Recently on The Steve Austin Show, WWE Hall Of Famer Steve Austin spoke with former WWE ring announcer Lilian Garcia. Garcia, who recently signed as an announcer for the Professional Fighters League, talked about overcoming an eating disorder and her struggles with body dysmorphia. On the subject of body dysmorphia, Garcia told a story about trying to get out of a bikini contest in WWE without telling WWE Chairman Vince McMahon about her disorder.
According to Garcia, she suffered with bulimia nervosa, a potential life threatening eating disorder when she was studying at the University Of South Carolina.
"So yeah, so I didn't have any weight issues at all growing up. And then, I hit college and that was it. It was like my metabolism changed and I started gaining [weight] and I didn't know what to do. I never had been on a diet ever, so I was eating everything under the sun, so all-of-a-sudden, I'm like I don't know. I was thinking that I was eating good, but I kept gaining and gaining and not knowing anything about food whatsoever. And so, it was then that I found out through friends - it's always people that will tell you - 'well, you can just eat and purge' and 'you can just stay in shape'. And so, I was like, 'oh, okay, it's that easy?' So that's what I ended up doing. Well, it became where it took over me." Garcia remembered, "all-of-a-sudden, my hair starts falling out. My teeth turn grey. Like, they will start going clear. It's really weird. I started getting heartburn, of course, because you've got all that acid coming up. So my singing voice is starting to suffer. Hello? And I'll never forget the day that I finally went and got help, that I was like, 'okay, this is over me - I need something' was when I went from place to place.
"I would go to 7-11. I'd buy a bunch of donuts and this and that. And then, I would eat. Then, I would go over to the McDonalds and then I'd purge there. And then, I'd buy sundaes there and hamburgers there and then I'd eat that. And then, I'd go to the next place and purge there. I mean, it was a thing where I thought I had control, yet it ended up having control over me. And it became a way for me to purge whatever was going on in my life, so it became way more than just weight."
Garcia had her so-called 'wake up call' about her eating disorder when she starting vomiting blood. With therapy and learning healthy eating habits, Garcia has been able to beat bulimia.
"That day, I threw up 15 times and when I say I actually threw up blood, and that was the wakeup call," Garcia said. "And so, right then is like, 'I need help,' so I looked up eating disorder facilities. I can't remember exactly because it had been so long ago, but I remember that I found a counsellor and he worked with me. And Weight Watchers was a huge thing for me. Thank God I finally learned how to eat, what to eat. Yeah, Weight Watchers, I feel like they saved my life, they really did because I didn't know about starches; I didn't know vegetables. Food was food to me, right? So I finally learned the difference and why you can't just have a bunch of donuts or you can't have a bunch or bread and expect to be thin and all, so that gave me the schooling I needed. And then, the therapist gave me what I needed mentally, so I could let go of what hold it had over me."
During the podcast, Garcia shared a story about not wanting to do a bikini contest in WWE and not wanting to explain Vince McMahon and Stephanie McMahon that she has body dysmorphia.
"I remember even in WWE, I still had that body dysmorphia feeling because I was supposed to do this whole bikini contest. It was the first time ever I was going to be doing a bikini contest, right? And I think already Viscera had serenaded me when we were doing that storyline. He serenaded me already and they wanted me in this bikini contest and I was mortified thinking of myself in the middle of the ring with body dysmorphia with men looking at my body. It was just… yeah. So I told Vince and Stephanie I couldn't do it. And Vince was like… and this was right when my record was going to be released." Garcia continued, "so I'm telling him I can't do it. So he was like, 'why can't you do it?' I was like, 'I just can't - bikini contests are just not my thing.' And he was like, 'but I'm trying to make you a star here! Your record is about to be released and I want to give you some TV time and in a different way' and all this kind of stuff, right? And I was like, 'I can't' and I was in tears because inside I'm dying, just dying, because I'm already envisioning myself out there and it's so magnified in my head.
"Then, I'm just crying and Stephanie is looking at me and she's trying to console me, but they're not understanding why I'm making such a big deal about it, right? Well, at the time, I wasn't this open. And this has come with age. This is why I tell you I can talk about age. I can talk about what happened to me with bulimia. I could talk about many things because I don't care and I could help people, right? So I don't feel like I'm being judged by talking about it."
Ultimately, WWE was able to avoid having Garcia in the bikini contest with some creative storytelling.
"It ended up that they were cool. They didn't make me. They changed the storyline. Basically, I go out there wrapped in a towel and I'm about to [unrobe] and [Jerry] 'The King' [Lawler] was like, 'for the first time ever, she's in a bikini contest!' and the place is going crazy! I love the fact that the fans wanted this! At least that was nice. Do you know what I mean? So I was first and they started the music. The place is going nuts. And then, I'm about to unveil with the towel when Viscera's music hits. He comes down. He swoops me up and steals me away." Garcia added, "it was cool that they did something different."
Listen to the show here. If you use any of the quotes from this article, please credit The Steve Austin Show with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.