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By Andrea Peyser
May 2, 2016
This isn’t the usual girl-power tale featuring a woman who loses half her body weight, locates her abs, then finds true love, self-acceptance and fabulous clothes as a brand-new hottie. Crystal Andrus Morissette took the opposite route.
The former fitness model and homeless teen learned early to trade her banging body for food and shelter. But in 1994, Crystal, then married to her first husband, got pregnant with the first of her two daughters, abandoned years of starvation diets and obsessive cardio workouts, and started eating everything in sight. Then she ate some more.
“I went from fitness queen to McDonald’s queen,” Crystal, who lives in a small town outside Toronto, Canada, tells me. “I ate cheeseburgers and fries every day. I convinced myself that the iron and protein were healthy.”
In a few months, she piled at least 100 extra pounds onto her 5-foot-6-inch frame, but doesn’t know the exact extent of the damage because she stopped weighing herself when the number on the scale hit 215.
And Crystal was happier than at any time in her life to this point.
I bring you Crystal’s story in the hope that women (and it’s mainly women) stop picking at themselves and learn to love themselves at any size. A big shoutout to Ashley Graham, the 28-year-old plus-size model who, at size 16, rocked a teeny bikini on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine’s 2016 Swimsuit Issue.
Crystal’s decision to become not just a porker, but morbidly obese, wasn’t motivated by an urge to feed a pervert’s chubby-chasing fetish, nor was she attempting slow suicide. Her reason for putting on massive amounts of flab was a mystery at first, even to her.
Crystal Andrus Morissette during her former fitness modeling days.
When she was 12 years old, Crystal’s parents divorced. She says she was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend and raped by a stranger when she was 14.
“Girls who are raped become promiscuous,” she tells me, nearly breaking my heart. “I was.”
By age 15, she was on her own, carrying her clothes in a plastic garbage bag and shlepping around a Teddy bear, a beer cooler in which she stuffed food and drink, and a heart-shaped jewelry box given to her by an aunt. She was just a kid.
She learned survival skills. “Men will take care of you, give you a place to sleep,” she says. “You wind up having sex with somebody you don’t want to.”
This is how Crystal lived until she hit 18.
After that, she took two jobs in retail, moved into her own apartment, and came in seventh in the Miss Galaxy fitness pageant in Florida — frequently modeling her bod in magazines. It was a career that made Crystal feel as much like a piece of meat as she did while homeless.
“It was demeaning, disgusting,” she says.
“Standing onstage in a bikini and being judged by how I look.”
Enough. Muumuus, here she comes!
Only much later, Crystal’s reason for becoming a heifer hit her like a cold slap in the face. After years of being treated like a sex object, it was as if she were staging an unconscious revolt. The wall of fat Crystal built on her bones served as a wall of protection from the world. She was invisible. Or a laughingstock.
“Men who would cheat on their wives with me were making jokes about how fat I was,” she says.
“I felt safer. It worked for me for a while.”
Finally, Crystal realized that living large set a bad example for her girls. She quickly went down to 121 pounds, had an affair and divorced her husband.
After much pain and soul-searching, after yo-yo diets and countless sex partners, Crystal transformed into the woman she was meant to be — an attractive 155 pounds. A size 10.
Crystal is now 45, and is channeling her pock-marked road to self-discovery into becoming a one-chick “women’s empowerment” industry (though she hates the term), through public speaking and as founder of the S.W.A.T. Institute — Simply Woman Accredited Trainer — which brings online courses to thousands of women (just women) in Canada, the United States and around the world.
Her five books include last year’s “The Emotional Edge: Discover Your Inner Age, Ignite Your Hidden Strengths, and Resume Misdirected Fear to Live Your Fullest” (Penguin Random House).
In 2008 Crystal married “the love of my life,” Aaron Morissette, 41, the chief financial officer of her empowerment ventures. They live with her daughters, now 19 and 21.
Women — it is possible to find romance and fulfillment without being a size 2. Eat something! Just not too much.>