Shelton woman is a weight-loss motivator

People recently traveled from as far away as the West Coast to Shelton to meet the individuals who’ve assisted them in their effort to lose weight.

“I’m motivated by this unique, special woman,” Mindy Cherkin of Texas said when meeting Kim Bensen in person, a weight-loss instructor who has been helping her via phone, Internet and other means.

Bensen runs as well as the Weight Loss Center and Kim’s Light Cafe in Shelton. She also produces a line of low-calorie bagels.

Bensen lost 212 pounds a decade ago, and has kept off the excess weight since then. She has written a book and made many TV appearances about her dieting success.

She sponsored the weekend event in Shelton that attracted about 100 of her clients, who attended workshops, Zumba and dance sessions, a party, fashion show and clothing swap. Many visitors stayed at Shelton hotels.

“We’re calling this a ‘reunion’ because we’ve gotten to know people online and by talking on the phone to them,” Bensen said.

Meeting others in person

It was an opportunity for clients to finally meet in person Bensen, their weight-loss counselors, and other clients they have been interacting with through chat groups and social media.

Bensen, who informally refers to those following her weight-loss advice as “kimmies,” has operated the center and cafe at the old Crabtree auto dealership property on Bridgeport Avenue for 10 months. She previously was at another Shelton location for a year.

Bensen likes the current site. “We’d like to buy it for our headquarters and have other satellite offices,” she said.

Local roots

Bensen is a local success story, having graduated from Shelton High School in 1979. Her parents moved to Shelton in the mid-1970s.

“I struggled with my weight my whole life,” said Bensen, describing herself as a yo-yo dieter before losing 212 pounds from 2001 to 2003.

She started her successful dieting journey with Weight Watchers but found it more beneficial to put together her own diet while still attending Weight Watchers meetings.

Successful book and TV appearances

In 2009, Random House approached her to write a book and the result, "Finally Thin!," sold well.

She has made TV appearances on the "Today Show," "Good Morning America," "Nightline" and "The Dr. Oz Show." She was featured on the cover of Prevention magazine.

In simple terms, Bensen said losing weight is “all math. You have to take in fewer calories than your body needs.”

How has she managed to avoid gaining weight again after all these years?

“I keep doing what I talk about,” said the Shelton resident, who is married with four children.

Personal advice

People may subscribe to a website for members only, which features recipes, chat groups, live programming, and support from Bensen and other counselors.

The company has “thousands” of members living in all 50 states, Bensen said. “We give a lot of personal advice,” she said.

Renee Parker of Maine has lost 102 pounds in the past 13 months. “The support is unbelievable — I’ve never had this much,” Parker said at the reunion event.

Pam Kaelin of Pennsylvania has lost 150 pounds in the past 18 months. She now works for Bensen’s company, overseeing Sunday online chats. “I motivate people for the upcoming week,” Kaelin said.

'A super-duper motivator'

Pat Humeniuk of Seymour lost 50 pounds, and has kept if off for four years. Humeniuk, a  1975 Shelton High graduate and retired school teacher, described Bensen as “a super-duper motivator.”

Eileen Coyne of Washington state logged onto Bensen’s website meetings through the Internet while traveling in Vietnam. “It was pretty cool to connect with these guys from there,” Coyne said.