From Start to Finish

Author Betsy Schow explains that starting is easy, but finishing is what matters

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Written by Michael Richardson

When Betsy Schow used to go hiking with her husband, she would hike for half an hour, then stop, sit and read while her husband went the rest of the way and back.

This behavior, Betsy discovered, while harmless on the surface, was the microcosm of a destructively patterned lifestyle that made her miserable. The importance of finishing is the subject of Betsy’s new book, Finished Being Fat, where she explains truths that helped her lose 75 pounds and, more importantly, transform her life.

Before: Something Missing

Betsy, of northern Utah, wasn’t happy with her life. She wasn’t happy with her weight, or with her role as a stay-at-home mother of two. She wasn’t happy with what she saw on Facebook, which she calls the high school reunion that never ends, with its never-ending stream of success stories from peers that seemed to elevate their lives while she stayed stagnant.

In her mind, weight was at the heart of her gloom. She figured that if she could lose weight, and keep it off, she would be happier. But her more than 20 attempts were slain by what she lacked: the ability to finish. “I thought it was easier to just quit than to find out that I couldn’t do it,” she says.

But it wasn’t just weight loss that she couldn’t finish. Her attempts to scrapbook the lives of her children, to build a picture framing business and a host of other endeavors were all slain by the same inability.

The breaking point came at 7 one morning, she writes, when she tripped over a scale that had just given her dreaded, heavy news, and her husband found her on the ground trying to beating the scale into submission.

“There weren’t enough hours in the day or words in the English language to describe what was wrong,” she writes. “At that moment, I felt like the most worthless human being on the planet.”

The Missing Piece: Learning to Finish

This rock bottom moment sent Betsy on a journey of discovery, discovery about much more than how to lose weight, she says. It was a discovery about how to truly be happy.

Starting is the easy part, Betsy explains. In the starter’s high, you are excited and you tell friends. Then comes the first set back, and the excitement of the task at hands drains away, leaving you to trudge towards your goal, until you stop and go backwards.

She learned that repeatedly failing to finish things creates an accumulation of damage. Each time you don’t break the tape, it adds another layer on a wall you must climb to finish things in the future.

“Eventually, you can’t even see a possible goal because you’ve walled yourself in,” she says. “You get in your own way.”

Betsy also discovered that comparing herself to others helped destroy her efforts to complete things, since she failed to understand the value of being “good enough” versus “better than everyone else.”

“You want to be the best, the fastest, the brightest,” she says. “I had to learn that I’ll never be a size two, and that isn’t bad.”

But of all the influences impeding her progression to various finish lines, the voice inside her own head was the worst.

“So often we’re so afraid of what everyone else is going to say, but in reality we say so much worse things to ourselves,” she says.

The Inner Finisher Found

How do you get over a wall? Build a mountain, Betsy says.

Betsy began to build her own mountain, began beating back the negative voice in her head, by starting small. She would finish workouts, and finish laundry.

Eventually her husband presented an impossible challenge: a marathon.

Betsy, so often beat by hill-sized endeavors, considered the Everest of 26.2 miles with hopelessness. She planned to simply train until her husband quit, since he had a finishing problem as well. But he never quit.

Each training run provided a step for her to get over self-constructed barriers. Finally, the day of the marathon came, and she completed it.

“It blew my mind,” she says. “Finishing something you thought was impossible shifts your whole world.”

The aura of her life change. She became a happier wife and mother, and the tone of her house shifted to a brighter shade. She is currently training for a half-marathon.

“Happiness is fulfilling promises to yourself,” she says.

At this point, Betsy says, she realized that there was nothing she couldn’t do, so she decided to write a book, something she’d thought of doing before. But writing about her own journey wasn’t what she had in mind at first. She wanted to write a fiction novel, but at a writer’s workshop, another author heard her story and urged her to write about it.

And then Finished Being Fat was born, which took her to NBC’s Today Show and to the Wall Street Journal. She is spreading a simple message to the nation about how to view others and yourself.

“Not everyone can win the race, but everyone can finish,” she says. “Giving up is the only failure.”

About Betsy:

  • Favorite meal: Whole wheat pancakes, made by her husband
  • Favorite book: The Art of Happiness, by the Dalai Llama
  • Favorite hike: Donut Falls, Big Cottonwood Canyon
  • Inspiring figure: Lily, her daughter
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