Goodbye Little Debbie’s: Clemson’s Nick Eason On Quest For Healthier Lifestyle

Author’s note: In the next few weeks, I will try to introduce you to a little different view of the new members of Dabo Swinney’s coaching staff. I hope to give you a little bit of who the are rather that just what they are. It should be fun.

We’ve all been there, living in a world filled with the joys of consuming a few of our favorite things. Yes, candy bars, peanut butter cups and last but not least, everybody’s sweetheart Little Debbie cakes.

However, with unbridled joy comes some degree of pain, and for Clemson’s new defensive tackles coach, Nick Eason, it was 80 pounds of added weight that caused him to stop, take stock, and tell Little Debbie their relationship was over.

Eason recently met with local media and laid out his plan.

“I was doing really good until last summer,” he said.

However, when two personal tragedies hit Eason’s world, it turned on a switch to comfort the pain that is associated with loss by turning to comfort foods. Yes, it’s normal, it’s understandable, but it can be dangerous.

Altroy Bodrick, Eason’s close friend, roommate and teammate at Clemson, died suddenly of a heart attack last June. Then, shortly thereafter, Eason lost his beloved grandmother.

“I’m an emotional eater and she loved food so, I’ve been eating for her since she’s been gone,” Eason said.

It’s a path he has has followed before, putting on some serious poundage. Here, it’s important to remember, he (or she) without sin, cast the first Twinkie.

In 1998, Eason’s freshman year at Clemson, he checked in at 233 pounds and by his senior season he tipped the scales at 295.

“I was an outside linebacker before I ate myself into a defensive tackle position,” said humorously.

Eason bore the extra weight well, though, even earning first-team All ACC honors his senior year in 2002, before starting an eleven year NFL career, which included earning a Super Bowl ring as an integral player for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008.

Before he joined Dabo Swinney’s staff earlier this year, he spent time on the defensive staffs of several NFL teams and most recently was the defensive line coach at Auburn.

For Eason, in returning home, he has also returned to the doorstep of some of his favorite restaurants. Calhoun Corners Restaurant sits at the top of a long list. However, dramatic changes are now on the horizon for Eason.

“I got on the scale the other day and said, ‘OK, enough’s enough,'” Eason said. “I actually started a juice cleanse today and I’m feeling really good. I ate all that bad stuff this past week and kind of laid it to rest; had a burial for all the bad things I liked to eat. I’m going to go vegan. I’ll probably be the biggest vegan in Clemson.”

As with all great leaders, he uses his life challenges to inspire and challenge others, those in his charge.

“I’ve challenged them all in a lot of ways,” Eason said. They’ve all taken the challenges to heart.

Xavier Thomas, after putting on a little too much weight a season ago, now weighs 265 and is targeting 255.

“I didn’t bulk up, I got fat,” Thomas told the media recently. “I know it’s mainly just nutrition and getting that right and being disciplined.”

Also falling in line is sophomore tackle, Payton Page.

“He’s done a really good job of losing some weight,” Eason said. “They told me he was about 390 pounds; I think he’s cutting his weight down to around 325-330 now, so he’s moving really well. I’m expecting a lot of great things from him, and it all started with his offseason conditioning and his diet plan.”

Even before the first game, the first snap, the once self-proclaimed lover of good, fattening foods, Eason has already started leading his young men on a personal quest to rebuild their bodies both inside and out. That’s pretty impressive.

Anyone, like myself, that has had to battle weight issues has learned change takes courage and has also had the dieter’s mantra, “nothing tastes as good as being thin and healthy feels,” ingrained in their souls.

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