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New TOPS chapter formed in Valley, seeks new members

by Nancy Hamlett

One of the newest organizations in the valley has a long history. TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) recently formed a Carson Valley chapter; however, the organization’s roots started in 1948, when founder Esther S. Manz recognized that it was easier to lose weight with the support of other overweight people.

A non-profit, non-commercial weight loss support system followed. TOPS now has 11,700 chapters and 300,000 members worldwide.

As the name indicates, TOPS is a program to sensibly lose weight, and according to the new chapter’s leader, Alice McGreal, it is an affordable program. There is a yearly membership cost of $20 plus a chapter fee of $2 per month.

“There are no special diets, no meals to purchase. The fees are just enough to cover the costs of the record-keeping, the weigh-in process and the monthly newsletter,” said McGreal.

TOPS meets every Thursday, starting with weighing and recording from 9 to 9:30 a.m., followed by the information meeting and program from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Meetings are held upstairs in Sharkey’s Casino.

“Only you and the weigh-in coordinator know how much you weigh,” said McGreal. “You share with the group what you have lost, or gained, for the week, not your weight.”

A spirit of camaraderie makes the program work, said Shirley Graham, who is a TOPS member and the weigh-in coordinator.

“We encourage each other, applaud the weight losses and sympathize with the gains,” said Graham, who has reach her weight goal, but must now maintain her weight in order to stay in the Keep Off Weight Sensibly (KOPS) program.

A member of TOPS or a health field expert in weight loss presents a program at each meeting. The programs are designed to provide tips for losing weight or to learn about the healthy benefits of weight loss. TOPS member Brooke McKee enjoys the programs.

“I come specifically for the programs,” said McKee. “Yes, I want to lose weight, but I also want to learn how to be healthier. They (the programs) provide a lot of information.”

Diane O’Neil looks for ways to incorporate fitness into her personal weight loss regime.

“I’ve always known the benefits of exercise, but I am discovering the power of just walking,” said O’Neil. “Even during Thanksgiving I was able to maintain my weight. I just walked more.”

TOPS is designed to help an overweight person to adjust to a changing lifestyle. Incentives provide great motivation. Charms are awarded for achieving specific weight loss, contests are held and each chapter, area, state and the international association recognizes weight loss.

“TOPS members support other TOPS members,” said McGreal. “We call each other during the week, send cards, offer encouragement.”

“Overweight people know how other overweight people feel,” said Graham. “Our contests help motivate, but it’s really the other people that make this program successful.”

Because the Christmas holidays are always a temptation for overeating, TOPS members provided their own special tips for avoiding the gluttony.

n Leave the leftovers. Even if your hostess insists on piling you up with an extra serving of German chocolate cake – refrain. Remember that she is probably offering it because she doesn’t want the temptation in her home.

n Take things to parties that you can eat. Chances are, there are others who will enjoy your vegetable plate or a low-calorie dessert.

n Take diet soda. Many hostesses overlook diet beverages. Don’t be reluctant to provide your own.

n Portion control. A little bit of a tempting dessert will satisfy the urge, but won’t add a lot of calories.

n Don’t plan to lose – try to maintain. Volumes of food during the holidays can overwhelm. Trying to lose weight under these circumstances may be impossible. Instead of setting yourself up for certain defeat, realign your goal for maintenance instead of weight loss.

n Walk, walk and walk. Walk to burn off excess calories, walk to keep away from temptations and walk for overall good health.

n Drink 8 ounces of water. Not only does water help maintain good health, it will fill you up. Drinking a large glass of water before a party will take the edge off your appetite.

n Don’t do the rolls. It’s as easy as it sounds. By eliminating the “extras” you eliminate extra calories.

n Eat the pie filling, not the shell. This is one way to indulge without the total consequences.

n Be willing to leave things on the plate. Mother was wrong; you do not have to clean your plate. Use the old saying – my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

n The table is not the most important thing in the room. Parties and dinners are events designed for socialization. Conversation is just as satisfying as food.

McGreal said that the existing chapter is also looking for new members and that anyone, man, woman, pre-teen or teen is invited to attend a meeting at no charge. This enables them to determine if they want to join.

“It’s a two-way street,” said McGreal. “New members help us stay motivated and inspired, and new members can gain knowledge for older members.”

Although the meetings are held during the day, McGreal said that the chapter members would be willing to help others set up a new chapter in the evening.

“All it takes is six people with a goal of losing weight,” said McGreal.

Meetings end with a pledge and recitation of the chapter’s millennium motto,”Pounds a-weigh for Y2K.”

For further information about the current chapter, or about forming a new chapter, contact McGreal at 265-5001.