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Susie Ekberg Risher, Published April 01 2014

50/50: Taking it step by step in ‘Chubby Anonymous’

Pounds lost: 20.6

Pounds to go: 29.4

January 1983. I’ve made carrot cake with coconut flakes and crushed pineapple and cream cheese frosting with freshly squeezed lemon juice in it. By 4 p.m., I’ve eaten one row, and I am quickly working the “I’m just straightening the row” maneuver. By 7 p.m., I’m on the road to a full-out binge. I have to act quickly. I pick up the whole pan and walk outside, across our long backyard, through the gate, and deposit it into the garbage can in the alley.

But I can’t get it out of my head at 1 a.m. I can still taste the warm, moist denseness of the cake, the fragrant cinnamon smell, the way the frosting melts in my mouth. I get up, put on my winter coat and boots, and with a fork in one hand and a flashlight in the other, I open the back door and head into the darkness.

Hi, my name is Susie, and I’m Chubby. (Hi Susie.)

It’s been three months since my last brownie, but sometimes I wake up with the taste of chocolate on my breath. I browse Pinterest for pictures of homemade doughnuts and chewy chocolate-chip cookies the way some women browse for shirtless pictures of Girard Butler. I look longingly at my Costco-sized 50-pound bag of brown sugar and yearn to mix up some Tollhouse cookies. But I can’t. I mustn’t.

Everything in moderation, they say. I can’t, I say. I don’t ‘do’ moderation. I can’t stop at one bite. I must have the whole cake. I have a problem. I think I need help.

Step 1: I admit I am powerless over sugar. Step 2: I’ve come to believe that a power greater than myself can restore my sanity. Maybe Dr. Lissa Rankin. Or mantra meditation. Or Sanford Power or Jenny Craig. I just can’t do it alone. I’ve tried. It’s not working.

I think it was my ego, wanting to say I’d done it totally by myself. “I don’t need help from anybody – look at how powerful and awesome I am.”

But maybe my ego is part of the problem. Isolating myself, thinking I’m better or different than anyone else.

“I can lose weight any time I want to ...” What would it mean if I were to admit that I just don’t seem to be able to figure it all out? Would it mean I’m a failure? I think back to when I lost 50 pounds seven years ago. I went to a naturopath and she gave me some strict dietary guidelines then monitored me every two weeks. I guess I forgot all of that in my zeal to be Super Strong Solitary Susie.

So here I stand before you, three months later, proud that I’ve made several permanent changes for the good. I’m exercising every day, staying away from refined sugar and gluten, and focusing on building strength, noticing my pants now falling off me.

But still, looking down at my stomach, I wonder why the fat is still there. It really shouldn’t be, according to my numbers. But numbers don’t reveal my secrets; they don’t know why I am still clinging to my fat, and I’m not quite sure I even know.

It’s just a feeling I have; that there’s something deep beneath the surface that needs to come forward for me to embrace, and I think there are those out there that care about helping me, so I’m going on the journey to find support.

I don’t think we’re meant to go it alone. There’s joy in community and joy in helping others, so I think it’s time I find that joy. And in the meantime I’ll keep dancing along, my eye on the prize and my fork and flashlight firmly in the drawer, just in case the ghost of the epic 1983 Carrot Cake starts haunting me again.


Susie Ekberg Risher is a writer living in Fargo. Follow her on a yearlong journey to lose 50 pounds – half through emotional work and half through physical effort. Readers can reach her at tall_susie@yahoo.com.