NEWS
12/07/2012 09:45 BST | Updated 12/07/2012 09:53 BST

Teresa Widener, Rock-Eating Woman Credits Love With Helping Curb Her Crunchy Habit (PICTURES)

A woman whose eating disorder has seen her eat more than 3,000 lbs of rocks has credited love with helping curb her bizarre addiction.

Care worker Teresa Widener, 45, would tuck into handfuls of rocks whenever she felt troubled or sad.

But new husband Jim is helping her cut down on her 3lb-a-week habit.

Rather than reaching for a bar of chocolate or a bottle of wine, the mother-of-two would turn to a supply of stones she kept in the kitchen cupboards when she felt sad or stressed.

Scroll down for a gallery of Teresa's rock-eating exploits

Teresa Widener has cut down her 3lb-a-week rock habit

Astonishingly, the hoard of rocks she has digested over two decades weighs the same as a humpback whale.

She said: "Over the last 20 years I've eaten on average three pounds 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."

Teresa selects softer and more brittle rocks she knows she can break up easily, often spotting them while out on romantic country walks with Jim, who she married last year.

"I pick the ones I like the look of," she added. "I like the earthy flavour of them so sometimes I just suck the mud straight off them too.

She chews them up using the teeth on the left side of her mouth.

Teresa choses soft, brittle rocks to chew on

"The teeth on that side have grown stronger - because I've been chewing rocks with them for so many years," said Teresa.

While she hasn't kicked the habit completely, it seems her new husband is helping to reduce her addiction.

She said: "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.

"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 cravings for boulders and pebbles is caused by medical condition Pica, which sees sufferers obsessed with eating strange objects.

It is thought uncontrollable urges in sufferers could stem from a dietary deficiency of certain minerals.

Some creatures in the animal kingdom such as wolves and turtles also eat rocks to help digestion - but it is rarely seen in humans.

Doctors think Teresa's need for rocks could be caused by an iron deficiency which has led to her suffering anaemia.

If the rocks she collects are too big, Teresa breaks them into bite-sized pieces with her special rock hammer at home in Bedford, Virginia.

She added: "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."

Photo gallery Rock-Eating Woman, Teresa Widener See Gallery