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Chris Coleson, 46: Extreme Eater

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In 2008 New Kent County resident Chris Coleson, owner of an environmental cleanup company, made national headlines for losing 80 pounds on an all-McDonald's diet. The next year Coleson became a vegetarian and gained 120 pounds.

Coleson then made an even more drastic change: For a year, he has consumed nothing but liquids and saved all his containers to recycle. The fast caused a "spiritual awakening," Coleson says; he wrote a book, sold his two Hummers and his Porsche, and started shopping at Goodwill. He also lost about 120 pounds. "Life's too short not to do crazy things," he says.

On April 22 he plans to have his first meal in more than a year.

The turning point was my father going into the hospital. [In 2011] my father had a heart attack. He's been in great shape all his life — he's been thin all his life. … So to see him in his late 60s, in a hospital bed on life support, that was really tough. … He's on a feeding tube, he's on liquids only. [I decided] I'm going to go ahead for the next 40 days, go on liquids only. People fast on a regular basis during Lent, and this is a show of sacrifice and commitment to my father. So during that 40 days, it brought me some comfort, or some peace.

During this time, a major contract between Coleson's company and the Environmental Protection Agency ended. While waiting for the agency to renew the contract, he was forced to lay off many of his longtime employees.

On April 22, right after my fast, I notified the EPA — I said, "Look, my last-ditch effort with you guys here is just to let you know that I'm not going to eat until you award this contract. I'm not going to eat until my employees can eat."

The most difficult part is going out to dinner with my wife and kids, and sitting there watching them eat. … We went out to Carabba's one day in Williamsburg, and when a plate of food went by, I actually took a whiff of it, and I almost felt like I was eating. It was that overpowering.

On Jan. 19 we were awarded the contract. And it was close to $130 million. But upon award, it was protested by another firm. So we technically still have not received the client. It's for environmental emergency response cleanup. … We're hoping we get some good news in the next few days, few weeks. I was very close to quitting, and at that point I received a call from Jeremy Feldbusch. Jeremy is the first spokesperson for the Wounded Warrior Project [a nonprofit group that assists injured veterans]. ... He is, from what I understand, the first blind person to come in and learn chef skills at Culinary Institute of America.

He said, "Look, maybe around April 22, you can come up to Pittsburgh and I'll cook you a meal here at my house." It's gonna be something vegan. It's whatever he chooses. No requests, as long as it's vegan. At one point, I do want to hit some vegan sushi. Because I've seen some pictures of sushi on Facebook, from some of my friends recently. I am dying for sushi.


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