Episode 48: Finally Thin! Kim Bensen
FINALLY THIN! is the ultimate companion to any diet--featuring ten steps that will give you the information and motivation to achieve your own success on any weight-loss plan.
I had the privilege of speaking with Kim Bensen, an incredibly inspiring individual. She's struggled with her weight her whole life and finally lost over 200 pounds and just celebrated her 5-year anniversary of keeping it off. Her book FINALLY THIN! is open, honest, and encouraging. Kim unabashedly shares her "warts and wrinkles" ~ all the embarrassing stories of her food addiction. She's been there and relates to those who struggle. In FINALLY THIN! Kim gives an overview of all the different diet programs out there and offers her book as a companion to whichever plan is right for you. She also provides over 70 yummy recipes.
Kim Bensen is a marketing and PR Expert, wife, and mother of four children who was obese for much of her life, weighing as much as 347 pounds. Five years ago, she lost 212 pounds on Weight Watchers and has never looked back. Her story has garnered her thousands of fans and followers as well as a host of national media: She has appeared on the Today Show, Extra, Fox and Friends, 700 Club, and numerous local TV and radio outlets, as well as in People, Women's World, Prevention, and Cooking Light. She does a weekly 3-minute segment on Better TV (affiliated with Better Homes and Gardens) and her weekly column, "Here's the Skinny," runs in several newspapers across the country. Her website has over 7,000 subscribers who log on for diet tips and recipes, and her recently launched product line, Kim's Light Bagels, is carried in 800 major supermarkets on the east coast. She continues to lead Weight Watchers groups in CT, where she lives.
The following is additional Q & A with Kim, not a transcription of our conversation, so be sure to click to listen!
Carrie: FINALLY THIN! is your journey to weight loss—and keeping that weight off. Although not always obese, you have battled a food addiction and its challenges since childhood. Tell us a little about your own personal experience.
Kim: I live with my loving husband and four children—ranging in age from 7 to 22 in Southern, CT. In high school I fluctuated up and down 10-15 pounds in a yo-yo cycle that would haunt me for years. In college the spread of pounds grew to 30, then 40. I lost weight for my wedding in 1984, but soon gained it all back and more. Shortly after we were married my eating got out of control and for the first time in my life I was over 200 pounds. For the next 10 years I struggled up and down in the 200 pound range; for 10 years after that in the 300 pound range. I tried every low carb, high protein, low sugar, shake-supplemented, pill popping, bar munching, body piercing weight loss program in existence. Guess what? They ALL worked! But after a while I would feel deprived or discouraged and fall off the wagon, gaining back all that I had lost ... and then some.
Carrie: Eventually every-day activities became increasingly difficult for you. How was your health suffering?
Kim: My cholesterol was astronomically high. Eventually even my walking was limited. When I sat down my stomach came to the end of my knees. I had no lap for my children and, if I continued along the same path, my children would have no mother at all. I was eating myself to death. Then, on October 1, 2001, I cried out to God in a desperate, broken prayer which would change my heart ... and my life. Three days later, with renewed determination and hope, I walked through the doors of Weight Watchers® (again) and weighed in at 347 pounds. I "knew" I would eventually quit and gain the weight back, but I was hoping to be able to breathe a little easier and – possibly – fit into plus size clothing stores again (which I had outgrown) before that happened. The idea that I might actually become thin never even entered my mind.
Carrie: What was the next step?
Kim: For two years I planned meals, counted POINTS™, drank water, weighed, measured, and kept track of my points on a “tracking bracelet” I had made. For two years I focused on changing recipes and behaviors from the inside out. For two years I watched the scales inch downward, and my once hopeless spirit began to soar. The more I put into it, the more fun it became! I was actually ENJOYING my new way of eating! Week after week I stuck with it. There were challenges and plateaus. There was hope and victory. My journey was long, but it didn't matter any more. I loved what I was doing! I could live with this! For the first time in years I was under 300 lbs ... then 200 lbs ... then, on October 7, 2003, I reached my goal.
Carrie: How much weight did you ultimately lose?
Kim: In the end I lost 212 pounds, lowered my cholesterol more than 200 points, lost an inch and a half in each wrist, and went down from a size 6x to a size 6. The weight loss has made countless practical differences in my life: I can fit in any chair, buckle up in a car, and get toys out from under the middle of my boys' beds. I can fit socks inside my shoes and can wear over-the-counter jewelry without extenders. I even joined Curves to help me with toning and maintenance.
Carrie: How did your weight loss change your profession?
Kim: My weight loss has not only changed my health and my looks, it’s changed my profession. In 2005 I became a leader for Weight Watchers® and began cooking for my members. Today I write a weekly weight loss column called Here's The Skinny and I’m the Diet Editor for Better TV and Parents TV.
Carrie: How is your book a companion to any diet?
Kim: FINALLY THIN! doesn't sell anything. No one diet. No product. Nothing. It's written from the perspective of someone who loves food, loves eating and has always had trouble being satisfied with a "normal" portion of food. It's written by someone who always yo-yoed and never thought maintenance — happy, enjoyable maintenance — at a healthy weight was possible. It's a book of hope ... and a book of every trick, tip, mantra and recipe I used to get where I am today. No matter what diet you are on, whether you've had surgery or are "just cutting back" FINALLY THIN! can help you stick with it whether you have 10 lbs to lose or 210.
Carrie: What suggestions do you give to readers trying to find the diet that's right for them? How do they know if it's a good fit?
Kim: FINALLY THIN! offers a “Diet Quiz” with practical questions that help readers think through what their needs are. I also have a “Diet Shoppe” which is simply a short, unbiased summary of 30 of the top diets on the market from Atkins to the Zone. There are a lot more tips and helpful guidelines, but that's a brief overview of a few of the takeaways from the book.
Carrie: You have created some terrific recipes including Broccoli Crunch, Jalapeno Poppers, and Angel Food Layer Cake, just to name a few. Do you have a favorite recipe?
Kim: I would have to say my Hot Artichoke Dip ... hands down. Or my Bruschette ... definitely. No. No. Wait! Either my Downeast Chowder or my Chicken Pot Pie or my Family Cheesecake. It's really hard to say!
Carrie: I understand you have a new bagel line?
Kim: A year ago friends encouraged me to take to market one of my favorite products – a 110 calorie, high fiber, low fat bagel — in six yummy flavors. Today we ship Kim’s Light Bagels to all 50 states and are in major grocery store shelves across New England, New York and New Jersey. Our goal? To get out of the shipping business and be in the supermarkets of EVERYONE who wants a tasty, portion controlled, New York style, kettle boiled bagel!
Carrie: How have these experiences shaped you? And, what will readers take away from your book?
Kim: There’s a lot about my story that isn’t easy to share, but my goal is to encourage others. You need to feel the depths of my bondage to food, so that you can see how great the possibilities are of overcoming yours. No matter where you are today, reaching your weight loss goal is possible. No weight is too much. No time is too long. The only way you'll never lose weight is if you stop trying. Come on ... it’s YOUR turn now!
WIN: Kim has not only agreed to provide a free copy of FINALLY THIN! for our book giveaway contest, she's also throwing a bunch of FREE Kim's Light Bagels into the mix. To be entered to win the book and/or bagels (two separate drawings), simply:
- Comment on the Words To Mouth website and/or
- Call 206-309-7318
- You MUST be subscribed to the Words To Mouth e-newsletter to find out who wins!
- Deadline: January 15th, midnight EST
We'd love to hear your story ~ your challenges and successes. Whatever they are, 2009 is a NEW beginning, so I encourage you to pick up FINALLY THIN!, visit Kim's website and just BEGIN...
Kim's Helpful Tips for Moms:
- To foster healthy eating habits, Kim suggests asking kids "What are you going to have for your fruit and vegetable before you have everything else?"
- Kim has wonderful perspective when it comes to reconciling the role model she was at 345 pounds and where she is today. "My kids see an area where I've struggled and how it's never too late to turn it around...an example of overcoming." Kim encourages other mothers: "...don't wear the guilt, work on yourself, and let those habits trickle down to your kids."
On a side note: Kim and I talked a bit about emotional eating and food addiction and I got to thinking about the added difficulty of food addiction as compared to our other addictive tendencies. And, by the way, according to my therapist friend, Suzanne Maiden (Dear Zanny) we all have those tendencies, whether it's alcohol, nicotine, even busyness or exercise--our neuroses can manifest in all kinds of "kooky" ways. Food addiction creates blatant physical side-effects that other addictions don't ~ not to mention all kinds of judgments. As Kim shares, people can take one look at an overweight person and make all kind of assumptions. But what about the person who spends night after night surfing internet porn sites and drinking mass amounts of alcohol and in the morning is at the office with no one the wiser? I also considered the added difficulty of beating food addiction over some other addictions. I mean, as difficult as it may be, people stop drinking and smoking cold turkey with a key component NOT having the substance in the home. Think about it, we all have to eat ~ imagine being addicted to the very substance you need to sustain your life. My heart goes out to people who struggle with weight and food addiction and I just encourage you to read FINALLY THIN! and visit Kim's website for added support. Even if you don't have a weight struggle, we all can benefit from Kim's tips and recipes for a healthier lifestyle.
Kim's Light Bagels ~ 110 calories, high in fiber, 6 great flavors, and only 1 Weight Watchers point. 2009, unveils Kim's Lite english muffins and breads.
Kim's Reading & Recommends
- John Piper
- Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
- The Holy Bible
**Be sure to check out TheDivaCast's talk on Childhood Obesity with expert Andrea Hope, PhD