Losing weight and keeping it off can be a challenging endeavor, but members of Columbus Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) Clubs believe having a support system makes the process more manageable.
Columbus has two TOPS groups, TOPS 529 and 275, which are part of a nationwide nonprofit network of support groups established in 1948 offering tools and programs for healthy living and weight management. The initiative made its way into the area in the 1970s and is open to the public. Leaders of both chapters aim to increase membership.
Members have their own individual weight goals, based on doctor recommendations or personal targets. Attendees record their weight weekly before attending meetings to share weight loss ideas and personal thoughts to empower one another.
“Yes, our goal is to lose weight but we are a support group. That’s why when we reach our goal, we just don’t quit,” said Betty Brichacek, treasurer of TOPS 529. “We continue to go to receive the support from your members, plus help your members and maintain your weight loss because it’s really easy to gain back once you’ve lost (weight).”
Verla Stoakes, treasurer for TOPS 275, said the community offers an abundance of options for exercising. Some of these options include exercise programs at Columbus Community Center and assisted living communities like Cottonwood Place. Stoakes said members also come up with a list of foods to avoid in an effort to reach their goals.
As motivation, members receive incentives for a variety of achievements including every 10 pounds lost, losing weight for five consecutive weeks and having perfect meeting attendance for 13 weeks in a row. There's also various contests members have the chance to participate in.
Clarice Wurdeman, assistant weight recorder for TOPS 529, joined her group when she was 16 years old and said she's currently 17 pounds away from meeting a personal milestone.
Stoakes said some individuals participate to improve chronic health issues like hypertension and diabetes, as well as to have a support blanket from other members. Although each member is responsible for his or her own diet and exercise routine, Stoakes said the program offers support for growth and encouragement, especially during bad days when people gain a few pounds or fall off of their diet plans.
Stoakes said TOPS members helped her take accountability in regard to her weight loss.
“We are not going to get down to bikini size but still, if I quit the club … I know I would be back up to over 300 pounds in no time at all,” said Wurdeman as she chuckled with the other members. “If you’re down and out and you’re wanting to eat something (you shouldn’t), you can call one of (the members). They will talk you out of it.”
TOPS 529 meets at 9 a.m. every Thursday while members of TOPS 275 gather at 8:15 a.m. Wednesdays at the Columbus Community Center, 3111 19th St. Membership is $32 annually and $3 monthly for individual group expenses.
Those wishing to join TOPS 529 are encouraged to call Lee Leffers at 402-563-1661 or Stoakes at 402-563-1451 for TOPS 275.
Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at email@example.com.