Christian comic finds path to 132-pound weight loss

In the comedy world, being fat can be a portal to humor. Scott Davis made a living using self-deprecating jokes about his weight for much of his 25-year career. He'd travel to churches across the country, blending song, ministry and laughter:

-- "My wife tells me to get in shape," Davis said in a concert he taped for a DVD in 2007. "I tell her, ‘Round IS a shape!' "

-- "I'm on five diets to get enough to eat!"

-- "If you're skinny and over 30 and can eat all you want, you have a gift from God... I smell the buffet and I keep growing!"

But at age 46 , with his weight tipping 309 pounds, the 5-foot-9½-inch Davis couldn't tie his shoes or read a bathroom scale because his stomach was in the way. He couldn't go up a flight of stairs without becoming winded. The Stockbridge resident and 1980 Mount Vernon Christian School graduate would make secret late-night runs to Taco Bell.

In 2008, he joined Atlanta's Quick Weight Loss Center. Within a year, he had lost 132 pounds. With regular visits to their clinics, he followed a road map to get down to 177 pounds. Over two years, he has maintained 90 percent of that weight loss and recently wrote a book about the experience, "If My Body is a Temple, Then I Was a Megachurch."

"Comedy was my cheat sheet on life," he wrote. "It was my mask, my fantasy to escape reality... Making people laugh made me feel good and lent me worth, at least while I was onstage... To that end, I guess God used me in spite of myself."

Fellow Christian comic and mentor Mark Lowry -- who met Davis while attending Liberty Baptist College (now Liberty University) in Lynchburg, Va. --  would share many a meal with Davis back in the day, especially at Waffle House. He'd notice Davis not only loved to eat but also never knew when to stop. As a friend, though, Lowry didn't harp on Davis' condition.

"He was just so stinking funny," Lowry said. "Sometimes being fat adds to that. It's just not healthy."

Why did the Quick Weight Loss system work in helping Davis get healthy? "We teach behavior modification," said Ron Presley, president and CEO. "We don't sell gimmicks. We don't sell Cracker Jacks in a box and tell you you'll lose weight."

Quick Weight Loss, with 12 clinics in metro Atlanta, showed Davis that healthy food can be tasty and filling, that cooking at home using fresh food is far cheaper than processed and canned options. (His kitchen shelves are now devoid of canned goods.)

Davis appreciates that the diet allows him to eat beef, bread and a variety of fruits and vegetables. He consumes three square meals a day, plus two snacks. "It keeps the metabolism going," he said.

He doesn't ‘t starve himself., he said, and eats like a normal person. "I used to eat enough food for three people," he wrote in his book. "Or a small village on some days."

But there are things he shouldn't eat, such as pizza, ice cream and spaghetti. And he can only use a quarter teaspoon of added salt a day. "I'm allowed grapes but can only eat 10. That's just enough to make you mad!"

Eating out while on the road

Because he travels so much for his job, he has to eat out often. He'll patronize Subway but avoids fast-food places. "It's hard. People want to take you out and get you the big rib plate. In the past, I wouldn't ever want to rob them of that  blessing!"

Nowadays, when he goes out for a meal, he frequently visits Longhorn Steakhouse, whose cooks are especially amenable to his specific requests. To a waitress at the Longhorn in Morrow, he recently provided these instructions:

"It's kind of like the Sierra chicken but the chicken breast is grilled plain. Don't put anything on it. No butter. No salt, especially if you don't want to see me keel on the floor. No rice. Broccoli steamed, plain, no butter or salt. Asparagus grilled. Steamed, no butter or salt. That's it!"

That sounds draconian but he said Longhorn makes the dish surprisingly satisfying. "It's all about flavor. And bulk. Eight ounces of chicken is a lot. Other restaurants I won't name don't do the chicken right."

Quick Weight Loss Center recommended Davis not exercise while losing his weight, explaining it would hinder the process. But now that he's in "maintenance" mode, Davis said he gets on an elliptical machine a few times a week and does weights to tone up.

He acknowledges portions of his book may read like an infomercial for Quick Weight Loss Center, but Davis said the company has not paid him to endorse the service -- unlike many Altanta radio personalities.

Cheating? It happens. Davis said he tries to restrict going off his regimen to once a month. It could be a QuikTrip doughnut. Or a Chinese buffet. Or that good ol' mainstay Taco Bell ("Even if I cheat, I like it cheap.").

A change onstage, too

Now down to a normal size, Davis said he can't do fat jokes anymore on stage. "Comedically, I have to figure out new stuff. I have to live life more so I can come up with more material."

Good friend Mark Hall, lead singer of the popular Christian group Casting Crowns, said Davis no longer has to use his weight as a crutch for jokes.

"He can find the funny from just about anything," Hall said. "Church life, family, marriage. Everyday stuff. That's what makes him a good comedian."

So far, Davis' slimmer self hasn't hurt business.

As a ministry, Davis does six shows a month, charging his church venues a flat $3,500 for most appearances. The churches, in turn, sell tickets --  hoping to draw people who don't regularly attend services -- and keep the proceeds.

Davis said he typically draws 400 to 600 people per show. "I'm not a millionaire, but it pays the bills," he said in an interview at his home office, on the same Henry County property where he was raised. "I get to live indoors, drive a good used car and minister people."

His wife, Donna, joined him on his "weight-loss journey," shedding 40 pounds.

"He didn't want to limit what God was doing -- in his ministry and in his life -- by protecting his food weakness instead of exposing it to the light of day," she said. "His desire was to finally quit protecting it and be honest about it."

But she said she knows her husband's struggle will continue every day for the rest of his life.

"It's easy for him to be all the way honest or all the way off of it. There's little road between the two. The neat part is he self-corrects very early now."

My secrets to becoming a new me, by Scott Davis

1. Don’t Swallow the Truth: Admit the fact you struggle with food. Don’t blame others. It’s so easy to swallow the truth and say something like, “Well, I was born this way. My daddy was big, my mama was big, even my dog was big! So I don’t have a choice.”

You have a choice! Take responsibility. Admit you struggle. Get with some friends to help keep you accountable and start the journey to a healthier YOU.

2. The Half-Circle of Life: Everyone has heard of the Circle of Life. When dieting or just eating healthy, you should experience the half-circle of life when you go grocery shopping. That’s the process of entering your local grocery store and shopping just on the outer perimeter of the store and avoiding the middle.

The middle contains most of the stuff you want to stay away from. The outside half-circle of the store contains the fresh veggies, meats, eggs, dairy. It’s cheaper to wire the exterior walls for refrigeration, so a lot of the stuff in the middle aisles contains high sodium, preservatives, and fat. So keep in mind this cool, cool key!

3. Avoid the Lazy River: I love watching Krispy Kreme doughnuts being made. Especially that part where they float down what looks like the lazy river ride at the water park, except they’re floating in oil, not water. After they cook to a golden brown, they slide under that waterfall of icing!

That’s my fantasy...to go under that icing chute and be totally coated! But then you bring your dozen or two home. That’s the no-no. Learn to keep that kind of stuff out of your home kitchen. Only stock your kitchen with healthy stuff. Discipline yourself to say no in the store so you don’t have to say no at home, too. That will help keep the temptation at bay.

4. Don’t Eat the Wagon: As you are on your weight-loss journey, there may be times when you “fall off the wagon.” .Not only did I fall off the wagon, I ate the wagon. I would tell myself, “I messed up, and tomorrow I will do right, but I have until midnight tonight to eat whatever I want.” It turned into a binge.

Never binge, and avoid the trap of putting off until tomorrow what you can do today.

5. Don’t Let Your But Get in the Way: Many times I’ve told people how I lost weight and what I ate and they replied, “But what about pizza?” I would say, “No, that’s not as healthy.” I would continue with more details of my food choices and again they would interrupt with, “But what about ice cream?” Uh, no. “But what about...” You see where I’m going, right?

Too many of us allow our buts to get in the way! Don’t look for loopholes during your weight-loss journey. If we are all honest, we basically know what is right to eat; let’s just stick with it!

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