Macomb County residents shedding pounds since 1958
Harrison Township TOPS chapter gives guidance, support, new lives
By Julie Snyder
Posted February 20, 2013
HARRISON TOWNSHIP — On the cover of a recent People magazine, television host and popular chef Paula Deen spoke about how, with constant support from her family, she — and they — was able to lose 40 pounds in one year.
Many others who have drastically changed their eating habits and have adopted a regular workout regimen agree that dropping weight and becoming healthy wouldn’t have been possible without continuous encouragement from family and friends or without taking someone along for the ride.
This may explain why the Harrison Township chapter of Take off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) has been regularly and successfully whipping people into shape since 1958.
According to Barb Reardon, leader of Michigan’s TOPS 0129 chapter in Harrison Township, a weekly group that meets on Tuesday evenings at the township’s Senior Center on Ballard, TOPS provides a comfortable atmosphere where individuals looking to lose weight are given friendly encouragement, support and a wealth of advice.
“I think in this day and age, everybody knows what it takes to lose weight, but doing it is another thing,” said Reardon, who joined TOPS in November 2011 with her 25-year-old daughter Krissie. “It finally clicked for me that rather than a ‘lose weight quickly’ scheme, I needed to make a series of little changes in my eating and activities, things I could continue doing for the rest of my life. If you restrict your food intake, depriving yourself of certain foods that you love, you may lose weight initially, but as soon as you go back to your ‘normal’ eating, you will most likely gain the weight back. You need to find a plan that works for you, and TOPS gives you exposure to lots of ideas and things that worked for others. You also have to accept the fact that you’re going to blow it sometimes, get over it, and get back on track.”
Members are not required to buy special foods or stick to a certain diet; they may choose any plan that works for them. The program does suggest two plans as a starting point — the Exchange Program and a plan called the USDA MYPLATE.
“Some of the members count calories, count carbs, reduce their portion sizes, work more fruits, vegetables and whole grain into their diet, and cook more healthily by reducing fats, sodium and/or sugars,” said Reardon of Harrison Township.
TOPS members encourage each other to consult a doctor for a suggested goal weight. “It may be higher than you think; my doctor suggested a goal weight 30 pounds higher than I weighed in high school,” Reardon said.
“It’s also important for people to understand that whatever plan they decide upon, the bottom line is to lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories than your body burns.”
The process starts by helping members calculate their Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the amount of calories the body needs to maintain a current weight, and how many calories are needed to reduce each day to lose one pound. Reardon said there are calculators online, as well as some easy programs and apps for tracking meals and activity.
Since she joined TOPS, Reardon, who also does yoga and Pilates every week, has lost 30 pounds; Krissie has lost more than 80 pounds.
“We did it without starving or depriving ourselves; instead making little changes and more sensible choices,” said Barb Reardon, who retired from U.S. Army TACOM five years ago. “I had to totally replace my wardrobe, from underwear to casual and dress clothing and winter coats. Who wouldn’t love to have that problem? I can now shop at any clothing store, not limited to the stores that carry plus sizes.”
How did she do it?
“I count calories, try to work in more fruits and vegetables into my diet, and watch my portion size,” she said. “I don’t deprive myself of anything, but I try different delay tactics, saving it for special occasions or once a week, and when I do indulge, I limit the portion size. When it’s warm outside, I walk a couple of miles several times a week; last summer I went on my first two 5K walks with another TOPS member.”
But Reardon’s not done.
“I’ve got another 15-20 pounds to reach my goal weight.”
In the Harrison Township chapter of TOPS, there are currently 30 members, each from Harrison Township, St. Clair Shores, Mount Clemens, Clinton Township, Shelby Township, Macomb Township, Sterling Heights, Roseville, Warren and Fraser. About half the group is over 50, there are two teenage members and one member is male. His name is Robert DeSot.
DeSot, 82, joined TOPS in February 2012 after shoulder surgery. During a follow-up visit with his doctor, he was told he needed to lose weight.
“I tried unsuccessfully for six months on my own and then checked the Internet and found the local chapter of TOPS,” he said. Since July, 2012, DeSot has lost 20 pounds.
“It has helped me to make better choices to eat healthy and inspired me to get off the couch and move,” he said, adding that the weekly meetings keep him motivated and inspired. “It’s given me more energy and confidence.”
Each week, there is a confidential weigh-in, followed by a meeting. In the meeting, members recite their pledge, which Reardon said is an affirmation “that we are in control of our eating,” and then each member has the option to say whether they lost or gained weight, and they applaud those who lost weight and encourage those who didn’t. Prizes such as cash or small gifts are also given for various achievements. Members also share their challenges, successes, new healthy products and recipes.
“Our chapter has 12 weekly contests, and two monthly contests, as well as many special contests such as Shape Up For Spring, a Little Changes contest or Activity BINGO, with small cash or dollar store prizes,” said Reardon, 60. “We recently decided to have a games night on the last Tuesday of the month, with the games relating somehow to weight loss. Our first game was TOPS Diet Feud, a takeoff of Family Feud, with four teams competing for bragging rights and a small cash prize, and everybody had a great time.”
But members aren’t done once a goal weight is reached. Those members must maintain that weight, and have the option of becoming a KOPS member (Keep off Pounds Sensibly), working to offer continued support of TOPS members and be an inspiration.
Shirley Molzon of Sterling Heights has been with the local chapter of TOPS for close to three years.
“I joined TOPS after my husband introduced me to a member who is now one of my best friends,” said Molzon. “She not only encourages me on weight loss but helps me with exercise tips and snack tips. I go to this chapter even though it is in Harrison Township and there are chapters closer, but the people in our group are just too much fun to give up. I have never been to a weight loss meeting and had fun and won money for losing weight. I have all of this at our meetings and great people too.”
The Harrison Township chapter of Take off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) meets every Tuesday evening at the Harrison Township Senior Center at 26980 Ballard. The meetings start at 6 p.m. with confidential weigh-ins of each participant, followed by discussions from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The first meeting is free. There is a $28 annual membership fee, plus $1 per week for local dues.
About the author
Staff Writer Julie Snyder covers Harrison Township, Mount Clemens, Macomb County, L’Anse Creuse Public Schools, and Mount Clemens Community Schools for the Journal. She has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2003, and attended the University of Toledo with degrees in journalism and photography. Julie has received several awards for her work in Arizona and Washington, including AP awards in Arizona for breaking news reporting and feature writing.
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