Most women gorge on chocolate and ice cream when they’re upset, but a woman from Bedford, Virginia, has a less expensive comfort food—all she has to do is go outside and pick out rocks from the curb.
Care worker Teresa Widener suffers from Pica disease and gorges on stones to lift herself up when she feels down. However, instead of fighting her situation, she went along with it, and now she loves eating stones—about 3 lbs of real stones each week. By now, at age 45, she claims to have eaten more than 3,000 lbs of stones, and if you need a visual, that’s about the weight of a humpback whale.
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On bad days, Teresa claims to reach for handfuls of pebbles and boulder pieces she now has stashed in her kitchen cupboard. If you’re wondering about Pica, most of the patients who suffer from the disease will eat anything from soap to sponges, and at times, even light bulbs. Sufferers of this disease are obsessed with eating strange objects. These uncontrollable urges are thought to be from a dietary deficiency.
There are other creatures, like wolves and turtles, that eat rocks to help with digestion; however, it is something that is rarely seen in humans.
Teresa’s situation may shock people, but Pica is fairly common. According to experts, as many as 21 percent of children between the ages of one and six suffer such disease at some stage.
Pica is said to be derived from the Latin term for magpie, a bird known to eat almost everything. The word appeared in medical texts as far back as in the 16th century and is believed to be common among pregnant women.
Speaking about her unusual diet, Teresa shared, “Over the last 20 years I’ve eaten on average 3 lbs of rocks each week. It fluctuates depending on how I feel. If I feel down, then I eat lots more because it comforts me. If I know I have some at my house, I feel better just knowing they’re there. Like a comfort, they’re there for me when I’m upset.”
She does not pick the harder rocks, though. She selects more brittle kinds that she can break easily when she goes out walking in the country. Sometimes, if the rocks she collects are too big, she just breaks them to pieces with a rock hammer. She shared, “I pick the ones I like the look of. I like the earthy flavor of them, so sometimes I just suck the mud straight off them too.”
Because rocks can be hard on the mouth, teeth, and jaw, she chews her stones using only the left side of her mouth, because, as she described, “The teeth on that side have grown stronger because I’ve been chewing rocks with them for so many years.”
Her eating habit is not too endearing for others, though, and now she has a new man in her life who is helping her control her urges. Since marrying her husband, Jim, Teresa claimed that her stone consumption has been declining.
“Jim makes me so happy I’ve started eating less. But everyone has bad days,and when I have one, only rocks can make me feel better.” Teresa shared. “He was really shocked when he first found out I ate rocks, but he loves me for who I am and know it helps me happy if I need a boost.”
Her strange situation doesn’t actually cause her any medical problems other than the regular stomachache either. “I’ve never had any medical problems because of the rocks, but I don’t go to the toilet too often and my tummy hurts a little sometimes.”