Half the woman she was: Baker is state’s weight-loss queen
For anyone, making a major chance in your life can be a demanding and formidable task.
Debbie Baker knew she had to change her lifestyle, or she wasn’t going to be there to see her grandchildren grow up.
Change her life is exactly what she did and is now being recognized as State Queen of Florida 2017 in the TOPS weight-loss program, having shed the most pounds in the whole state out of any TOPS chapter. She will travel to Montreal this summer as part of the TOPS International Recognition Day.
Baker moved to Cape Coral five years ago from Dayton, Ohio, due to an auto-immune disorder with her liver.
The dead wood and leaves every fall would trigger an allergic reaction and land her in the hospital.
But her true battle was with her weight.
Baker, a retired kindergarden teacher of 30 years, was 300 pounds and was starting to accept the fact that this was the way she was.
Her husband of 33 years, George, took a picture of her on a cruise years back and that photo rocked Baker’s world.
“It was a trigger for me, my daughters were getting married and I wanted to be around to see that,” said Baker.
With one grandchild already, and two more on the way, Baker knew she couldn’t continue down the road she was on if she wanted to see them grow up, and the TOPS program provided her with just the path she needed.
“My girlfriend back home suggested TOPS, and I sort of shrugged it off because I had tried every program in the book and nothing ever stuck for me. I was even contemplating surgery,” Baker said.
She started to try again on her own, and had only lost 9 pounds in a a year and was feeling very discouraged until she saw a church bulletin at St. Katherine Drexel’s Parish advertising the weekly TOPS meetings for TOPS Chapter 854 Cape Coral.
She decided to give it a try.
“For the first time I didn’t feel like I was being judged for my size. A lot of the time when you walk in to places you think they’re all looking at you like ‘Yeah, you need this, you should be here’ but I didn’t get that feeling at all. And the next week I joined.”
Oct. 1 2014 was Baker’s first TOPS meeting, and she never looked back.
“When you start to see the weight come off and you start feeling better, with all of the support these people have given me, it just kept coming and kept coming,” Baker said.
Baker accomplished her weight loss goal, 147 pounds, by May of 2017.
“I lost half of my body,” Baker said.
Though her story is an amazing one to say the least, Baker knows it wasn’t easy to get to where she is today.
“I gained my weight in college, and it kept going up and up and up. I never thought I’d be thin. All of these other programs out there either didn’t work or I just gained all the weight back.”
Support can be the biggest motivation for someone trying to lose weight, but getting started can be the toughest part for anyone trying to make a change.
“You have to make the right choices to change your life. You have to eat right and exercise. I walk and ride my bike. I have an old treadmill I use every morning, and walk with friends which include fellow TOPS members in the evening.”
Baker started off with only being able do ride her bike a half-a-mile, and this past year, she participated in the 31-mile leg of the Tour de Cape and plans on riding again this year. She also has set a personal best of walking 20 miles in one day.
Finding your weaknesses is the most important part of being successful on your weight loss journey, Baker said. She cut meal sizes down and made sure she stayed active at least five days a week.
“I went to smaller portions, my husband and I use smaller plates for meals so we don’t put as much food on them. I do still have one day a week where I can enjoy some of my favorite foods, but I make sure I reciprocate with extra exercise,” said Baker.
Accountability is No. 1 to Baker, and she makes no excuses.
“When I first started, the cravings and the exercise were my two biggest obstacles. I just didn’t want to do it. But you have to work past that,” said Baker.
She is taking her new lifestyle seriously, as she uses an app called My Fitness Pal, where she records any and everything she eats and drinks on a daily basis.
“Anything that touches my lips, goes in that app.”
Counting calories is a big part of her success, and says she limits herself to 1000 calories a day, and drinks 10 to 14 glasses of water.
Baker says her biggest support system other than her chapter-mates is her family. Her mother, two daughters and husband are always there for her when she is facing challenges.
“My girls and my mom in Ohio are wonderful support, every week I would text them what I lost for that week and they would call me and congratulate me. I also got my husband into the TOPS program. With our eating habits changing at home, I figured he should get involved and he’s lost almost 50 pounds along the way.”
As for her TOPS family, she knows she wouldn’t be here without them.
“For me, I would walk into a meeting and they’d all be like ‘Wow, you look good, you’re really losing some weight,’ and that meant the world to me. And when I’d hit a rough spot, they’d encourage me and say ‘You can do it, look what you’ve done, keep going!’ That really drove me to continue down the right path.”
The incentive program is a driving force for Baker, but it’s the program as a whole that keeps her coming back.
“It’s the total package of the group, if pieces were missing, it wouldn’t be the same.”
“Whether in a group setting, or one-on- one with members, the love I feel from these people is real and keeps me going and pushing to be the best version of myself. I’ve been to other chapters and ours has more love and energy than all of them. People don’t leave our group.”
Baker still can’t believe all that she has accomplished with her time in the TOPS program, and didn’t know she was capable of losing so much weight.
“I’m surpassed the whole state of Florida didn’t hear me squeal when I found out the news. I called everyone,” Baker said.
Now the Queen of the State, this title only drives her to be better and shows that hard work can truly pay off.
“I’m an example of what TOPS does,” added Baker.
She still does have a fear of gaining her weight back, but that only makes her more determined.
“Never tell me ‘you can’t,” because you can bet I will,” Baker said with a smile.