Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — Fairfield resident Summer Roberts Lisk has published a book detailing her struggles with the eating disorder anorexia that sent her to the hospital, and how she triumphed over the disorder and her self-doubt.
Lisk’s book is titled “23 Summers Ago: Finding the Best Version of Me Through My Battle with Anorexia.” She said the title is a play on words that can refer to the onset of her anorexia 23 years ago, and how she has become a “new Summer” now that she is healthy.
Lisk will hold a book signing from 4-6 p.m. Thursday at Fishback & Stephenson Cider House on Pleasant Plain Road in Fairfield. Lisk self-published the book through Amazon, so some members of the community have already had a chance to purchase it. Lisk encourages them to bring their copy of the book to the signing.
The idea of putting her life story into a book was first suggested by one of Lisk’s personal training clients Zane Safrit seven years ago. Lisk told Safrit about her background and how she became a personal trainer, and Safrit, a writer who has published books of his own, suggested she should put her story on paper.
“I thought, ‘Yeah right. Who would want to hear my story?’” Lisk said. “Zane said, ‘No, seriously, you could help people if you share your story.’”
Lisk wasn’t sure at first that she wanted to share so many details of her personal life, so the book was put on hold.
“It’s scary to put yourself out there,” she said. “I wasn’t sure I was ready.”
Last August, Lisk was invited on a podcast to talk about her journey with anorexia. That experience made Lisk realize she was ready to share her story with the world and contacted Safrit to start working on the book.
“If I can help one woman overcome an addiction, or the fear of never feeling good enough, or a sense of loneliness in motherhood, I want to do it,” Lisk said.
Lisk and Safrit set a goal of finishing the book by the end of 2020. The two met for coffee at Hy-Vee, where Lisk spoke while Safrit jotted down notes. Safrit co-authored the book.
Part way through this process, it became apparent to Safrit that a single book could not hold all the stories Lisk needed to tell. He suggested breaking her stories into two books, one about her anorexia and the other about what came next: her career as an entrepreneur, personal trainer and bodybuilder. Lisk said the second book is already written and is going through the editing process. She expects it to be published in September.
How it began
Lisk was born in Columbus, Mississippi. Her father, a native of Keosauqua, was in the U.S. Air Force, and met her mother, who is from the South, on the Columbus Air Force Base. The couple moved to her father’s hometown, where Lisk spent the bulk of her childhood, culminating with her graduation from Van Buren High School in 1993.
In high school, Lisk said she thought she was an ugly girl and would never have a boyfriend. She did get a boyfriend, but it did not turn out well. Lisk said she “fell for a bad boy,” who she married at age 21. Lisk said the marriage was not good, and she soon felt that she had no control over it.
“I wasn’t sure what my husband was doing or if he was ever going to come home,” Lisk said.
At the same time, Lisk heard about her sister and mother starting a Weight Watchers program where they counted calories. She liked the sound of that.
“I was bored in life and bored in my marriage, so I made losing weight my project,” she said.
Lisk had her wisdom teeth removed, and she noticed afterward that she had lost two pounds.
“That triggered something in me to make me think I can lose weight,” Lisk said. “If I can just add a little bit of exercise or soft foods for a few weeks, what else can I do?”
Lisk was a cheerleader and ran track in high school, so she was used to frequent exercise, but she took it to a new level. She started exercising twice a day, and then three times. She saw her weight of 105 pounds drop to 100, and then she set a goal of getting to just double-digits.
She understood her body well and knew what foods she could eat that still allowed her to lose weight. Lisk said she was able to just ignore her hunger pangs. For an entire year, she ate the same meal at the exact same time while exercising three times a day.
“It was a project I was constantly working at, and it got out of control,” she said. “At first, it was kind of fun because I liked the discipline, but I had these voices telling me I’m not good enough, and I’ve got to get up and go.”
Lisk’s weight dropped all the way to 76 pounds, which prompted her father to take her to the hospital. Doctors told him that if he had waited just two more weeks, he would have had to carry his daughter and that her organs would have begun to fail.
After that scare, Lisk attended the University of Iowa’s Eating Disorder Clinic for three months. Summer left her first marriage and met Shawn Lisk, whom she married. The couple have three children together: Autumn, who just graduated from Fairfield High School, and twins Ashlyn and Austin, who completed their sophomore year at Fairfield.
Though Lisk was in a much better place in her personal life, her anorexia proved difficult to vanquish. She relapsed into it after each pregnancy, at one point falling back to 80 pounds. Lisk explained that major life events like moving homes or having kids can prompt relapses for addicts because their addiction, in her case losing weight, is the one thing they know they can control.
Lisk said what helped her finally overcome the disorder was realizing that she was modeling behavior for her children, and she didn’t want them to develop an eating disorder, too.
“My husband said, ‘I don’t want the kids to see you eating only salad,’” Lisk said. “I realized I want my kids to know normal eating and healthy exercise. I don’t wish that horror [of anorexia] on anyone, let alone my own daughters.”
Lisk hoped to publish her book in April because that is her birth month, but the publication was delayed until mid-May.
“It was cool that I published it on the same night Autumn submitted her last paper,” Lisk said.
Lisk hopes she can do other book signings later in the year. She’d like to do one at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City where she received treatment. The therapist who saw her at the eating disorder clinic during her first trip there in 1997 still works at the hospital, and Lisk delivered him a signed copy of the book last month.
Those who cannot attend Thursday’s book signing can find the book at amazon.com.