentally, it's such a stress reliever for me. Physically, it's helped me with my eating disorder."

Caruso’s mother, Christine Haley, initially expressed concern because weightlifting is “something else related to body image.” But since she carefully monitors her daughter’s exercise and diet plan, has her work with a nutritionist, and take regular days off from training, her fears have gradually subsided.

"I still look for the signs," she admitted. “But I feel secure ... she’s very content right now.”

Antonia said she is hoping to use her story as inspiration for others to overcome their own battles with anorexia. “I want someone to see this and know that this is permission for them to get better,” she said.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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