“As I get bigger, my world gets smaller.” This was the painful theme of Susan Blech’s life as she gained and gained and gained, to a staggering 468 pounds. Not that unheard of, you say – but Susan was once a bodybuilder. Many people may wonder how somebody can possibly go from such an extreme to another. It’s zero to sixty. Daylight to dark. Why doesn’t something click before one gets to this point? Where is the slap in the face, at 200, or even 300 pounds? For every person in disbelief that this could happen, there is also somebody that understands Susan. Even if there aren’t words to explain why somebody ‘allows’ themselves to gain 300 pounds, I can assure you there is an unspoken connection for many when they read Susan’s story. It may be at varying levels, but the connection is there.
It’s very possible that many overweight people feel that same disbelief at themselves, even if they are only 25, 50 or 100 pounds overweight. Maybe they are in denial. (Susan called herself chubby when she was beyond 300 pounds). Maybe they don’t feel like they are missing out on life. (Susan had boyfriends, and a social life.) But where does it stop? Every overweight person reaches their personal breaking point where they realize this has got to stop, and weight loss ensues. Some of us reach this point faster than others. Why did it take Susan so long? That is the one question I am left with at the end of this book. Susan went through shockingly humiliating events – some I could not dream of, and she boldly and graphically describes them. Reading this book, I was amazed, over and over. Yet Susan continued, until the immense fear of death took over. Getting stuck in an elevator didn’t phase her. She laughed it off when she had to explain to a police officer that her seatbelt wouldn’t fit her. “Normal” sex was a faint memory. (And those aren’t even the jaw droppers.) She found a way to deal with all of these, but there is no dealing when it comes to death.
The first section of the book is Susan’s downward spiral. The bitterness spills out in the language, and her attitude towards other people. She describes her extra extra helpings during astonishing large binges are throughout each chapter. I’ve never read quite an example of binging. Her binging was perfectly orchestrated, from the fast food circle to the delivery boys that she never faced. I could feel her attitude, her denial, her satisfaction that lasted only as long as the last bite. This book is written in Susan’s words. If this had been written in 3rd person form, I would have feared her death on the next page at any given time.
But once she makes the commitment of changing her life, the attitude is almost instantly different. This is where the book takes a turn. Once she has finally clicked, she gets rid of all of her belongings, takes out a loan, and moves to Durham, NC, to enter the Rice Clinic Diet program. This is no easy program. All meals are eaten at the clinic, together, with the other attendees. They are weighed in together, exercise together, go to therapy together. Susan now has to face other people about her weight on a regular basis. This isn’t easy for somebody that spent a lot of her time working alone from home, avoiding her family, and leaving money for the delivery boy on the porch. Susan gives up her beloved hamburgers and hot sauce, and eats a very low calorie, low sodium diet. The food is slight in comparison with her past life. Food, which she used to call her heroin, has taken on a new meaning. But she eats it, and she not only sticks to it, she finds a way to make the best of it, 3 meals a day, every day. It isn’t always easy. She has horrible cravings on occasion, and even gets physically ill at one point. But she pushes on. Before you know it, she is making up her own recipes to spice it up, and the other members are looking at her plate to see what she eats next. She has gone from addict to role model. Susan describes her hunger and struggle so perfectly, you experience a degree of sympathy not often given to ‘the latest weight loss story’. I felt Susan’s pain and addiction. I felt her disbelief, her desperation, her fear. I also felt her elation when she lost 250 pounds. How could I not? She completely exposes herself in this book. I can tell through her writing, that she is only sharing pain and truth. Not a single word of this was written for pity or fame.
There may possibly be some of Susan in every obese person. Realizing that also proves to me that one really does not have to have motivation to achieve weight loss. Susan had many motivations that did nothing for her. Shocking ones, at that. (I’m not going to give them away. This is her story and best told in her words.) However, some might say ‘life’ is a motivation. Susan certainly didn’t want to die, but we all know death is inevitable, and I don’t think that was a steadfast motivation for her any more than it was the entire time she gained weight. Motivation is simply a spark, but once a comfortable loss is achieved, and ‘the danger zone’ is passed, the motivation can fade. We need more motivations to continue onward. Susan teaches us that perseverance is the key. It must be there for us to succeed. We have to find something within, something that makes the change worth it, make a commitment, and be persistent. She knew she had a very long road ahead of her, and she stuck with it. Of course, there were a few backslides, but she fought the good fight. I hope as she gets smaller, her world gets bigger.
You can buy a copy of Confessions of a Carb Queen by Susan Blech at your local bookstore or at Amazon.com