Sunday, November 19, 2017
Human Interest

Lealman woman featured in food addiction story is on the road to recovery

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LEALMAN — In July, the Tampa Bay Times ran a story about a woman struggling with food addiction. Cheryl Dixon, 44, shared how she sometimes ate 14 times a day and struggled to stop herself from topping 300 pounds.

The day the story was published, Cheryl read it and saw what others saw. She felt sick.

"The article gave me a mirror to look at, where I saw how bad I got," Cheryl says. "I was in complete disgust, and it made me want to change my life."

That day, and in the days that followed, Cheryl got several calls.

Backstory: At almost 300 pounds, a Lealman woman battles food addiction

Dan DeFigio, author of Beating Sugar Addiction for Dummies, offered to help.

A local member of Overeaters Anonymous who had lost 100 pounds agreed to counsel her.

A woman in Texas helps her with her Overeaters Anonymous lessons.

Cheryl has started counting carbohydrates and feels accountable to her new friends. For the first time in a while, she says, she feels hopeful.

She has not eaten sugar since the story ran and says she doesn't miss it.

She still keeps a food log, but there are far fewer entries:

Monday 7/31/16 8 a.m. 2 oatmeals 12:30 macaroni and cheese 10:08 p.m. 1 pork chop, ½ bowl stuffing, peas

She's walking her dog, Piper, who is built like a runty Lab but has long ears like a beagle, around her trailer park five times a day.

A retired security guard who was on disability because of bipolar disorder, Cheryl has started researching the possibility of returning to school so she can become a counselor herself.

But it hasn't always been easy. At night, when she lays in her recliner trying to fall asleep, she gets cravings. Before when she would wake up in the middle of the night, she'd eat an entire box of Rice-A-Roni in one sitting, followed by several pieces of chocolate cake. Now she checks in with various sponsors or calls Tampa Bay's 211 crisis hotline.

She also gave away all the poor-choice foods she had been hoarding because she felt uncomfortable with cabinets anything but full. Her fridge now holds lean ground beef and chicken. Her cabinets hold canned vegetables. The cheese-flavored Chester's Puffcorn is gone.

One day recently, Cheryl hopped on the scale and actually smiled. She was 282 pounds — down 13 from when I first interviewed her. A week later, she stepped on a scale at her dietitian's office: 277.

She hopes to lose another 100 pounds.

"I'll keep at something until I find a solution," she says. "I'm very persistent. I don't give up."

Contact Leonora LaPeter Anton at lapeter@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8640. Follow @WriterLeonora.

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