This week’s Amazing Loser Chris realized that his excess weight was down to an insatiable appetite for food: he was literally addicted and it was making him miserable. Overcoming any addiction is difficult, but when it’s food how do you break the addictive cycle when you have to eat? Chris decided to take a drastic approach, cutting out solid food completely in favour of soup, protein shakes and smoothies. Extreme? Definitely. But it has given him the space he needed to work on his troubled relationship with food…
Name: Chris Dixon Age: 35 Height: 5’9″ Location: Windsor, NY, USA Occupation: VP – Benefits and services at eni and Owner at Dixon Exterminators Highest weight: 325+ lbs Lowest weight: 220lbs Weight lost: 105lbs
How did you get to the position where you needed to lose weight?
I spent years overeating. Plain and simple. Fast food, soda, massive portions, eating late at night, literally eating all the time. I would do some crazy things around eating – eating before meals to ensure I felt full, getting nervous about the quantity of food available, just totally destructive eating habits. Limited exercise and a high stress/low physicality job didn’t help. But in reality – the problem was simply overeating at an extreme level. I’m open about it – I no longer blame genetics, metabolism, or body makeup anymore – it was food addiction.
What negative experiences did you have of being overweight?
Where to start? Clothing was where it hit me the hardest. Not being able to buy clothes that fit well and look nice sucks. Never feeling 100% confident in a professional setting because I wasn’t comfortable with my appearance was an issue too. I deal with some very polished, professional men and women and you always want to look your best. I never had the experience of not being able to play with my kids that some have, but I will say that I got tired out pretty fast. Low sex drive became a factor as I got older. That was a problem for sure.
I had singular experiences that impacted me – like the time I convinced my daughter that she didn’t really want to do a ropes course because I saw it had a 300 lb weight limit and they were weighing people. My company takes people on an annual trip to a tropical island – hanging on the beach with my 30 employees with my shirt off was uncomfortable, to say the least.
What made you decide to change?
My passport photo. I had to get it re-taken and I got a side by side comparison of how far out of control I had gotten. I had tried every diet you can imagine. I’d lose 15 or 20 lbs but when you are that heavy – it’s like a drop of water in the ocean (or so it feels). I’m an instant gratification kind of guy so small improvements are tough for me to value. I like big change. So I needed an aggressive plan.
How did you do it?
I stopped eating. I realized that my problem stemmed from addiction to the chemicals released by my brain/body when I ate to capacity. So while changing my diet would help, it wasn’t solving my problem. Portion control made the most sense, but how do you stop once you start? I was a big fan of the “eat as much of these foods as you want” diets, for obvious reasons, but they always resulted in going right back to square 1 (or square 300). Addictive overeating is a major challenge to overcome because you can’t quit eating.
My plan is really simple. I stopped eating any solid food – instead I switched to homemade smoothies, blended soups, and protein shakes. I haven’t had a bite of solid food since February 6th, 2017. For me, this solved the major problem of how to control my portions, but kept my diet full of nutrient-dense foods.
I would never recommend anyone do this as I am not a nutritionist, but I’ve talked to nutritionists and we’ve had some productive conversations. We agree to disagree on the methods, but end result of every conversation has been – as long as you are consuming enough calories and nutrients – the manner in which you do it is of less importance. It worked for me in a big way, and gave me the fast results I needed to see to stay motivated. More importantly, though – it bypassed my food addiction somehow and made it easier for me to consume what I needed, and not feel hungry or unsatisfied. Purely psychological – the weight loss is almost a by-product of getting past the addictive behavior.
What did you eat before you lost weight?
I ate all the foods that pack on weight – processed foods, fast food, but I also ate good food too. The problem is the amount. Huge portions, and frequently.
What do you eat now?
I have a smoothie in the morning – frozen fruit, yogurt, raw honey, protein powder, almond milk, juice, raw egg, and coconut oil
A protein shake (I like Muscle Milk) for lunch
A bowl of blended soup for dinner – chicken, beans, vegetables, broth, corn, tomatoes, chilies, garlic, turmeric, chili powder, paprika, cumin, pepper.
I fill up my ninja cup, blend, and eat.
I drink coffee, water and coconut water (a must for me).
Did you do any exercise? How did you start exercising, and what did you do?
I was a wrestler through high school and college. I have found the most difficult part of exercising now is that I don’t get the same feeling as when I was a young man. It used to be – if you aren’t bleeding, you didn’t work hard enough. That’s harder to justify now and much harder to find workout partners. So I have had to relearn how to train in a manner that is not so aggressive. I like cross training outside. Heavy bag, kettlebells, jump rope, running, hiking, stuff like that.
What was the most difficult thing about losing weight?
At first – restaurants. As you can imagine – this diet is hard to follow when you break your routine. I travel a lot for work so I had to learn how to adjust. Restaurants are places I avoid as much as possible. When I get where I’m going I head to the grocery store and get the things I know I can eat. Most have fresh soup, protein shakes, cottage cheese, hummus – blended foods that I feel keep me on track.
If I must go a restaurant I usually tell the people I’m with the abridged version of my story and ask them not to adjust on my behalf, but that I will likely only order a soup or something that fits the parameters of my diet. If there is nothing – I get coffee and focus on the conversation. It almost always turns to my plan and how it works.
The other thing that has been tough – clothes. Most people think that it would be thrilling to have to throw out all your old clothes to get new ones – well I agree – but that gets pricey in a hurry. I bought all new clothes, then they stopped fitting. You look just as silly in baggy loose clothes as you do in tight clothes. I guess it’s a good problem to have.
How did you overcome any difficulties?
My wife is a constant source of inspiration for me. She shops for me, makes my soups, and keeps me focused through constant affirmation. That helps. At some point, it became easy to handle cravings when I realized they are the function of my addiction and not real hunger.
How has life changed now that you’ve lost weight?
I have 1000% more confidence – and I wasn’t even lacking in that department to begin with. I feel like anything is possible. I have more energy to do things, I can buy clothes at regular stores. Most importantly though, I just feel normal. Like I don’t worry about sitting down on an airplane because of that awkward moment trying to buckle the seatbelt. Those experiences build up over time.
Who supported you the most on your journey and how did they help?
My wife and kids, my parents, my sisters, my co-workers, my boss. Everyone who is important to me stepped up to support me in their own way. But most of all my wife. If you are reading this – I love you babe (MvF editor: awww!)
If you could go back to the person you were at your heaviest, what would you say to him?
Sorry man. We lost half our 20s and half our 30s being overweight. Too much energy and attention spent on that, too many missed opportunities. My bad.
Now that you’ve lost weight, how are you planning on maintaining your weight loss?
Well – I know I will have to eat food again sometime. My plan is to monitor my weight closely and stick to a diet full of lean protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. Work out more and watch the scale now. If the weight moves up, make an adjustment. If it stays put – keep on doing what I’m doing. I don’t want to make food and eating such a vital part of what I think about.
You’re President for the day – what laws would you bring in to help combat the obesity problem?
I would try to limit the amount of bad information out there. People who struggle with their weight are looking for someone they can trust to give them good advice. There is too much bullshit and misinformation out there designed to either confuse people or dupe them out of their money. I spent a fortune on plans and books and programs that were mostly the same. Sure it’s my fault for being taken in by it, but there is no real way to tell if the program you look at is real, or just a gimmick designed to get your money. I don’t think you should legislate what people choose to do – making McDonalds accountable for people gaining weight sounds utterly ludicrous to me. But you can help people by giving them the information they need to be successful.
What three things do other fat men need to know about losing weight?
1. It’s hard. Every time. No matter what the path, it’s a hard path. It doesn’t mean you are weak or lazy if you don’t go down it, but there isn’t an easy path to weight loss. All the paths are hard.
2. I think you need to take time to reflect on why you are overweight. Personally – by yourself, and not based on anyone else’s opinion. There’s a reason in there somewhere – and it’s probably not something you are proud of. I was an overeater. I literally couldn’t stop myself. But once you shine the light on the real issue – you can get down to the business of losing the weight.
3. Don’t be ashamed by failed attempts at weight loss. They are important in that they add to your knowledge base. But learn from them. Think about why they didn’t work. If a weightloss plan doesn’t work for you, there is a reason. Don’t let the failed attempt be just a failure. Use the information you have acquired for the next attempt.
If you are going to listen to someone – listen to other former fat guys. When you are 321 lbs like I was – the last person that is going to resonate with me is a 145 lb kid with an 8 pack telling me about crossfit or counting my Macros or some other bullshit. Listen to guys who have done it the hard way.