Part One –
OKEMOS, MI (WLNS) – Our special Friends for Life series focusing on men’s health continues Monday.
It’s a deadly disease most commonly associated with girls and women. But it’s becoming more prevalent in boys and men.
And the cure is in the kitchen. But for those battling anorexia nervosa, getting that cure is often a long, painful and draining battle for the victim and their family.
That’s if they can beat it.
6 News Chivon Kloepfer spoke to a Laingsburg woman who helplessly watched her son fade away right before her eyes.
Now we’re taking a very stark look at the realities of what her son went thought and we want you to know that it could be tough to see, but it’s important to know how this terrible illness affects people.
“Why did he get it? I’d probably be a millionaire if I could figure that all out.”
Susan Barry’s son TJ was a dream child and it started literally at “day 1.” No labor pains, as a baby, he ate everything. There were no “terrible two’s.”
TJ was a straight A student, neat, organized, motivated, an athlete, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink and didn’t even swear.
When did you first notice there was an issue?
“Going into high school. Going into high school and I wish I knew what happened. If something was said to him, it started too healthily,” said Susan Barry, TJ’s mother.
“’I’m small Mom. I want muscles. I’m puny. And it’s going to help me with sports.’ And, he started lifting weights for an hour and then it was two hours and then it was four hours at the gym. And I would go over to the gym.”
It was the day TJ had his whole soccer team over for a pool party that Susan realized something was terribly wrong.
“He took off his shirt and both my husband and I are like, “oh my gosh! He looked so thin!”
“When he came in, I said TJ, how much weight have you lost?! And he just said, ‘mom we’re doing two-a-days at soccer, which is two practices a day. You know, he says, mom, I can’t help it. You know, they’re running us ragged.’”
Unsure, Susan took him to the doctor that very same week. She says, I don’t want him walking, I don’t want him cutting lawns, I want him off his sports teams, and you, know I’m like what?!
TJ had an eating disorder. The doctor diagnosed him with anorexia. And that was the beginning of a nine-year nightmare.
“Dietitians and doctors, therapists, “tough love” and trickery, it all followed from that week on and all throughout high school.”
TJ’s goal weight at 5’5” was at minimum 110 pounds.
“For four years, he never weighed a pound less, because then he couldn’t play any sports. And God forbid, he ever gained a pound beyond that. So, he micro managed that number on the scale for four years.”
A typical meal for TJ consisted of celery, zero fat cottage cheese, zero fat bread, zero fat butter spray, carrots and egg whites.
He chewed gum constantly to burn calories and stood as often as possible for the same reason.
He didn’t want to be skinny, he wanted to have muscles. He wanted to have a six-pack, like the health magazine covers that he had, about 100 of those under his bed. He wanted to be quicker and faster and stronger, and look good.
But no good came from this illness.
And nothing and no one could help him.
A short time later, not only was TJ’s body changing, but Susan’s once “angel child” was now lying to her face.
Not only are you battling the illness, you’re battling the patient as well who’s trying to lie and hide.
Reporter: “You almost wished it could have been Cancer. Why?”
Susan: “I wish it could have been anything but an eating disorder. It’s the only illness that the patient does not want to get well.”
Things were only going to get worse from there. The moment TJ turned 18, Susan lost all control over him, which is exactly what TJ’s illness wanted.
Part Two –
When you hear the word anorexia, you probably think teenage girl or young woman.
But for nine years, the eating disorder controlled an Okemos boy’s life.
“After four years of high school, four years of college, a semester at dental school, not one person called me, not one teacher, not one coach, not 1one therapist, not one friend, no one called me. Why didn’t anyone call me? To look the way he looked and they said, he’s an adult, we can’t call you up, he’s an adult,” said Susan.
The moment TJ Warschefsky turned 18, the fight to beat his anorexia turned into a fight to save his life.
“Parents need to know, you know, TJ walked in and said to the Dr., peace out! You know, he doesn’t have to tell him what he weighs; he doesn’t have to go, you know, I can’t find out what he weighs as a parent, because he’s 18,” said Susan Barry, TJ’s mother.
After TJ’s first term at Albion College, Susan had had enough. He was 5’5” and down to 85 pounds. Knowing how important college was to TJ, she refused to continue paying for it until he went to a residential treatment program in Wisconsin.
After two months TJ gained 20 pounds and said all the right things in order to go come home.
That’s what this illness does.
He did go home. He shouldn’t have. It didn’t take long, before TJ was losing weight again.
His body, his mind and his effort was fading away.
Two more stays at the treatment center failed.
Even a car accident and a short hospital stay wasn’t enough to scare him into eating.
Nothing and no one could help him.
Near the end, TJ wouldn’t consume any fat, nor calories, nor sugar.
His body was shutting down and soon this once active athlete, doing 1,000 sit-ups at day, spending four hours at the gym, hours playing sports, taking a full load of classes, he got so weak and so frail that walking upstairs, lifting a platter of food, it was just too much.
After a semester at dental school Susan got the phone call she’d feared for years.
“I started screaming and my sister said no, no, no, no, no. She knew right away and everybody started screaming and crying.”
“I tried to his last breath um, to get vitamins in him, but it was too late. He didn’t make it, his heart just had enough. He couldn’t. He couldn’t survive anymore.
TJ died doing sit ups. He was just 22 years old.
It was Valentine’s night.
“They called me and said, ‘you might want to come and see if you want an open casket.’”
“When I went to hug him, they had stuffed his suit with newspaper. You know, so he crinkled, it was awful.”
Susan wrote a book. It’s called ‘Dying to be Perfect’ and it’s available on Amazon.
She hopes this book can help other people who may have a loved-one battling an eating disorder, woman or man.
6 News spoke to a psychologist at Michigan State University, Kelly Klump who specializes in treatment and research eating disorders.
“More men and woman die from eating disorders than any other psychological disorder. The longer an eating disorder, in particular anorexia nervosa goes on, the harder it is to get out of it. So, we know that when somebody starts dieting and starving themselves and exercising excessively, thing clicks, Nero biologically in the brain, that makes it incredibly hard to get out of that pattern,” said Kelly Klump, PHD., endowed professor, MSU Foundation.
“If you can compare it to a schizophrenic or a person who’s bipolar. if you say, just be the good side of your personality, not the bad side. Or, just be the happy side, not the sad side. That is ridiculous! So, to say “just eat” to someone who’s anorexic, it’s just as ridiculous. But people don’t understand that,” said Susan Barry, TJ’s mother.
To purchase a copy of Susan’s book, visit:
For more information on eating disorders, visit: