Low Carb Success Story: Debbie Cusick 125 lbs. Lighter & Healthier

This month’s source of inspiration comes from a sweet lady named Debbie Cusick. Debbie, retired from IBM, resides in Florida with her dog Flo, and three cats who graciously allow Debbie and Flo to bask in their presence. She’s a birdwatcher, avid reader of mysteries, involved in choral singing and working with Flo, whom she hopes to eventually enter into obedience and/or agility competitions with in the near future. Another hobby of Debbie’s is pastel painting. And let me tell you, this lady has some talent. She also has the talent of inspiring others. Today, you’ll see why.


Once Upon A Time

Debbie in 1963
Debbie in 1963

Debbie was a skinny child up until about age 11. As has happened to many of us, good old puberty did its thing and she found herself gaining weight. Her mother, horrified at the thought of Debbie getting fat, was constantly trying to convince her to diet.

“She had me go to Weight Watchers with her when I was a young teen. She had me trying Ayds candies to curb my appetite, though I swore I really didn’t eat that much more than anyone else. But no one believed that for a second.”

As Debbie reached her 20’s, her mother worried daily, claiming her daughter could have no kind of normal social life because of her weight. Looking back on that time, Debbie feels she didn’t look bad at all, and in fact would love to be that weight again.

Thinnest “Hippo” I’ve ever seen!

“My mom had me convinced I looked like a hippopotamus. I joined Weight Watchers countless times, and never lasted more than a few weeks. I was miserable.”

At age 30 Debbie suffered a knee injury that required surgery and a year of rehab. For the first time her life, she found herself wearing plus sizes. In the mid-1980’s, after her weight had become a serious problem, Debbie decided to go on a strict low-fat diet. Sticking to it for about 10 months, she did lose some weight. In fact, she lost more weight, more rapidly, at that time than she has on low-carb. So what was the downside? She was miserable the entire time.

“I hated every single day I was on the diet. I hated my food. I was hungry every waking minute of the day. I would go to bed in tears because I was so hungry. I had to give up my entire social life and become a virtual hermit, because I could not bear to be anywhere where people were eating.”

Debbie certainly isn’t alone. Hunger is the reason many have turned to the low-carb lifestyle. Her hunger-misery was so bad, she finally decided she’d rather weight 300 pounds than spend one more day on a low-fat diet. She began to eat “normally” again and by 2006 was too big for even many of the “normal” plus sizes. That necessitated shopping at specialty stores carrying sizes 5X & 6X. While due to past experiences she was frustrated at even the thought of dieting, she realized it was time to do something. This is when she embarked on her low-carb journey.


Here I Go Again

Debbie’s first attempt at living the low-carb lifestyle was in 1997. One of the tenors in her church choir had had a weight problem since kindergarten. When she noticed he was looking trim, fit, and fantastic, she did what any of us would do: She asked him how he did it. He told her about the amazing Protein Power plan by Drs. Mike and Mary Dan Eades. He said eating big ham and cheese omelets for breakfast and steak for dinner every night had helped him drop 80 pounds. Hearing about the wonderful food he was enjoying, that he’d lost weight without deprivation or hunger, enticed her to look into the plan.

Debbie purchased Protein Power and it really struck home with her. The science of low-carb living appealed to her inner geek and she dove head first into the Bacon Pool of Happiness. Between May of 1997 and July of 1998 she had lost an amazing 70 pounds! She loved eating low carb, but ran into a wall that kept her fluctuating up down with the same 10 pounds. This stall lasted for 2 years. In frustration, Debbie threw in the towel. In 2001 she went back to the standard American diet and gained all the weight back, plus some. She admits that at this time it was all about the weight and not at all about health. She didn’t care if she was 100 pounds overweight, or 200. Fat was fat and she’d just live with it.


Say What?

In 2006 Debbie got a wake-up call that got her back on track.

“… I was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic… being fat affected more than just how I looked, or felt, or moved. My doctor felt losing weight would help a lot, and she was even supportive of a low-carb eating plan.”

Finally, a doctor that gets it!

“Low-carb was the only diet I was ever on that I was able to stick to and be happy on every single day, and never get tired of my food choices.”

Debbie got back on plan and never looked back. She admits to doing it half-heartedly for the first three years, but still lost 60 lbs in that time. In fall of 2008 she read the ever-fabulous Good Calories, Bad Calories and it blew her mind. That book helped her to make the decision to really get serious – no sugars, no grains, and no PUFA-oils. In the last three years she’s lost an additional 65 lbs, for a total of 125 lbs gone over a five year period. Her weight is still dropping! Debbie is still considered obese by the ridiculous BMI standards, but she’s an inspiring work in progress.

“This time I’m doing it for health, and that gives me much more incentive than merely being thinner. And I’m thinner now than I was the first time I low-carbed, so that gives me incentive too.”

Hot Mama! 125 lbs lighter!
Hot Mama! 125 lbs lighter!


So how does Debbie feel after such a dramatic change? I think the following sums it up:

“I moved into my Florida house three weeks ago, and the entire interior was painted a color I call “baby poop brown” and it just depressed me. I needed some light and bright and airy colors for the sake of my soul, so I bought some paint and began painting, hoping to finish up before my furniture arrived. I painted all 4 bedrooms, the den, the kitchen, and the living/dining room. I got all but the bathrooms finished by the time my furniture arrived the next week. I never could have done that 125 pounds ago! I have more energy to chase my 2-year-old grandson around. Again, I could never have done that 125 pounds ago.”

But wait! There’s More!

Debbie has a few words of advice for those who find themselves starting, or struggling with, the low-carb lifestyle.

“The three most important things are:

  1. Be patient
  2. Be flexible
  3. Be realistic

When people start on a diet, especially those with a whole ton of weight to lose, they want results NOW. If you had told me 5 years down the road that I’d still be this far from my goal weight, I don’t know if I would have even bothered starting the diet. I really assumed I’d be at goal within a year, a la Jimmy Moore. But the longer I spend with it, the more I know I’m in this for the long haul. It’s not an overnight thing for most people. Stories like Jimmy Moore’s, of losing 180 lbs in 9 months, are inspiring. But in some ways they are also depressing because that’s not really the truth for most people. Low-carb is not the ultimate panacea to svelte Hollywood bodies. Even on low-carb many people struggle long and hard, and may never reach their initial hope for a goal weight.”

Debbie tries to remind people that weight loss is not linear and sometimes you need to change things around. She’s gone anywhere from days to months without a drop on the scale, despite eating clean. The last few drops she’s had came from making changes.

“After months of no weight loss, I switched to an all-meat, zero carb plan and dropped 10 more pounds. But then I stalled again, and after a couple of months I was so sick of meat I went back to a more Kwansneiwski/Protein Power plan. Didn’t gain any weight back, but still stalled. I gave up dairy and quickly lost almost 10 pounds again! After a couple of months I missed my cream and cheese, and started eating dairy again. I didn’t gain any weight back. Most recently, at the beginning of the summer, I began investigating Ray Peat’s eating plans, and added gelatin and more fruit to my diet and increased my carb levels. I promptly lost another 12-14 pounds. You have to be patient and flexible, willing to try new and different things, and willing to be patient when the scale doesn’t move.”

Debbie reminds us that being realistic means that it may take a lot longer than you expected to lose the weight, and you may not lose as much as you’d hoped.

“Maybe at this stage of your life 110 pounds is not a realistic goal. Maybe 140 is more likely. I hesitate to say this because some people consider this a cop-out. Settling for less than perfection. Maybe it is. But at this stage of my life I’m all about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself Debbie.

She also cautions that trouble losing could signal a thyroid condition. She recommends finding a practitioner that will listen to your concerns, despite test numbers. Debbie finally found a doctor that is treating her sub-clinical hypothyroidism and it’s made a big difference in her life as well.

When I asked her to name one staple food she’d recommend, she said the following:

“Eggs! Definitely eggs. Eggs are so versatile and there is so much you can do with them. My cooking hands would really be tied without eggs.”


You’re the Inspiration

When I asked Debbie about where she finds her inspiration, here’s what she had to say:

“Well, first off, I think everyone needs a support network to inspire and encourage them, with two-way feedback. This can be a real-life friend or family member, but there are many online support groups too. My own support network is at the Active Low-Carber Forums. I go there every day and it keeps me on track and focused, and has given me so much valuable advice. It was encouragement from folks there that really got me finding someone to treat my thyroid properly.

But for inspiration there are a bunch of bloggers I follow on a regular basis. These include Jimmy Moore, Tom Naughton, Paul Jaminet, Mark Sisson, Chris Masterjohn, Kurt Harris, Dr. William Davis… I follow many other blogs too (including yours!) but these guys are my main heroes.”

One thing that spurs Debbie on is the hope that she’ll soon be able to go horseback riding on the beach.

“It was offered as a shore excursion on both the 2010 and the 2011 low-carb cruises, but I was always above the weight limit. I think in 2012 I may be able to give it a try if it’s still offered.”

The 2012 Low-Carb Cruise is May 6-13, 2012. I have no doubt she’ll be horseback riding soon.

Recipe Corner

Debbie has graciously shared her favorite dessert recipe with us. This is her adaptation of a recipe she first saw on Maria’s Health Blog:

Key Lime Flaxseed Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium sized bowl gently stir together the first five ingredients. Slowly add the next four ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until very smooth. Then blend in the flax seeds. Grease a muffin pan and fill about 2/3 of the way full with batter. Sprinkle the coconut over the tops of the muffins. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until muffin tops bounce back slightly. Makes 12 muffins.

Debbie’s note: I use silicon muffin pans when I make these, and it works much better than regular muffin pans. The muffins pop right out of the pan. No need for pre-greasing. I also usually just make a half batch to keep me from eating the entire thing in one sitting. I make the full batch for when company comes over.


Debbie’s Art Website: http://www.dcusickart.com/

Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories

Active Low-Carber’s Forums: http://forum.lowcarber.org/forumdisplay.php?f=25

2012 Low-Carb Cruise information.

Are you a low carb success story or know someone who is? Amy would love to talk to you and possibly feature you in a future article here at CarbSmart Magazine! Send Amy an email at Amy Dungan.

© 2011 by Amy Dungan. Article and photograph used by kind permission of the author. Send Amy your comments to Amy Dungan.

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