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TOPS: Support group for dieters

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POSTED July 31, 2013 8:00 p.m.

Losing weight is no easy task. For adults over 50, keeping the pounds off can be hard if done alone. Joining a support group may help dieters with their weight-loss goals.

Take Off Pounds Sensibly is a weight-loss support and wellness education organization that has helped millions of people over the last 60 years.  Founded in Milwaukee, Wis., TOPS breaks the norm of every traditional diet plan.

“It’s a support system and camaraderie for people who are trying to lose weight,” said Turlock TOPS chapter leader Charlene Kirk. “We call each other during the week to keep each other in check. We’re an extended family.”

Kirk, who’s been an avid member of TOPS since 1954, has been leading the Turlock chapter for 26 years. Through her weight-loss journey, she’s lost a total of 30 pounds and lives a more productive lifestyle.

“I’ve struggled with weight my entire life,” said Kirk. “It’s not easy living a healthy lifestyle when there’s so much great food in our reach.”

There’s no official diet plan, no supplements or prepackaged foods at TOPS. Members attend weekly support meetings and pay $5 dues every month at one of about 10,000 TOPS chapters worldwide.

“At the beginning of every meeting we have our ladies weigh themselves in private,” said Kirk. “After the weigh in we do roll call, which gives a chance for our members to share challenges they faced during the week. We also penalize the members who gain pounds during the week with 10 cents per pound. This way everyone can stay on track.”

TOPS members also receive a monthly magazine called TOPS News that offers healthy recipes, weight-loss incentive plans and inspirational testimonials.

“Because there is no diet plan, we encourage our members to eat smaller portions and stay away from certain foods that will cause them to gain weight,” said Kirk. “Sometimes we have a ‘no-no food’ for the week. We’ve banned anything from bread, ice cream and soda.”

TOPS also offers a variety of books that will help stop the yo-yo dieting cycle.

“We are here to encourage each other and live a healthy life together,” said Kirk. “Check out TOPS in your local town to see if it’s the right diet plan for you.”

For more information, visit to find a local chapter near you.

To contact Nancy Angel, e-mail

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