Cape Coral Woman Embraces Personal Gains From Weight Loss Program
When Debbie Baker looks in the mirror these days, she doesn’t see the same person she saw in 2014 right before she embarked on her personal transformation.
That Debbie weighed 300 pounds and had hit a point of frustration in losing weight.
The retired Kindergarten teacher had tried different types of diets and was not able to lose more than a few pounds at a time.
When Baker moved to Cape Coral from Ohio five years ago, she immediately took advantage of Florida’s terrain.
“It was nice walking because it was flat, but I couldn’t walk more than one time around the block,” she said. “I tried that for an entire year and only lost nine pounds.”
Baker even considered having surgery, but her insurance didn’t cover the cost for that procedure.
Then one day she saw an advertisement for the international non-profit called TOPS, Take Off Pounds Sensibly, a weight loss, education and support organization. Baker saw it as another opportunity to finally win her battle.
And she did.
With the help of the program, Baker has remarkably lost 144 pounds. Her success has given her star status in the weight loss world. Baker was named Florida Queen of TOPS in March for losing more weight than any other female in the state. On July 13, she went to Montreal to be recognized at the international ceremony.
“Losing weight is the hardest thing I have done,” Baker said. “But this is such an accomplishment that in my head now, I know I can do anything I put my mind to.”
Baker attributes her success to three things.
“The support the program gives you is No. 1,” she said. “The accountability. And the camaraderie. We’re like a close family.”
To get to her current weight of 142 pounds, Baker has focused on diet and exercise.
“I feel you have to have both,” said Baker, who participates in a weekly weigh-in at the chapter meeting and uses a phone app to help her track calories. She limited herself to 1,000 calories a day to lose weight and now eats 1,500 calories to maintain the weight. She walks 4 to 5 miles on the treadmill every morning and will do more walking or cycling in the evening.
The support of her husband, George, has been a big part of Baker’s journey. He’s also participating in the program and has dropped 50 pounds. They have earned KOPS status in the program – Keep Pounds Off Sensibly.
“My husband was so proud of my dedication and that would make me try harder,” said Baker, who has two daughters and one grandson.
Baker said things happened in stages and it was important to be patient. She said there was breakthrough moment when she knew it was working.
“I woke up one morning and something just clicked and I really started feeling more energetic and I knew it was because of the support from my TOPS chapter and the accountability that the weight was really dropping,” she said. “People started recognizing it and the weight kept falling off.”
Baker said she allows herself one “cheat” meal a week, something she is really craving, but she always has an eye on that scale and said she has never gained more than three or four pounds since joining the program. She said the only things she has really given up are fried foods and products high in sodium.
Shopping for clothes has become a positive experience again.
“Once I hit my goal weight, I could go into Kohl’s and Bealls and buy off the rack, which was so exciting,” she said.
As for future goals, Baker said the plan is simple:
“I am just trying to stay at my goal weight and be happy,” she said.
She also hopes others can benefit from her experience.
“My goal is to help people who really want to lose weight,” Baker said. “If I am going to be a role model for anybody, I hope they realize they can do it too.”
Debbie Baker, the Florida Queen of TOPS, offers advice on losing weight:
Don’t give up.
Be realistic with your goals.
Do your best and be accountable for everything that goes in your mouth.
You can do it.
IF YOU GO
TOPS, Take Off Pounds Sensibly, is a weight loss support organization that holds weekly meetings. There are 218 TOPS chapters in Florida, including the Cape Coral chapter Debbie attends. Last year, the combined weight loss for the chapters was 20,488 pounds.
Cost: $32 a year plus $5 monthly fee at the Cape Coral chapter