Program offers positive support for Southwest Floridians wanting to lose weight


More than 27 percent of the adults living in Florida are obese, according to the “State of Obesity” project, but a program in Southwest Florida is helping people lose weight when other methods don’t work.

“I was over 300 pounds,” said Cape Coral resident Debbie Baker who has battled weight for most of her life, “You want to live longer. You want to see your kids and your grandkids.

She tried diets, exercise and other weight loss tricks to keep the pounds off, but nothing seemed to work, saying she only lost 9 pounds in a year.

That’s until she joined a group called Take Off Pounds Sensibly or “TOPS.” It’s a non-profit organization with chapters all over Florida that costs $32 a year to join.

“I went the meeting, and I was welcomed and not judged for my weight,” Baker said.

LINK: Find a TOPS meeting near you

TOPS SWFL area captain Theresa Bickford says the program focuses more on support at their weekly meetings than telling you what to eat, “We’re here for you. That’s what we say when someone gains and we mean that.”

They teach how to count calories and offer meal plans that help members lose the weight and keep it off.

Bickford loves being able to help people like Baker who lost 144 pounds. Recently, she was recognized as the woman who lost the most through TOPS in Florida.

“It gave me tingles, because it was so exciting. Yeah, this is me. I’ve done this,” Baker said.

She says of the most important things she does is portion control, to make sure she’s not getting more food than she needs.

And she has a message, “If I can do it, anyone can do it,” a message she sends to other members who are counting on support and education this group provides.

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