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AKRON, Ohio – The man from Germany sent a credit card to Donna Simpson with specific instructions: Buy pizzas, Chinese food and other takeout.
He wanted Simpson to use his money to become as large as possible, and he got excited knowing he helped feed the 600-pound woman, she said.
"He didn't even need to see me," she said. "Just the fact that he was feeding me was enough of a thrill for him."
For years, the 44-year-old mother of two was a star in the fantasy fetish community that worshipped the overweight and the feeding that led to it. Simpson had a website where men paid $19 a month to watch her eat. She flew around the world for various events. And she became famous in the British papers.
But as the year winds to a close, Simpson has moved on. She left New Jersey earlier this year after her romantic relationship with a man ended and returned to her hometown of Akron.
She has turned away from the fantasy world, replacing her pre-recorded videos of her with a blog about her journey to health. She already has lost about 85 pounds, and she hopes to join a gym soon to begin walking in a pool. She has modified her eating, as well.
"I realized that I was their fantasy," she said. "Here I was getting bigger and bigger, and they had their thin wives, with 2 1/2 kids and a picket fence."
Struggle to Lose Weight
Simpson has no misconceptions.
"I'm not trying to be a size 4," she said. "I'm not trying to be a thin-mint. I just want to be normal and more active."
She has struggled to lose weight for years. She weighed about 200 pounds when she attended Springfield High School in Summit County. Simpson often ate an apple a day along with a weight-loss drink.
She said she even smoked crack cocaine for a few months several years ago in an attempt to shed pounds, though she says she didn't become addicted.
"All it did was make me clean my house really, really fast," she said.
But she wants to drop to about 300 pounds, a move that would help her raise her 4-year-old daughter, Jacqueline, and 15-year-old son, Devin.
Simpson, who stands 5-feet, 4-inches tall, dismissed those who may be stunned by someone who weighs that much. She said she would be healthier and happier than when men watched her and sought her out.
Simpson also said some of the people who watched her were rich attorneys, accountants and college students who wanted to see women whom they believe are attractive.
One man from California sent her $200 a week through Western Union to buy groceries. For about six weeks earlier this year, he would call her to find out the list of foods she bought, she said.
When she told him that she was done in the fantasy world, the man became angry.
"It's not like these were toothless trolls who live under bridges," she said.
The underground community is involved in a rare form of masochism known as feederism, said Stephen Levine, the co-director of the Center for Marital and Sexual Health in Beachwood and a professor of clinical psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University. People gain satisfaction by watching others eat and become overweight.
The Internet helped it take off, he said.
"I'm hesitant to say why someone would do this," said Janet Shibley Hyde, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin. "There could be all kinds of reasons. But people cannot survive at that weight."
Simpson gained fame in the British papers. She proclaimed three years ago that "I love being fat; I wouldn't even mind weighing 1,000 pounds." She suddenly began appearing on radio and television shows. She traveled the world.
The tabloids loved her.
Earlier this year, The Daily Mail tried to detail her meal on Christmas 2010. The paper said she ate two, 25-pound turkeys, two maple-glazed hams, 15 pounds of potatoes, five loaves of bread and 20 pounds of vegetables.
Simpson flicked her eyes and laughed.
"No one can do that," she said.
But Simpson said she earned at one point $1,000 a month from the pay-per-view eating.
"That's pretty good for eating Ho-Ho's," she said.
Simpson has moved away from the Internet days, though many are angry that she has exposed a rare, underground community. Others are mad that they can no longer see her.
Her blog at www.officialdonnasimpson.com tells of her journey, and she realizes it will be a difficult fight. It also discusses the pain of feederism.
"There are plenty of men who will buy you four pizzas and enjoy watching you eat all of them," she wrote on her website. "But what it comes down to is that you become a slave to the food and to your feeder."
This month, The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., did a story on her move to Akron. Some of the people who posted comments about the stories were cynical. Others were upbeat.
"One day at a time," someone wrote.
"Hope you do well," another said.
Simpson knows what she'll face.
"I have only myself to blame for the position I am currently in, and I must now face the greatest challenge of my life," she said on the website. "In order for the people I love most to have a happy and healthy life. I must regain my emotional and physical well-being."