Tonya Griffin, 30, suffered from anorexia and, at one time, weighed 68 pounds, but was crowned a bodybuilding champion last week. CLIFF GILL
BY CLIFF GILL Tribune correspondent
Published: June 22, 2013
Updated: June 22, 2013 at 06:42 PM
NEW PORT RICHEY - Growing up, Tonya Griffin was always active and involved in sports. In high school, the Clearwater native was captain of her East Lake High softball team as a junior and senior, even being named Pinellas County Offensive Player of the Year.
Following her graduation in 2000, her desire to work in the medical field landed her a job at Radiology Associates in Tampa. A year later, she moved to Hudson to be closer to her family.
"Moving away from my friends kept me alone most of the time," the 30-year-old said. "I went to the health club more and ate less. My weight, which had consistently been around 125, began to drop. When I got under 100 pounds, I knew that I needed to get help, but I was in denial. It was the same when I fell below 90 pounds, then 80 pounds."
According to Griffin, her denial was extreme. She felt full after taking a single vitamin supplement. After a meal, she often experienced guilt and induced herself to vomit. Her hair was falling out and her heart rate dropped to 30 beats per minute. By 2003, she weighed only 68 pounds.
She turned to her family and co-workers for help. After consulting with medical professionals, she started going to Fairwinds Treatment Center in Clearwater, a facility which specializes in eating disorders. Her diet included healthy amounts of fruit, green vegetables, fish and chicken. Gradually, her weight increased to her current 125 pounds. She returned to the health club and kept her workouts less than 2 hours.
She enrolled at Pasco-Hernando Community College and became a Certified EMT. Later, she entered the college's School of Nursing and became an Licensed Practical Nurse. Currently, she is studying to become a Registered Nurse. For the past six years, Griffin has also been a part-time personal trainer at the Family Fitness Center in Hudson.
Four months ago, she began training for the Mid-Florida Classic, a women's bodybuilding contest. Precise Nutrition in Trinity agreed to sponsor her. The event was held June 15 in Orlando. She entered in the physique class, which emphasizes the feminine side of bodybuilding. During the morning session, the contestants performed mandatory poses. In the evening, they posed for 90 seconds to music of their choice. Griffin was selected as one of the three finalists.
"When they announced the third-place finisher, I knew I had a 50/50 chance to win," Griffin said. "When the other contestant's name was called for second place, I did a happy dance onstage, pumping my arms and legs. All of my hard work had paid off."
Michael Speidel, the Recreation Manager for the City of New Port Richey, considers Griffin an inspiration for others for overcoming adversity.
"Tonya's dedication to training came from the dedication within her family, which cannot come from any gym," Speidel said. "She has a huge heart and I believe bodybuilding and fitness are an extension of the truly beautiful person she is."
Correspondent Cliff Gill can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ReporterCliff.