"For almost 50 years I was addicted to food. Like the poor souls who are caught in the horrible clutches of alcohol and narcotics, I was caught in the clutches of my own jaws."
With those words, Celesta (Dolly Dimples) Geyer opens her book, "The Greatest Diet in the World," the story of how she reduced from a 555-pound circus "fat lady" down to a normal 122 pounds after doctors told her she must diet or be assured of a premature death.
"What I did not know until I begin receiving thousands of letters from obese people was that overweight people, no less than drinkers and users, are also hooked, but it is by food," she wrote in the first chapter.
"I was finally able to 'kick' my habit because I was faced with a tremendous decision that gave me a simple choice . . . 'Diet or die," she said. "As I lay there (in Orange Memorial Hospital, Orlando, Fla.) I suddenly realized that life was more than eating. I had to give up one or the other."
In 1950, Mrs. Geyer, now 75 and a resident of Orlando, decided to give up over-eating which had controlled her life since childhood. In 14 months she registered a loss of 401 pounds.
For her incredible effort, she has since been entered in the Guinness Book of World Records as "the world's greatest dieter." The title was awarded for her ability to lose weight and keep it off.
Currently, Dolly Dimples, the senior citizen, weighs 112 pounds. She is usually confined to a bed with a heart ailment which developed during the height of her obesity.
Her book is a message to everyone who is obese to try and avoid the pitfalls she encountered.
"Dolly is trying to show people what being obese did to her health and her social life and how she escaped just short of death," said Samuel Roen, an author and free lance writer who assisted Mrs. Geyer in the writing of "The Greatest Diet."
"Dolly would sit down and eat a whole pie or drink six or seven bottles of soft drink," said Roen. "She ate incessantly and without interruption. She did not eat regular meals. I guess you could say she ate only one meal, but it lasted all day.
"But Dolly found the strength within herself to reduce. And her theory is that 'if I did it, you can do it'," added Roen. "But the truth is that most people don't look at the weight problem with the same seriousness Dolly had. After all, it took a near-fatal heart attack before she decided to watch her diet.
"The person who is 10 pounds overweight doesn't really think about the extra weight," Roen continued. "After adding an extra 15 pounds, the pants or dress might get tight, but most people just loosen their belt or go out and buy new clothes and they keep on eating.
"By the time a person gets to be 30 or 40 pounds overweight, they finally begin to realize that they have a problem, but even then they don't think it's serious and they don't do anything about it," added Roen.
Roen, who said he had read the countless numbers of letters from people who shared the same attitude toward their weight, noted that it is only after a person experiences a major health problem that is linked to their overweight that they say, "I've got to lose weight."
And so it was with Dolly Dimples. It took a near-fatal heart attack in the spring of 1950 to turn her life and eating habits around. She recovered from the heart attack and pledged to her doctor she would do "everything that is necessary" to restrain her intake of food and, thus, preserve her life.
"He gave me a list of meats, fruits and vegetables with their respective caloric values and suggested that I plan my meals to suit my needs," Mrs. Geyer said in her book. "As he talked to me, I told myself that I would stay within the limits of his prescribed 800-calorie limit, no matter what. With this determination I dedicated myself."
"Like every American I've read of speedy routes to losing 10 pounds in two weeks, three pounds in two days or 40 pounds in two months," added Mrs. Geyer, who currently lives in a nursing home near Miami. "I'm convinced that none, no, not one, can be successful if you do not first take the weight off in your mind before you strip it from your body."