Saturday, March 17, 2012
I have not been here in soooo long.
Today, I wanted to write a blog about the TOPS organization.
In December of this past year, my new family doctor, to whom I had lamented about re-gaining 15+ lbs of my 52 lb weight loss, suggested that I join TOPS or Weight Watchers. She also mentioned that TOPS was a cheaper option than most other weight loss programs.
I'm a very cheap person. I had been a WW member, but I hated paying WW money every week in 2009, while being stuck two pounds above my target weight and feeling great and not really wanting to lose those last two pounds.
Immediately after my doctor`s appointment, I looked into TOPS. I found plenty of local chapters to join, but most met in the evening. I`m already out 2 and often 3 evenings a week doing choral singing, and since I don`t work during the day, I wanted a daytime meeting. There was only one meeting during the day - Friday mornings. I usually used Friday mornings for my long runs, but thought, oh well, this might be worth it, if I can get back to losing weight. Luckily the meeting was only a 7 km drive away, and was even located next to our regular cross--country skiing park. I thought I could go for a ski sometimes after a meeting (I only did that twice, but that`s better than none!).
To join TOPS, at least here in Canada, you pay $30 a year membership fee. Then you pay $5 a month in dues. But that money is actually used for the chapter itself, to pay the rent of the location and then to send you their newsletter, to provide prizes, charms and incentives that go directly back to the members. It is truly a non-profit organization. It is amazing that in this day and age there is an organization that has not been corrupted by the drive for profit. They are not interested in getting your money, only interested in helping the members achieve their weight loss goals.
For your membership money, they send you a monthly TOPS newsletter (like a magazine) with useful articles. And you have acess to a website and can buy TOPS merchandise. Like a very amazing book called "The Choice is Mine" which I didn`t immediately read, but have started reading every morning. I have found so many useful bits of information in there....more later.
Members voluntarily bring in wrapped "gifts" (usually just purchases from the dollar store hastily wrapped up). Gifts are given away each week as follows: 1) the best loser gets to pick one
2) members are encouraged to bring in their menu for the week and it goes in a draw - the winner gets a gift.
3) I think there are other ways to win a gift, but right now I can`t remember.
There is also an incentive prize of a $15 dollar gift card for any person who can be the best loser for two weeks in a row. This is tough to win as you can imagine because most people can`t sustain two weeks of weight loss that are better than everyone else, but I won this prize for the first time this past Friday and won a $15 gift card.
They also run contests for varying lengths of time (4-8 weeks usually) and the prizes are 1st place: $15 card, 2nd place $10 card, 3rd place $5 and 4th place - charm or pendant. We are doing one now, and I`m in 2nd place mainly due to my weight loss.
In addition the members wear a scarf to the meetings. On the scarf people attach various pins, pendants or charms which they`ve earned as a member. One common way to earn a charm is to have a no-gain month. You have to weigh-in and attend the meeting on the first of the month, and if the first of the next month you have not gained weight, you earn a charm. I`ve only done this once, but when I did I was so thrilled that I was very motivated to do it again! I didn`t realize that if you missed the first meeting of the month, you`d lose your chance to win this charm, not just for the month just past, but also for the month coming up! Rats - I missed the first meeting in March and now have to wait until the first of May to earn that charm again!
You also earn a charm for bringing in a doctors note stating a goal weight. I visited my family doctor this week and she unfortunately would not budge on giving me a goal weight under a BMI of 25. Even though I fought to have a slightly higher one - I told her that when I got my weight under 165 my body fat percentage was at an optimal level and my waist circumference indicated that I was very healthy. NOPE! She said a higher BMI is only acceptable for big muscular body-builder types. Drat, so despite my efforts to sway her, my goal weight is now something I`ve never achieved before in a clothed weigh-in- 73 kgs or 160lbs! If I make it, I`ll be thrilled as never before too.
Members also earn a charm when they are half-way to goal - for me that will be when I hit 169 in a weigh-in. You can also earn a "Miss Consistency" charm (funny old-fashioned names, eh?) if you go for 6 weeks of straigh losing - you are allowed only one week with no loss (what they call a "turtle"), or missed meeting So I am GOING FOR that charm. I have lost 3 out of the last 4 weeks, being away for one weigh-in. I have been doing very well and gathering momentum, so for the past two weeks, I have been weighing in wearing very heavy clothing - I am hoping to ensure a weight loss for the next couple of weeks too so I can get that Miss Consistency charm! Two days ago, I was 172.25, wearing jeans, a belt which had a heavy metal medallion, and a sweater over my t-shirt.
Once a members reaches goal weight they become a KOPS which stands for Keep off Pounds Sensibly. I am sure that if I had lost my weight with this organization, I would have kept the weight off better, because the KOPS are a big part of the club.
My chapter has about 25 members, but about 15 or so attend meetings regularly, about 5 of whom are KOPS. Most members are seniors. One woman has been a KOPS for 39 years and still attends almost every meeting! There is only one young woman in our group - a newly pregnant 30 year old. There are only a couple of woman around my age of close to 50. And the rest are all older - a few in their 60s, 70s and even 80s! A lot of the TOPS (instead of KOPS), are quite a lot overweight and from what I`ve heard have not been making great progress, but kind of go up and down a lot. There may be a lack of motivation in some of the members, but I`m trying not to pay attention to those ones! This is not a "hip" organization, but I don`t mind....I think it is going to work for me.
The TOPS program which is strongly recommended is the old exchange system. People are encouraged to eat 1500 calories a day (or a 500 calorie a day deficit for most people, including myself) by sticking to a certain number of exchanges of each food group. I changed my exchanges slightly, changes explained below, and this is what I am using daily:
6 starches (of 80 calories per);
4 fruits (of 60 cals each - it was supposed to be 5 fruits, but I felt 4 would be enough, so I switched a fruit out for 2 extra fats;
5 meats (or substitutes - the meat exchanges are allowed to vary wildly in the number of calories from 35 cals per ounce up to over 100 for high-fat meats, but we are encouraged to choose lower-fat options)
4 fats (45 calories each - I`m supposed to choose 2, but I`ve switched out a fruit for more fat)
2 milk (of about 100 calories each - we are to choose skim, 1 or 2% milk)
4 veg (approx 35 cals)
PLUS up to 3 cups of raw veggies to curb hunger which are considered "free"
3 free exchanges (like one piece of hard candy, or a serving of sugar-free jello)
At first when I joined in December, I wasn`t quite ready to work at it. I even gained 4lbs one week around Christmas. I blamed it on wearing three layers of ski clothing, but the next week, I had only lost 2 of those pounds, so I guess I was kidding myself! I also told myself that I didn`t need to go as low as 1500 to lose weight and so I was allowing myself to eat 1800 cals a day, and was cheating quite a bit, so I wasn`t losing. Then I started to read the TOPS book - "The choice is mine". There was so much good info in there, such as why I, like most other people, eat when I am happy. I had never read an explanation for that anywhere before - the book explained that it is because I am using food to try to sustain, and maintain my feelings of happiness for a longer time period. And the book gave ideas on what to say to myself when the going gets rough ("I know this works, so I am going to keep doing it").
I have created a 100 day challenge (I am on day 16) - to hit my exchanges right on. I haven`t done this all that well - I have probably only succeeded 10 of the 15 days. But even though I am off by a bit, the effort to hit the targets is working. I have now lost 6.5 lbs in the past two weeks, and 10 lbs since the beginning of January. I know it will be tough to get to KOPS, but my goal is to get there before the end of the summer!
Good luck on your journeys to better health!
I know this works, so I am going to keep doing it!