A former newspaper columnist and resident of New York, in 2005 Cipriano weighed 403 pounds. Today, it’s a little over 200.

If you attend a meeting of the Berlin Township Board of Supervisors, you may not notice anything unusual about Betty Cipriano, the township auditor. But two years ago, you might have taken more note of her. A former newspaper columnist and resident of New York, in 2005 Cipriano weighed 403 pounds. Today, it’s a little over 200.

“I was down to 193 for a little while there,” says Cipriano, speaking to the Independent about her accomplishment. “Unfortunately, when you lose weight you can’t always plan where you lose it from. I had people coming up to me and asking if I was sick because my face was so drawn. I put some of the weight back on, but this time I want to lose it with more exercise than before so it comes off more evenly.”

In the early days of her weight loss adventure, Cipriano focused mainly on diet. She had to. A old car accident had left her with chronic spinal stenosis, and she had suffered for years with fibromyalgia. She was taking over six Vicodin a day and still suffered from excruciating pain - even confined to a wheelchair.

“I was just so poisoned by all the chemicals that were in my body,” Cipriano says. “When I would eat food, I’d have to ask other people if it tasted good. I couldn’t tell because it all tasted like chemicals.”

Additionally, Cipriano says, she didn’t know how to eat healthily.

“I used to think I was being healthy if I ate a boiled piece of meat, with canned vegetables and a baked potato,” she says. “I didn’t eat much, and my doctors couldn’t understand why I kept putting on weight.”

In the end, it wasn’t doctors who showed Cipriano the way out of her predicament. It was a book.

“I had a friend from Florida, she sent me a book that you can actually get at Nature’s Grace, called Prescription for Nutritional Healing, by Phyllis and James Balch,” she says. “It’s the size of a phone book, but it’s really easy for a lay person to understand. It taught me what I was doing wrong, and helped me figure out what to do right.”

For Cipriano, there was very little recidivism to her diet plan.

“I wasn’t ever trying to go back to the way I was, because I was able to taste food again, I was able to get off all my pills. I was able to walk, and eventually walk without the aid of my cane,” she says. “I’ve always been a social person, and this diet gave me my life back.”

The diet the Prescription for Nutritional Healing taught Cipriano focuses on five small meals a day, rather than the usual three. She says she eats a lot of grilled vegetables (recommending a George Foreman grill for the winter months), as well as lean protein from sources like eggs, fish, and chicken.

“The serving of chicken you should be eating is the size of your palm,” she says. “I still have beef occasionally, but much less.”

Cipriano is full of bon mots like this, but says many people, even those who ask her for advice, are loth to take her words of wisdom. And she can understand why.

“I’ll see people on the street who remember what I used to look like, and they don’t believe I did it without getting my stomach stapled,” she says. “There’s so much misinformation on diet out there, that people just don’t believe in the power of good healthy eating.”

Cipriano will continue in her attempts to teach people about losing weight, but she recognizes she faces some stiff competition - even in her own home.

“I can’t even get my husband to diet!” she says. “He just eats the worst foods and never gains weight. If I’m eating a bowl of sherbet, he’s having Breyer’s ice cream!”