Although David Todd looks like he has always been into fitness, his journey to get here has been long and winding. In 2007, he hit rock bottom, addicted to drugs and alcohol, which were taking their toll. David went through treatment to get clean and sober.

He moved back to Memphis in 2009, weighing in at 315 pounds. Working in the restaurant industry meant he ate late at night and didn’t make healthy choices. Much like for his success with drugs and alcohol, David took small steps to get back to a healthy weight.

During treatment, David found exercise a stress reliever, so he kept up working out after moving home and went to the gym three days per week. “I was working 60-70 hours a week, but I made going to the gym a priority. Over the first year, I lost about 30 pounds, and then 10-15 pounds per year over the next few years,” he says.

“The template that had success during treatment was taking one thing and one day at a time—not trying to figure out the next five years today. I’m the type of person who wants to change everything at once, but I knew that wasn’t realistic or sustainable.”

The first thing David did was cut out soda, sticking to just coffee and water. Since he works with food, he worked at creating a healthier relationship with it without being restrictive. Over the next nine years, David lost 100 pounds and has remained clean and sober.

Today, David works with nutritionist Elyse Lovelace and eats five times per day. She provides him with macros for fat, protein, and carbs. That doesn’t mean he won’t indulge in the occasional cheat meal. “If I want a cheeseburger, I’m going to have one!” 

David trains 5-6 days per week. While he has never had a trainer, he has gained a lot of knowledge and advice from friends like Corey Klein of Klein Fitness. Even though his schedule as a chef can be chaotic, he says the most important thing is to go to the gym no matter what. “Doing something is better than not doing anything at all.”

David credits much of his 11 years of sobriety to his healthy lifestyle and love for cooking. Instead of turning to food or alcohol after a long day, he goes to the gym, walks his dog, Penny, or cooks something healthy to eat.

“I have an addictive personality, and I’ve had to find positive outlets and people to lean on.”

While regaining health, his career has thrived as well. He’s worked at Acre, Green Beetle, and Bedrock Eats & Sweets. He recently accepted the position of Executive Chef at Interim. He says that cooking kept him focused and grounded on days when he didn’t know what to do with his life. “I could walk into whatever kitchen and just let the ticket printer tell me what to do for the next 12 hours,” he says.

David remains involved in Narcotics Anonymous, where he has a sponsor and support system. “A lot of people are suffering from substance abuse. I hope I can show that I’m a normal, relatable guy, and if I can do it, you can, too.”

If you or someone you know is dealing with substance abuse, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 800.662.HELP.

By Christin Yates

Photo by Philip Murphy