At his heaviest, Chandler Camden weighed close to 270 pounds. When you love food, eating, and the way it feels to devour a pizza or three foot-long sandwiches—at least while in the moment—steady weight gain is bound to occur.
"I wasn't eating to get full," Camden admits. "I was eating until I couldn't fit anymore in." A deceptive sense of control drove up his numbers on the scale, but that wasn't enough to spark change—at least initially.
"There was always a 50/50 thought between 'I don't look that bad' and 'I'm disgusted with how I look,'" he says. "It was never enough to get me to decide whether to fix myself or let myself go."
When his 13-year military career ended in 2012, Camden finally took the first step toward change. Then, after losing 70 pounds with diet alone, he needed to kick things up a notch. At that point, Chandler had been stalled at 200 pounds for more than a year.
For him, along with many people facing the battle of the bulge, the last 40 pounds were the hardest. His last-minute decision to sign up for the $200K challenge gave him the push to break through his plateau and change his life forever.
The Road To Ripped
"Two days before the deadline, I stripped down in the hall and took before pictures," Camden says. At that point, there was no going back. He stuck to a meal plan and lost the weight. In a mere 12 weeks, he dropped 41 pounds and cut his body fat by 11 percent. For Camden, that was rewarding enough. Never did he think that he'd be greeted with a duffle bag of money while doing T-bar rows at his local gym in Park Hills, Missouri.
But Camden's transformation didn't end there. Almost a full year later, he's still living the lifestyle. His methodical approach to weight loss and fitness as a whole allowed him to continue on the path toward his ideal physique once the cameras were gone and the novelty of the contest had ended.
For Camden, getting fit was about more than winning a contest—it was a complete lifestyle change.
Q&A With the Champ
How has winning the transformation affected you?
The main difference I've noticed is in my confidence level, both fitness-related and in general. I feel like I can accomplish more, and it has led me to put my all into everything that I do.
How did you use your prize money?
I paid off my debt and bought a car. I put the rest away for savings. I find more enjoyment in the fact I'm financially prepared for any difficulties than I would from having spent money on things I didn't necessarily need.
What impact did your win have on your personal growth?
The confidence boost has been the most notable change. With it, I've been able to attempt things that would have previously been overwhelming or intimidating, such as getting all A's in school and finally taking a shot at getting my children where they have wanted to be.
I've grown quite a bit. In the gym, my confidence has kept me on a consistent training plan. From my experience alone, I know that great things can be accomplished with the right attitude and hard work, regardless of how long it takes.
Did making healthy dietary choices become easier along the way?
Coping with food and trading in those few moments of overall enjoyment for long-term goals helped me turn things around. My physique started to mean more to me than greasy fast food. I started to like how I looked, and I realized that I got to look like that for 24 hours a day instead of indulging in the temporary pleasure of taste.
How have your nutrition and training progressed since the challenge?
Since the contest, I've played around with different nutritional and training strategies to further my progress. I have successfully been able to go through two short bulking periods and two cuts. Through trial and error, I have a better handle on what my body responds to best.
What did you discover was difficult after winning?
At first, it was very tough nutrition-wise. I had never put myself through anything like the 12-week challenge, and I couldn't shake the feeling that I deserved a break. Plus, I love food. After I got that out of my system, I was able to continue to make positive progress toward my overall goals. All in all, I feel I've finally gotten myself out of the yo-yo-dieting cycle.
What motivated you to continue even after winning?
I want to make sure I look the part of someone who won the contest and continue to represent the lifestyle and brand. I want my children to be proud of the example I'm setting, not just the one time I won a prize.
When I look in the mirror, I want to continue to be proud of myself and know that I didn't just transform for an "after" photo. I've transformed for life, and I'm never going back.
How has being in the Bodybuilding.com spotlight affected you?
I've gotten quite a few messages and friend requests, especially as of late; so much so that I feel bad for not being able to respond to everyone. I'm working to get my contest-prep routine posted on the forums. Yes, the spotlight has added more pressure and accountability, but in a positive way. It's a lot easier to do the right thing when you're sure that people are watching.
Knowing that other BodySpace members were watching meant that I couldn't go hide in a corner and get fat again. I no longer had a corner to hide in.
What are your future goals and plans?
My next big goal is to complete my bachelor's degree in computer science. Fitness-wise, I'd like to continue to inspire and assist where I'm able to. I also wouldn't mind trying my luck in an amateur competition. I've become very in tune with my body and how it best responds and would enjoy seeing if I can further develop that knowledge to figure out how to get other people in shape. I would really love to be a part of someone's transformation so they can experience the joy I did when I finally began to build the body I'd wanted all my life.
What advice do you have for people looking to transform?
I've always been a self-conscious person, not just with my appearance, but overall. In order to make a physical transformation, you have to make a mental one first. You have to reframe what you think of as your shortcomings and limitations. You have to change that before anything can happen to your body.