I weighed in for the first time at 9 pounds 13 ounces, so I’ve been on the heavy side since day one! I didn’t even have a lifestyle that needed changing yet (well, I guess I was just lounging around for 9 months).
My mother (Kim Bensen, loser of 212 pounds and maintainer for 10+ years) had an unhealthy relationship with food. She used it to cope with stress, emotions, and boredom.
I took notice, and quickly developed the exact same behaviors.
Every Friday night was “family dinner night,” aka, buy about a dozen frozen appetizers, head to Blockbuster® (the year 2000!), and go to town. Man, food was fun!
My father, a Type-1 diabetic (and very prone to infections), had his first major health scare that I can remember when I was about 10 years old. He was in the hospital on and off with a serious infection in his back for close to two years. Mom was often by his side while I was at home with my older sister, steamrolling through the pantry as an oblivious emotional eater. I had my first encounter with how difficult and scary life can be, and I turned to food to cope.At 12 years old, I joined Weight Watchers® with my mother for the first time. I would make it 2 or 3 weeks and then throw in the towel. Looking back, it’s obvious why I failed as a kid. Kids are impatient! I didn’t have the life experience to understand that the days accumulate, and I could be in a very different place after a period of time if I stick to it. I wanted the results faster than was possible. Time is a necessary ingredient to effective weight loss, and I couldn’t yet grasp that fact.
Oooh man, forget about trying to exercise as a kid. I would do 20 pushups over the course of a day (with my butt way up in the air, I’m sure), and be so frustrated that I didn’t have washboard abs the next morning (ps, I still don’t).
I went through middle and high school hating my body. Pool parties were an anxiety inducing nightmare. I would intentionally “fall” into the pool with my clothes on to avoid having to take my shirt off (it was the only way to get away with keeping my shirt on at a nighttime pool party – “No, seriously, guys. I don’t wanna get a moon burn!” lol. That wouldn’t fly). I remember telling my dad that I didn’t take my shirt off because I looked like a pregnant woman. Ha! Man, I was hilarious. Thank goodness I was a half-decent musician, because otherwise, I would likely have had zero self-worth.
I was still trying various weight loss programs once or twice a year. Atkins® was my favorite. As much pepperoni and cheddar cheese as I want?? Hell yeah! (Then, OOF. Utter gastro-intestional destruction.) And of course, I would commit to simply “eating healthier” at least every other week. I know now that just “eating healthier” ain’t enough.So, my mother was my biggest influence on my unhealthy relationship with food. She modeled those behaviors for me… and then she changed. She completely changed her relationship with food. It became fuel for her body. Her thinking changed from “How much food can I get and still lose?” to “How much food does my body really need?”
She set a new example for me, and I followed suit.
I accepted the fact that dieting isn’t a fix. I needed to change. And that change needed to be sustainable. I needed to be able to do this for the rest of my life.I’ve been working with my mother at the Kim Bensen Weight Loss Center for the last 2+ years leading support meetings, counseling, meal planning, and teaching nutrition to members who struggle with the same vice. I’ve been living at a healthy weight for the last 4 years, but I am not fixed. There is no fix! I treat my issues with food as an addiction. I’ll always be an addict, but I don’t have to let it ruin my life. I need to make my health (both physical and emotional) a priority. I need a reminder of that fact every single day. And I think a lot of other folks out there need it, too.