Author, Susan Blech
By the time Susan Blech was 38 years old, she weighed a staggering 468.1 pounds. She binged. She was "only a little chubby," or so she convinced herself.
Gripping, sometimes shocking, and ultimately inspiring, Confessions of a Carb Queen is the story of how Susan changed her life to save her life, ultimately losing 250 pounds without surgery.
Susan speaks candidly about eating binges, fat sex, and other topics no obese person has dared to address as she recounts her transformation from vulnerable woman to one charged with willpower and courage.
Susan Blech gives motivational talks on weight loss. She has been featured in the New York Times, People, Women's World, First for Women, and has appeared on Good Morning America and Weekend Today.
Susan is a Senior Care Coordinator at Brookdale Hospital's childhood obesity program in Brooklyn, New York, and lives with her husband in New York City.
With a contagious sense of humor and dogged insight, Susan Blech tells the ruthless truth about her painful journey back from obesity. Now she is working with kids, teaching them about how to take responsibility for their own health and well being.
I read somewhere recently that:
"The spirit cannot be really free without the ability to forgive, and the way to progress leads through becoming a teacher — not just through working hard as a student."
I thought that this was "so Susan"...
DR: Tell me about your life and your work.
SB: I am a Senior Patient Care coordinator at Brookdale Hospital's Live Light...Live Right program. It is the most inspirational job. I don't even consider it to be a job. I spend an inspiring eight hours a day with most incredible team and with the most incredible clientele. The kids I work with are just sponges for wanting to learn about nutrition, exercise, behavior modification, motivation what is going on with them medically. Our four part program is fully rounded. There is nothing like it out there.
I am inspired when I speak to somebody and then months later, whether or not they have lost any weight, they have made changes that have enhanced their lives. That is incredible.
DR: Is there a particular encounter or conversation that you have had that stands out?
SB: I run a peer support group for fifteen to seventeen year olds. One of the kids in my peer support group raised his hand recently and told me that he went to the corner store with his friends and without even thinking he reached for a bottle of seltzer water instead of reaching for a Pepsi. He went on to share with me that, afterwards, as he was drinking the water, he realized that this is what I have been talking to them about. He was proud that he didn't even have to make a conscious decision to choose the water. We talk about it so often that he didn't even have to think about it. That is such a huge change in a person's life. It may seem little to a "normal" person; a person who doesn't have a weight issue, but to a person who does have to struggle with weight - that is huge!
DR: What is it that you value most about your life right now?
SB: Honestly, my life; my health.
I have always valued my friends and family. That has always been the most important thing. I value my time...
I was a paralegal in the corporate world forever and I made a conscious decision over the summer that I did not want to live one more day that I wasn't feeling fulfilled. I just knew that I needed to make an entire life change:
Did I value my time? How do I want to touch people?
Because, I wasn't being touched by making sure that the corporate papers were filed in the Netherlands.
DR: Right, right...
SB: That was incredibly important to me and no amount of money was going to make a difference.
DR: And how do you want to touch people, Susan - ultimately?
CONFESSIONS OF A CARB QUEEN
Susan Blech with Caroline Bock
"Readers will find themselves rooting almost immediately for someone honest enough to unflinchingly reveal the most embarrassing aspects of weighing 400-plus pounds."
-- Kirkus Reviews
Susan was a fit and healthy child and then a fanatical bodybuilder but life happened and she became 468.1 pounds. In CONFESSIONS OF A CARB QUEEN by Susan Blech (January 2008; Paperback Original; $15.95) she brings you into her world of embarrassing moments (getting stuck in an elevator and the fire department lifting her out), dating (online might not be the best place to look), fat sex (how she tries to do it), and the food she consumes on a regular basis (sometimes 10,000 calories a day).
"I order breakfast. The deli delivers two everything bagels, toasted, with extra vegetable cream cheese, two slices of American cheese on top of the cream cheese, and a fried egg and a tomato. For a snack, I ask them to include a pint of ice cream or a bag of Milano cookies or a pound of macaroni salad. They know me. They know not to screw it up. If the bagel arrives untoasted, I'll get on the phone with them and let them have it.
I order lunch. I start with the pizza place. I order a pasta dish — pasta puttanesca, which is pasta with olives, capers, and anchovies with extra extra Parmesan cheese on the side. When I call the Chinese take-out they know my address by heart. The guy who always answers the phone stammers in broken English. “Yes, yes-yes, yes, yes-we know.” Susan from Long Beach doesn’t have to give her phone number or house address. I always order the same thing: chicken wings, steamed vegetable dumplings, General Tso's chicken, fried rice, and egg roll. I leave the downstairs door open and the money on my countertop for each delivery. I don’t like to get up in front of deliverymen. I need to order from two places so I'll have enough to nibble on during the afternoon until it’s time for dinner.
But now it's time for dinner..."
Susan decides to take back her life and lose the excess weight. She leaves her job, moves to North Carolina, and starts a new life on a restricted diet. Her family and friends wish her well hoping that this time, for the thousandth time, the diet will actually work and they will get their Susan back. And this time it does, even with the inevitable setbacks. She learns what food really tastes like, she relishes walking to the front door without having to rest, and she regains her sense of pride.
SB: When I look into a kid's eyes and see that they are in such pain...
I work with kids that are five hundred pounds - and I was five hundred pound so I know the feeling - and they can't walk, literally...They literally can not get up and walk anymore. It is as if they are just a beached whale. I don't mean that to sound funny because I know the feeling. I am helping them, along with the team, to reclaim their life. We are saving generations! This is not just saving a person's life. We are saving a generation. This is the first generation, by the way, since the civil war, in which children will not out live their parents, specifically because of obesity.
DR: That is an incredible wake up call.
SB: Sure is...
DR: What is it that you believe most to be true?
SB: I believe most to be true that we have to be true and honest with ourselves - first and foremost. With that, comes power. That is really, really the truth. All of the victimization, all of the "It's not my fault", and blaming, doesn't get you anywhere and days and months and years go by and you stay in the same victimized place. When you take responsibility for your life, take responsibility for your actions, be as honest as you can possibly be, even when it is really hard to do that, you will learn and gain from doing that.
DR: What was your journey like -- to get to that place?
SB: One of the main things that helped me really get control of my life was that kind of honesty. A lot of what I went through was denial. At five hundred pounds I thought I was just a little chubby.
Even now when I am up and down 25 pounds, and it is so hard to lose and then you add another twenty pounds and,
"Oh God! My God I can't do this any more!"
I finally had to say to myself - and this just happened last week, by the way Dana -
SB: "Enough! I am not being honest with myself! I am just not!"
I say the same thing to myself that I say to everybody else
"Make one change."
And I have made a huge change in the way that I eat and being honest that it is very tough. It's very, very tough.
DR: Because the alternative is to do what? In place of being that honest? Is that where the blame and shirking responsibility comes into play?
SB: But it's not necessarily just food. Let's switch off food for a second and talk about relationships.
My sisters, my brothers, my family, my friends - during that time I was in denial that everybody else was crazy and I was normal. That really wasn't the case. I was the dysfunctional one, but it was just so hard to be honest about that.
So it's not only about food but about every aspect of your life. It's about being miserable in a job and being honest and deciding what you really want to do. We come up with all of the reasons why we can't "do that" and then we don't "do it" and all of a sudden "life has dealt us a hard hand". No. We make choices.
DR: Tell me something about yourself that you don't want people to know about you.
SB: Oh my goodness. When you write a book like I've written, everybody knows pretty much everything actually.
I don't want people to know that it is still a struggle and that I don't have the answers.
My book was written ending with the last 40 ponds that I had to lose; ending with a beautiful life ahead of me, which I have, thank God. But, I am still learning and educating myself. And, I don't have all of the answers. Yet, my story is majorly inspirational. I feel that I am incredibly inspiring and I know that comes through in the book and through in the motivational talks that I give.
DR: So how is it that you keep yourself motivated and inspired since that is something that you are always giving away to other people?
SB: I take time for myself.
I think about my life in quiet moments and reenergize myself that way. I say to myself, what I say to other people,
"Is there anything that I want to change about my life? How do I feel about my life? What is it that I want out of life? Where do I want to be in a year or five years or ten years? And, who are the people that are in my life? Are they making me happy?
I take those quiet moments for myself.
DR: And what is it that you have discovered that you want out of life? What is it that you are looking forward to?
SB: So much...
I just got married so...
DR: Oh, Congrats...
SB: Yeah, that really is fun and it's been a blessing. But honestly, what has happened with my book and the people that I am in touch with....
I remember when I was body building, I used to pray and say to myself that I just wanted to help people. This is when I didn't have any weight issues whatsoever. I just wanted to help people maybe lose weight. I thought that I might want to be a fitness trainer, or something. Well one thing led to another, I worked on Wall Street, did the corporate thing and then the weight happened and I remember being down at the clinic thinking "Isn't this a funny way for me to end up helping people lose weight - for me to have gone through it myself?"
What really inspires me now and what I am really looking forward to is seeing where this all goes and seeing how many people I can help. For instance, one of the things that I am doing at work now is going into the school systems and really trying to figure out what is going on with the cafeteria programs. That's huge - huge! Now, I am talking about helping people on a much larger scale than what I initially thought I was capable of.
DR: I like to listen to people who have been through something; people who have not had it easy. I feel like people who have struggled with something, can tell me "a thing or two".
SB: Oh, of course. That is why it is so funny when people write weight loss books who have never had a weight problem in their life, who eat like a cassette size of beef or whatever, and I'm like,
"Well, okay. Thank you very much for your advice."
DR: I also like to listen to what people have to say who are in the middle of a struggle.
SB: Well, the middle of the struggle is different than the end of the struggle and still struggling.
When you are in the middle of the struggle you still have stuff that you are dealing with and you are on a high. When you are at the end of the struggle...that to me is all about education and redefining how you want to live your life.
DR: A hundred years from now what do you want to be remembered for?
SB: For changing the obesity problem in this country.
This is the first generation that will not outlive their parents. We are losing generations. This is not about "Oh well, a kid's fat". This is about generations of people who have the opportunity to change the genealogy in their families.
So, you want to talk about a hundred years from now -
I want the kids that I am working with now to have great, great grand kids.
DR: To be literal about it...
SB: But that is exactly it.
It is so painful to think about what these kids might not have. And it's painful to just think about what they are going through. I have been there. I mean there are kids who don't fit into school seats, which I know about because I went back to school to get my Masters degree and I couldn't take the classes because I didn't fit into the seats so I had to have a big table and chair in front of the room...
DR: Oh gosh...
SB: It was horrible. I mean everybody was kind but, I mean, you know, c'mon.
DR: Sure. The courage that that must have taken and developed in you...
SB: I think that's another interesting point.
When I decided to finally get control of my life, I didn't care what other people thought about me. Before that, I would be devastated if somebody looked at me the wrong way because I was in such denial. I would be in grocery lines and people would say thing s like "Do you really think that you need those Doritos?" I mean who are you to say that to me?! But when I went down to the clinic and decided to change my life, people could have stared at all day long. I knew it was temporary.
DR: That is so great...
So just indulge me in this Susan, one more time:
A hundred years from now, what do you want to be remembered for?
SB: For reversing the trend of obesity.
Read Confessions of a Carb Queen
From Publisher's Weekly:
Once a bodybuilder (now a motivational speaker), Blech had ballooned to 468 pounds by the time she checked herself into a Durham, N.C. weight loss clinic. In this painfully honest memoir, Blech recounts her shameful spiral into obesity, her life as a social outcast and the difficult road back to a healthy weight. Though funny and consistently entertaining, Blech pulls no punches regarding life with "The Body," from clothing and ordering food in front of people to sex and fire department-assisted elevator extraction. Descriptions of eating binges border on the pornographic ("I'm in that sultry, full, near comotose state, surrounded by the smell of grease, salt, fish, meat..."), arguably more so than descriptions of phone sex. After a dose of reality, Blech enrolls at age 39 in the Durham-based Rice Clinic. What follows isn't a ringing endorsement but rather a frank account of the discipline she-and, she argues, anyone who wants to overcome obesity-had to cultivate to reach her goal. The obese and their loved ones will gain practical advice, as well as a large measure of insight, from this intense, bravura memoir.