Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Betsy Schow was good at starting things. Diets, classes, projects of all kinds, setting goals, …. you name it, she started it. You might say she was "addicted to starting”. The problem was that she never finished.

And with that lack of finishing came the unsatisfactory, even debilitating feelings of being out of control, of being subject to people, things and influences around you, of being ‘acted upon’ rather than acting, of not taking control of one’s own life, of not taking responsibility, of not owning ‘agency’.

Betsy was ‘fat’ – that was the word for it. No matter how nicely you’d rather say it – that was the word that best described her physical appearance. But it wasn’t just her physical appearance. It was her house and her attitude toward life. It was a ‘full-meal-deal’.

For Betsy, her story is about regaining her life. ‘Re-gaining’ may be a misnomer because it implies that she once had it; she didn’t really. ”It all started,” she says “with the sound that often accompanies the moment when you know your life has somehow gone awry …” A scream.

“Daily routine: Wake up, feed the kids, entertain the kids, keep kids from killing each other, put kids to bed, put kids back to bed thirty minutes later, and then collapse into my own bed and fade into unconsciousness. Repeat. My life was a lot like running on a treadmill, a whole lot of effort to get absolutely nowhere. Not that I had much experience with treadmills mind you, … One morning, I woke up depressed and berated myself for all the things that I wasn’t. Wasn’t skinny, wasn’t accomplished, wasn’t happy. In a fit of masochism, I decided it would be a good time to take on my mortal enemy, the digital scale. ….”
Betsy refers to things we have all experienced, but may not have put into words. Things like a “starter’s high” – that feeling (too often brief feeling) of taking control when you start a worthwhile goal – like a weight loss diet. “Like falling in love, starting a new project flooded my body with endorphins and gave me a single-minded focus on the task ahead, for at least a few weeks. …. This was the simple truth that I had missed at the time. I was addicted to starting, but once that initial high faded and things got hard and boring, I would quit and start something else to get my next fix.”
This is not a book about weight loss, although Betsy loses seventy five pounds (and keeps them off this time). It is not a book about running, although it includes some running metaphors as Betsy took up running, and eventually ran a marathon. It is more a book about “finishing”, about learning some very important truths about herself along the way, and working through them to take control of her life – of which weight was simply a part. Being “fat” was a symptom of many other factors. Betsy’s process was one of “finishing”. Finishing the project, completing the goal, discovering the wonderful feeling that comes from a job well done –

For me, taking responsibility was not a matter of blame but of control. As a passenger, I had no control over my life. Living in constant worry waiting for the other shoe to drop was not healthy for my mind or my indigestion. Bad things happened, and there was nothing I could do about it. I hate that feeling of helplessness. Always looking over my shoulder, waiting for something to push me down. It took consciously choosing what I believe about myself and my relationship with the world. Was there some predestined life that I was supposed to lead and I just had to bear the rough patches? Or did I decide what I would do and who I would be?
I chose to believe that while yes, some things happen for a reason, one of those reasons was that I make it happen. As a driver, I decide which way I am going to go and how I let things affect me. Sure it means that I have to take ownership for my ‘accidents’, but it also means that I do not have to sit idly by waiting for a Mack truck to sideswipe me. And just like my car in real life, the driver not only gets to pick the radio station, but she picks the final destination
.” – pg 56.
It’s a book about “Finishing”, and Betsy Schow was “FINISHED BEING FAT”.

Who is it for? It’s for all the rest of us who are finished letting someone else, or something else chose our final destination. It’s for those of us who truly want to be finished too. Finished with those nagging inconsistencies in our life that interfere with our feelings of self-worth and happiness. While you are journeying with Betsy on her personal road, you will discover that you have some things in common. And as Betsy gains control, you’ll find her journey empowering as you too commit to being a ‘finisher’.


review by Cindy Suelzle