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Health

'Finally Thin!' author to speak at wellness event

| Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Infomercials for weight loss trumpet the success stories of formerly overweight people who have lost 100 pounds.

But Kim Bensen has most of them beat: She lost a whopping 212 pounds over two years' time and has kept the pounds off for more than five years.

Bensen, 48, of Shelton, Conn., found weight-loss success by sticking to the Weight Watchers program and counting points for everything she eats and drinks. Her hopeful story is the subject of her new book, "Finally Thin!" and became the foundation of a family business making and distributing her 110-calorie bagels.

"I feel like Cinderella, inside and out," Bensen says by cell phone during her travels. "Once you get it, you keep on doing it. I still count my points every day. It's so easy now. I have a very healthy respect for the (possibility) I could get up to 350 pounds again if I don't keep on guard."

Bensen plans to share her success story of weight loss at a women's health awareness program March 28 called "Feeling Good From the Inside Out," sponsored by Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Allegheny General Hospital. The program will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the George J. Magovern M.D. Conference Center at the North Side hospital.

The cost is $20, or $15 if two or more register together. A continental breakfast, refreshments and lunch will be served, and parking will be offered at a discounted rate of $4. Registration is required.

"The program is designed to help women lead happier, healthier lifestyles," says Dr. Eugene A. Scioscia, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. "We hope Kim Bensen's inspirational story and common sense approach will help those attending the event lose weight, and improve their health and quality of life."

The program will include topics such as yoga, heart-healthy cooking and work-life balance.

"What I want to show people is, they can stop the yo-yo" of weight loss, says Bensen, who admits she has tried many diets and successfully lost weight with each one. But she gained the weight back afterward. "I want to inspire women to try again."

Bensen's is the story of a "broken" woman who at 347 pounds couldn't buckle herself in a car seatbelt, had outgrown plus-size clothing stores and couldn't walk without becoming short of breath. She also didn't know her real weight, because home bathroom scales go up to only 300 pounds, and Bensen had exceeded the maximum number.

Finally, she says, she broke down and asked for help from God. Her initial goal: "I wanted to get to 300 pounds so I could walk." When she went to Weight Watchers three days later, she found what she really weighed.

From Weight Watchers, Bensen learned the point system for various foods. She also learned plenty of tricks, such as substituting certain ingredients in her favorite recipes to reduce the calories: "I could switch out more (food) for less (calories)," she says.

Bensen turned out to be an avid student. She spent hours in grocery stores reading ingredient labels and eventually began planning out her entire day of eating.

"Not only are you recording what you eat, but you have a road map to follow," she says. "I loved not being controlled by the food."

Eventually, Bensen became a Weight Watchers leader. Her huge weight-loss success led to becoming a cover girl for Women's World magazine, which offered to publicize a cookbook of the low-cal recipes she had developed.

Bensen published "Finally Thin!" in December 2008, including her story, tips and tools and recipes. She also began selling her 110-calorie bagels worth just 1 Weight Watchers point each.

During the time of his wife's burgeoning success, Kim Bensen's husband, Mark, began having health problems that interfered with his job. Instead of returning to work, Mark Bensen joined with his wife in forming a company that now sells her bagels to 1,000 grocery stores in the Northeast and through her Web site ( kimbensen.com ), which also features her tips and recipes. The company employs five people.

"Weight loss has not only changed me inside and outside," Bensen says, "but it's changed our lives."

Portion control

Portion control is a major component of losing weight. Here are some portion control tips from Kim Bensen to help visualize those portions:

• Half your plate should contain vegetables and/or fruit

• One-quarter of your plate should be a potato the size of a computer mouse.

• One-quarter of your plate should be protein the size of a deck of cards.

• 1 ounce of cheese equals the volume of four dice.

• 2 tablespoons of peanut butter equals a Ping-Pong ball.

• 1 serving of fruit, vegetables or pasta equals a baseball (not a softball).

• 1/4 cup sour cream equals a golf ball.

• 1 bagel equals a hockey puck.

• 1 serving of pancake or waffle equals a CD or DVD .

• 1 ounce cereal equals a tennis ball. As Bensen says, "Contrary to popular belief, a serving is not what fits in your cereal bowl."

Broccoli Salad

"Finally Thin!" author Kim Bensen lost a whopping 212 pounds, partly by recasting many of her favorite recipes in lower-calorie forms. Bensen found it easy to substitute lower-calorie, lower-fat ingredients for their higher-calorie, higher-fat counterparts.

Here is a recipe from her Web site.

• 6 cups fresh broccoli florets

• 1/2 cup green onions, white parts only

• 2 cups blueberries

• 1/2 cup fat-free cheddar cheese, shredded

3 slices pre-cooked bacon, cut up

For the dressing:

• 1/2 cup fat-free mayonnaise

• 3 tablespoons cider vinegar

• 1/4 cup sugar substitute

Steam the broccoli for 3 minutes and immediately plunge it into cold water. Combine the broccoli, green onions and blueberries. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing. Pour the dressing over the salad, adding the cheese and bacon at this point.

The salad is best if mixed and refrigerated for 30 minutes before serving. Toss again right before putting it on the table.

Makes 8 (1-cup) servings.

Nutrition information per serving : 72 calories; 1 gram total fat, 3 grams cholesterol, 5 grams protein, 13 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams dietary fiber, 254 milligrams sodium. Weight Watchers points: 1

Additional Information:

'Feeling Good From the Inside Out'

With : Guest speaker Kim Bensen

When : 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. March 28

Admission : $20; $15 for two if registering together. Registration is required.

Where : Allegheny General Hospital's George J. Magovern M.D. Conference Center, South Tower first floor, 320 E. North Ave., North Side

Details : 877-284-2000

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