From Anorexia to Competitive Eating: One Man's Journey (VIDEO)
07/21/2015 AT 05:50 PM EDT
Better known as "Furious Pete" on YouTube, where he's got over 2 million subscribers, Czerwinski has a life story rife with irony, tragedy and triumph in equal measure.
In 2002, Czerwinski was admitted to a Toronto hospital, down to just 120 lbs. after struggling with anorexia. Just 16 at the time, Czerwinski was dealing with an extraordinary confluence of difficult family events: His mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis around the same time that his father was hospitalized with bipolar disorder. Compounding things, around this time, Czerwinksi was falsely diagnosed with cancer.
After his hospitalization, Czerwinski turned to bodybuilding. Five years later, in 2007, he and a few friends went out to breakfast, where Czerwinski ordered a meal called "The Linebacker," one of those "challenge" meals consisting of double helpings of pretty much every breakfast item on the menu. He finished it before his friends got through their meals, and then he ordered three more.
That's how Czerwinski discovered his talent for competitive eating.
Eight years later, Czerwinski holds multiple Guinness World Records for competitive eating. A 5-lb. burger in Boston – made with 20 pieces of bacon and 20 pieces of cheese and accompanied by a 5-lb. platter of fries – was named after him after he became the first of 1,500 people to finish it.
Czerwinski works out daily, and he usually eats six balanced meals a day. And his career pivot has turned out well; he told The Toronto Star in 2012 that he's earning about as much from his competitive eating career as he would have with his engineering degree.
But aside from that, Czerwinski is providing an example for people who have struggled with an eating disorder. "You have to admit to your problem," he writes in Muscle & Fitness. "Admit that you have an eating disorder and be open about it with your close friends. Keeping this inside you and private is the worst thing you can do."