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Book Review: Confessions of a Carb Queen – The Lies You Tell Others and the Lies You Tell Yourself: A Memoir by Susan Blech with Caroline Bock

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If you are a regular BlogCritics reader then you have read about weight loss and personal stories of weight loss, such as Dan Nied's Fortress of Weight Loss and several of my own diet related articles and reviews.  So on the face of it I was not too thrilled about this Confessions of a Carb QueenThe Lies You Tell Others and the Lies You Tell Yourself memoir, figuring "What else could I possibly learn?"

It turns out that I could learn a lot, both about Susan Blech's astonishingly surgery-free and high carb/low fat 250-pound weight loss and about how she gained over 300 pounds in the first place.  I learned about emotional eating, about lying and hiding your eating, about losing sense of yourself, about waking up and not even believing that it is your body that you live in.  And I learned about taking responsibility and ultimate control over emotions, over spirit, over body, and over food.

When I first opened Confessions and began reading about Blech's attempts at Fat Sex in the shower with her ex-boyfriend Bobby I was morbidly fascinated. "We can't.  I can barely stand up.  My legs hurt.  My calves and ankles are blown into one mass.  I call them 'cankles.'  I can't see my toes….  My stomach folds onto my lap, almost to my knees.  I don't translate sexy.  It's another language.  Feminine is far away.  Human comes across only because I'm breathing."

And then the binge that her anger over the misery of ending this relationship!  The Binge to stop her thinking about The Body.  First the 24-hour McDonald's for "a fish sandwich with extra extra tartar sauce and extra extra cheese… a burger too, with extra cheese and french fries."  Supersized, of course, with Diet soda.  "I almost order 18 cookies, but it's so late.  So I order nine.  I think to myself, See, I can cut back."

The third of four children, raised by a single father (her mother had a severe stroke when Blech was young and spent her life in hospitals and nursing homes), Blech went from a young adulthood of compulsive diet and bodybuilding to completely out of control obesity, typically eating more for one snack than 4 people could eat for dinner.  Most of it take-out, and much of it in her car.  Luckily (or not) she worked at home.

She began to go out less and less and eat more and more.  Going out meant not eating in front of others.  Going out meant the possibility of not fitting into a restaurant seat.  Once going out meant weighing down an elevator to the point where everyone had to be carried out and she had to be virtually hoisted like a large whale.  Then one day, after her physician puts her on blood presure medication and says the magic words, "your blood pressure is high enough for you to have a stroke," Blech decided to take back control of herself and her life.  She took her life savings and credit cards and moved from New York to Durham, North Carolina to begin a new life with The Rice Diet.  New city, new apartment, new clinic, new friends.

At the clinic Blech realizes that she craves salt.  The minute salt is removed and she starts drinking lots of water she literally drains, peeing all the time and losing pound upon pound of water.  She begins to exercise, ultimately finding a personal trainer and a pilates teacher who teach her to move and to walk again.  She even manages, by the end of Confessions, to run every bleacher in the entire UNC football stadium in under 30 minutes (I don't know if I could do that!).  Blech loses 100 pounds a year and leaves the clinic after 2.5 years 250 pounds lighter.

The story doesn't end perfectly.  This is not a fairy tale.  Yes, Blech moves back to New York City, goes back to school, and lands a job as a legal assistant at a famous law firm.  Yes she wrote a book and has made numerous media appearances, yes she met and married a wonderful man, and yes she has kept the weight off.  But she still has another 40-50 pounds to go, still has emotional wounds to heal, and still has to deal with some plastic surgery to remove the 20+ pounds of excess skin around her stomach.

This is a gritty true life story written from the trenches of emotional and physical pain.   I laughed, I cried, I was repulsed, I commiserated, and in the end I was so proud of and learned so much from Susan Blech and the work she had done for herself.

Confessions of a Carb Queen is not a diet book or a weight loss program.  In fact, she does not even completely back the Rice Diet program.  This is simply the story of a woman who lost a large amount of weight and it can inspire you to do anything you currently think is impossible.

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