Erika doesn’t go out for coffee very often, but she will indulge in a latte and shared laughter with her closest friends, her sister, or her cousins. There’s power when women are free to be themselves together.

Erika sees the bright side of her experiences, knowing that what she’s been through has only made her stronger, “I don’t know where I’d be were it not for my eating disorder. I battled with it for seven years.”

At about fifteen years old, Erika started questioning if she was good enough or pretty enough -- there was a boy she was interested in who didn’t reciprocate interest. “I was a lot curvier than my sister and my cousin. I stood out, and I wasn’t comfortable with that. My dad told me my jeans were too tight -- he meant for me to dress more modest, but it hurt me because I felt he was calling me fat.”

“I felt like I was on drugs (while I was purging), I was that addicted to it. If I couldn’t sleep, I’d get up in the middle of the night to binge for hours before pushing myself up the stairs to purge. I was stressed if I didn’t do it.” There was a point that Erika thought she was going to die -- during her days, she would starve all day until she binged that night. She felt that death would be welcome relief from her miserable routine.

Erika’s turning point was in January 2013. She was flat on the floor, deep in depression. The voice of God hit her with a revealing truth, “You are your own best friend.” She shriveled with guilt - who would treat their best friend the way she had treated herself and her body? She drove herself to new routines -- she needed to show her body that she loved her body.

The road was rough -- seven years of binging and purging would not be shaken off over night.

It was months later when she found a high-carb, vegan diet to replace her compulsive patterns.

She changed her social media idols from sick, anorexic role models who prided their skeletal figures to women who work hard to build healthy muscle and gain strength. “I think it’s really important to replace something so you’re not left with a void,” says Erika, “I needed to replace those idols with a healthy goal.”

Erika takes the time to meditate on positive goals, especially positive words that she wants to be true about herself. “I tell myself that I am good enough, I am strong enough.” Erika is an avid cosplayer, and that feeds her daily cycle of building her inner strength and power.

When she dresses as her favorite superheroes, that strength becomes a reality. She truly becomes a warrior.

Erika finds it hard to watch women still portrayed as fragile and needing rescue in media. “You are your own hero,”

she says. If she met her younger self, Erika would tell her that she is enough as she is. “You need to love your body the way it is right now. No matter what you look like, it is mandatory you love your body. You need to love it instead of believing that if you’re someone else, you’d be happier. I get sick of women who tear one body type down to praise another. We are all types of bodies, so we’re all kinds of beautiful.”

To see more of Erika follow her at @erikathetiger


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