Theresa Ivanick embodies toughness, and not necessarily just in the physical sense, although one look at her Olympic-caliber physique shows she ticks that box, too.
We're talking mental toughness, and in this case, Theresa Ivancik is the real deal. Put simply, it gets the job done. She proves it by sharing some of her most personal moments in her life. She used her house arrest as a motivator to get her life in order.
She has also overcome bulimia, a devastating condition consisting of a vicious cycle that is very difficult to break without a significant motivator, and a condition afflicting many women in physical sports. "Bodybuilding got me out of bulimia," she said. "I can eat now because I'm a bodybuilder. I eat for a reason.”
Why I say this comes from several different elements of her life that Theresa shared with me. The first is how she conquered her eating disorder. Bulimia is a devastating disease. It consists of a vicious cycle that is very difficult to break without a significant motivator. I've become very aware of how many women in physical sports suffer from this recently; Theresa Ivanick is no exception.
Courtesy of Wings of Strength
What do you like about being muscular?
Aside from being bulimic, it was good to have a goal. I also wanted to be different. I believe in daring to be different.
How did the bodybuilding bug get you?
I was under house arrest in 2001 for drunk driving. My parents had an old Weider system in the basement and I started playing around with it. Then I saw an Oxygen magazine and said I want to look like this! I got a job at a local gym and gave it a try. When I first started asking about competitions, someone told me to go see Jeff Harlan. He had his own gym and he was the only guy in town who knew anything about the sport and the competition. He told me I had to eat, and I didn't want to hear that, so I left him thinking I'll do it myself. While I was under house arrest, I was able to research all of the shows, and the day after I got out of house arrest, I focused on one . I showed that myself. Then we came back with Jeff and we prepared for the Mr. Pittsburgh Figure 2008. After that we agreed to move up to bodybuilding. I took time off in 2009 so I could eat and grow. In 2010 I did my first bodybuilding show with my 83 year old grandfather.
That's it then, you were addicted?
When did drugs come onto the market?
t long after. I went from 120 to 180 in a few months. So, yes, it was an easy decision to do drugs.
Like trading one addiction for another?
t specifically drugs. The whole thing - the lifestyle, the competition - but, yes, drugs are part of it. There are certain things you don't take. You have to be smart about that. I was able to maintain my femininity for 15 years without a break.
They were obviously well advised and did the right thing. What about the girls who don't get it right?
They don't last - one and that's it.... maybe two years, then they just fall off.
Well, they don't fall off. They just go in a different direction and start serving the shoddy end of things.
That's right I suppose. It shouldn't come to that.
Porn, sessions, only fans - are you talking about that?
Yes. I treat this like a business. You don't get a second chance. If you want to be a bodybuilder, you have to act like one. I don't like what some of these girls are doing, but I get it. It's just not bodybuilding. I can't cross that line because I have a business.
Some girls cross that line fairly easily. Doesn't seem to bother them, but you never know what they'll get into later. All I can tell you is that one minute you're on stage and the next you know there's a porn star standing next to you.
"It actually happened! I didn't know she did that until after the show, but it was interesting.
And the appeal of bodybuilding for women? Why not one of the other departments?
I thought so. I was too big for that. Then we thought I was too big for WPD. I was not at home". i am body builder I'm proud of it. I have pictures of me when I was 6 years old bending over in a connected two piece swimsuit! I tried to post on TikTok and they deleted it because it was "kids".
But it was YOU!
I know it's crazy
Do the people in your town know you?
where do you live
Butler, Pennsylvania. It is approximately 45 minutes from Pittsburgh.
A little small town feeling?
Yes. Everyone knows us. People greet us by name on the street. After that I ask Jeff who this is and we don't know.
Has it always been like this?
At first people were rude. If I were traveling without Jeff, I'd have to go into hiding.
The usual ignorant comments.
At some point it got pretty bad. As a guest at the local college, I spoke about breaking norms. How to deal with bullies and stuff like that. When I first did it I was in the newspaper and the article said horrible things about me! While I was there I did something positive for children.
How did you overcome that?
I stayed tuned. I kept winning. I kept getting into the paper - I'd kill her with kindness. Finally they accepted me.
w that you and Jeff are part of the local community and very popular, what does a typical day in Butler look like? I can imagine that you are quite busy.
We have our own gym (Harlan's Elite Fitness) that we operate and offer personal training and online coaching. We're also working on a movie called Beyond Bodybuilding. It is an independent film project taken on by a local girl. She approached us with the idea and we threw it around. We revisited it around 2020 when we did the first filming. There are three of us in the film. It teaches girls to be powerful and beautiful and get away from the meetings and the drugs.
A noble cause for sure, What about clothes? I think I read somewhere that you guys have a t-shirt company.
We do - Harlan's Elite Customs. We originally started it to get rid of the middleman. When we started the gym, we had a sponsor. Instead of us paying him back, he wanted us to keep paying it. So we bought two presses and gave this opportunity to a kid we know who goes to the gym. He was a good boy who needed a chance. We said let's try it and off we went.
Don't you also work for Jake Wood in some capacity?
I first worked for Jake in 2011 when I did a Wings of Strength photo shoot. Then I met him again in 2016 when I turned pro. I've been working for him as a fully sponsored athlete since 2017 when I made my pro debut.
Did you live in Muscle Mansion with all the girls who made Buff Dynasty?
How was it?
It was very well managed. All girls were presented very well. They really cared about the athletes. That's how I finally became part of the family. All the old episodes are available on the Wings of Strength YouTube channel if you want to watch them.
What's the overall message you're sending out there? What should people notice about you and your portrayal of the female bodybuilder?
That I practice what I preach. Bodybuilding matters because I play that role. When people come to our gym, we want to help them. Reversing diabetes, getting people off medication — that's the big deal. Presented correctly, people will come to you for your knowledge.
How has this played out during COVID?
We didn't get into negativity. We have kept the gym open during COVID. We didn't let anyone tell us what to do. Instead of living by a bunch of rules, we just did what made sense. Everyone has their own personal mechanism of what is right and wrong. You know what's really right in your head. And that's not always popular. I posted a lot of stuff that wasn't talked about - the scams, the lies, the manipulation, the crap how they go, the corruption - I gained followers, but then I had to think about my business. I had to stop alienating people.
What about body building? Would you do things differently?
That's a very difficult question. It gets to a point where we can no longer afford it. Prep for the average pro show costs about $5,000 — it's hard for people to pay for it. Something has to be done about the costs. We are the only professional athletes who pay to play. Pay-per-view helps and allows easy access for the audience. But the money has to come from somewhere. It's almost like a non-profit organization; in general there is no money. I don't know if there will ever be enough money. Maybe the top 5 or 10 will be sponsored? $2,000 for first place is not enough. We have to pay for coaching, posing, flying, hotel, food, choreography, posing suits, tanning, hair, makeup, etc. It adds up.
Give us your final thoughts: what message would you like to leave us that defines your role as a human being?
Do what makes you happy. Do what you enjoy. Live with no regrets. Do whatever you can to be positive and motivating. Our goal is to help everyone to be better and put them before us.