In her lifelong fight to be fit, Debbie Barber, 52, has tried everything from A to Z: Atkins to Zone diets and all the body wraps, diet shakes and cabbage soups in between.
That was until last summer when she came up with a personalized approach that works for her, a hybrid of religious faith and low-calorie foods. Among them: a nightly frozen treat.
"I've lost a ton of weight eating D'Lites ice cream," she said. "It's cholesterol-free, low-carb, low-fat, low-sugar and only 50 calories a serving. It tastes great and comes in all sorts of flavors."
Might sound like a small thing to some, but finding a low-calorie alternative was important to Barber, who says it was her love of conventional ice cream, along with her appetite for bread and pasta, which helped her to balloon to 317 pounds.
That was her top weight a year ago, when she was consuming 5,000 calories a day and diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
"Basically, my doctor told me that if I didn't change my lifestyle, I was going to die — and soon," she said.
How it started
Barber, owner of Abbey Printing and Promotions, was a closet eater as a child. It was her way of coping with her father's alcoholism.
In adulthood, the pounds continued to pile on through two pregnancies and failed marriages. She is now happily married to Chris Barber.
After receiving her prognosis, Barber said she prayed daily for help.
"I asked God to remove my addiction. I just couldn't stop eating."
She began working with a weight-loss doctor who sold her prepackaged foods that cost about $90 a week. The weight started to melt from her 5-foot-5 frame but she knew the cash outlay was unsustainable. And she was growing bored with the limited food choices. She was craving ice cream and pasta.
One day last summer, her husband was getting a haircut when she ventured into the D'Lites Emporium in Disston Plaza in St. Petersburg. She ordered a cup of D'Lites chocolate and peanut butter ice cream, and discovered a new passion.
She began to try other diet-friendly products at the store such as the shirataki noodles and Walden Farms syrups, jams, pastas and sauces.
Her weight loss success continued and spawned a renewed interest in cooking, this time using Carbquik, a low-carb baking mix.
She finds recipes for pancakes, biscuits, waffles and pizza crusts at www.carbalose.com.
"Finally, I can enjoy a full life without having to deny myself," she said. "God has answered my prayers and set me free from a life where food was controlling me. Now I want to help others find their way out of the food prison."
She has lost 80 pounds and wants to lose another 60. Once a size 24, she's an 18 now and aims for size 12.
"It's a journey," she said. "And God will help me find the way."
Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.