Cooking/Food & Wine
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 numerous Tips & Tools and 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! (Yummy Bagel Recipes)
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 and leave a voice mail message
- 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 with baby steps to losing the weight you need to feel healthy.
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 kinds 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 being 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:
**Be sure to check out TheDivaCast’s conversation with Dr. Andi Hope-Forsman, Ed.D on Childhood Obesity
I’ve had this interview with Dr. Carmen Harra in my “back pocket” for a while now. She is an interesting and accomplished woman–a renowned psychologist, metaphysical intuitive, licensed hypnotherapist, astrologist, numerologist, singer/songwriter, and radio personality. We ended up jumping from topic to topic–addictions, negative emotions, diet, nutrition & health, recipes, alternative medicine, politics, spirituality, future predictions, unconditional love–and before I knew it, we had close to an hour of recording. Some of her predictions were mind-blowing. Wait ’til you hear who she predicts to win the presidential 2008 election! It will be interesting to look back in November and see if she’s right!My intent was to split this into two shows with a separate book excerpt, but as is often the case with my life, it got crazy-busy. I couldn’t find the time to do the appropriate editing before leaving on my mission trip to Africa, so I’ve gone ahead and posted the interview in its entirety. You are welcome to listen to it in small chunks if that helps, but I hope it tides you over until my return.Dr. Harra and I come from different backgrounds and I’ve had little exposure to some of the spiritual beliefs she embraces. That being said, I respect and appreciate her loving spirit. See her website www.CarmenHarra.com for her detailed bio.
A little side story for you:
I initially met Dr. Carmen Harra on a talk show and asked her what her thoughts were about my then career path and the other Internet talk show I participate in, TheDivaCast. I’ve been a freelance writer, but at that particular time, I was working as a Patient Liaison and hadn’t mentioned my writing experience. Dr. Carmen asked me if I had written a book. Though I had started three separate novels, I was embarrassed to admit I hadn’t finished one. She told me she saw me behind a microphone promoting a book. I left her thinking, “Geese, I better get cracking on one of these books, so I can get out on my book tour!” Ha. This was back in October 2007 before I ever had an inkling of starting this author interview talk show, Words To Mouth.
A few months later, Tom Royce, a friend and mentor of mine, suggested I merge my writing and recording experience to create an author interview blog & talk show and I thought, “Why not?” It wasn’t until another friend, Marilyn Haas of arts & expressions magazine, came up with my logo and I looked at it for the first time that I remembered the words of Dr. Carmen Harra ~ GOOSE BUMPS. Take a peek at that logo in the upper right-hand side of my website. Dr. Carmen Harra knew on some level about Words to Mouth before I ever dreamed about it…To me, no matter your belief stystem, this is FASCINATING stuff!
**PLEASE SHARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THIS INTERVIEW AND FEEL FREE TO TELL US YOUR STORY ~ HAVE YOU EVER HAD A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE? Call 206-309-7318 or email Carrie@WordsToMouth.com to leave comments/suggestions.
**I will post our latest FREE book winners when I return from Africa.
Subscribe on iTunes to have the show delivered to your computer for free.
Thank you to Natalie Brown for You Gotta Believe from the Podsafe Music Network.
Find out more about Dr. Carmen Harra and her books at www.CarmenHarra.com.
The following Words To Mouth friends have won free books:
- Ann – Kate Jacobs, Friday Night Knitting Club
- Anne – Mary Kay Andrews, Deep Dish
- Andrea H. – Carolyn Ellis, 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting
- Carol L. – Debbie Gisonni, Vita’s Will
- Jody L. – A.M. Homes, The Mistress’s Daughter
- Kristi N. – Debbie Gisonni, The Goddess of Happiness
- Rochelle M. – Kate Jacobs, Friday Night Knitting Club
- Tina F. – Mary Kay Andrews, Deep Dish
- Marsha C. – Kate Jacobs, Friday Night Knitting Club
- Robin D. – Kaira Sturdivant–Rouda, Real You Incorporated
- Eileen D. – Debbie Gisonni, The Goddess of Happiness AND Vita’s Will
I entered your name for the specific books you listed in the subject heading of your email. Some people listed two books and some wrote “ALL,” so they were entered in a few different contests and some people won two books! CONGRATULATIONS!! If you entered for a specific book, but now want me to put your name in the hat for ALL future drawings, just send me a quick email. For example, I’ve got a few copies of Kate Jacobs’ new book, Comfort Food, that I’d think you folks who put your name in for FNKC would be interested in, but I don’t want to assume…
I promise there are NO strings attached to winning, but I’d appreciate you commenting on the book on the Words To Mouth website once you read it.
I’m sure the author’s would appreciate you writing a review on the Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Books-A-Million websites—whichever you prefer (tell ‘em you won the book on Words To Mouth). But, again, NO pressure—I know we’re all busy and some people love reading, yet hate writing, so if that feels like a pain, don’t do it ~ just thought I’d throw it out as an idea to help authors.
I will be drawing names for the following books next:
- Jenifer Fox – Your Child’s Strengths
- Kate Jacobs – Advance copies of Comfort Food (& matching tote bag)
- Gary Seigel – The Mouth Trap
- Phillips, Linney, Pack – Safe School Ambassadors (Interview Coming Soon)
- Kaira Sturdivant Rouda – Real You Incorporated
This time, I’m asking folks to enter by doing one of the following:
- Leave a comment on the Words To Mouth website—under any book/interview of your choice,
- Write a brief review for Words To Mouth on iTunes, or
- Take the easy way out and send me an email with the title of the book (or “All”) in the subject heading,
Subscribe to Words To Mouth (link on my website) It’s really simple to do, just click on the GREEN music note (iTunes) or ORANGE button (other podcatchers) above my photo and you’ll get the show delivered automatically to your computer, so you can listen wherever and whenever you want.
If you enter one of the top two ways, I’m going to enter your name TWICE in the drawing. For those of you who do both of the top two ways, your name goes in twice for each method for a total of FOUR times. Of course, if you choose the top two options, please shoot me an email, so I know how to get a hold of you if you win! For you busy folks who just send me an email—that works, too—you’ll just have your name entered once. That’s fair, right?
**I’ve got 2 more copies of The 7 Pitfalls of Singe Parenting, which is obviously a book for a specific audience. If you know of anyone who is separated or divorced w/kids and may be interested in receiving this book, send me an email and I’ll put your name in the hat. If you win, you can give them the book as a gift ~ I’ll never tell!
Carrie: Your first novel hit a chord with knitters and non-knitters alike and is really popular with book clubs. Is it true that you telephone clubs and talk to readers?
Kate: Yes, I do! The Friday Night Knitting Club is a novel about the importance of friendship in our lives. And it feels fitting that, with a novel about community, I am invited to spend a little time with readers and their personal community of friends. It was so exciting the first time a reader emailed and asked me to telephone her home on club night; what surprised me was just how much we had in common and how much we laughed! Since then, I’ve actively promoted the book club call-ins at www.katejacobs.com and I talk to several clubs each week – women all over the country, of different ages and backgrounds. For the readers, I can answer questions they might have or provide insights into plot twists and the writing process. For me, it’s very enriching to talk to readers – it’s easy to become isolated with your computer all day – and it’s something I plan to continue doing with the readers of my new novel, Comfort Food.
Carrie: What made you decide to make the “foodie” trend the backdrop for your second novel?
Kate: I love cooking shows on TV! I am addicted to Top Chef. Plus I spend a lot of time dreaming about how I want to redo my kitchen (someday, someday!). The truth is that I love good food. There’s something so aspirational about watching a TV cook put together a great dish. But there’s an even more basic element: I have these wonderful memories of going to my grandmother’s house and tucking in to homemade chicken soup, freshly baked buns, fried chicken, and fruit pies that not only had made-from-scratch crusts, but were also made with peaches and cherries grown in her own yard! When I reflect on those family meals, I recall laughter and a tremendous sense of happiness.
Carrie: What is Comfort Food about?
Kate: The story turns on a strong and smart host of a food television program – Augusta “Gus” Simpson – who is staring down at her fiftieth birthday while also dealing with a bold new rival and managing her twentysomething daughters. It’s about food, family, friendships, and overcoming frustrations. You know, I have these two bulletin boards above my desk – right above my Tim Gunn “Make it Work” bobble head doll – and it’s here that I tack up my outlines and my schedule and also little phrases that run through my head as I write. I was very busy, personally and professionally, during the period I was writing Comfort Food. And I found myself saying, in trying to express my frustrations, that I “had a lot on my plate.” So what do we do when we have a lot on our plates and it feels like too much to do? And so I wrote the following sentence: What’s on your plate is wonderful – you just have to learn to savor the different flavors in each bite. Together it will make up the perfect meal for you, even when you don’t think so. That became a theme of the book. It also became a mantra for me.
Carrie: Your first novel was accompanied by an “alternate reality” website www.walkeranddaughter.com for the fictional yarn shop in The Friday Night Knitting Club. Any plans to have a special website for the cooking show in Comfort Food?
I admit to recently vying for a spot in Kathy’s virtually endless line of fans at my local book store. Her admirers chatted with one another as though mingling at a cocktail party in honor of their dearest friend and Kathy graciously greeted and signed copies of her latest book, Deep Dish, like a school girl passing a note to her BFF—each fan got her undivided attention and a smile that reflected her genuine sense of appreciation. Conversation with Kathy is as easy as talking with your next door neighbor in the days when talking with your next door neighbor was easy—She’s down-to-earth and downright FUNNY! Her Southern sense of humor shines through in her books and on her blog, so I encourage you to read her writing wherever you can get your eyes on it…and try some of her signature recipes ~ I know I’m going to try my hand at her family’s carrot cake…or at least try to get my youngest daughter to attempt it, since she’s recently taken to baking.
Send me an email at Carrie@WordsToMouth.com with Deep Dish in the subject and I’ll enter you for a drawing to win a free copy of Kathy’s book.
Visit www.harpercollins.com to enter a chance to have Kathy call in and join your book club for a chit chat ~ AND make sure you hit www.MaryKayAndrews.com to find more information about Kathy’s long list of excellent books, read about what’s going on in Kathy’s life in-between books, and get some wonderful new recipes.