Not-For-Profit Spotlight: T.O.P.S.

Lynsey Kitching
TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) has been helping members lose weight for 65 years. It is a national not-for-profit organization, which has a branch here in Tumbler Ridge. Everybody who joins pays yearly dues, which goes to TOPS headquarters. Each little group all over the world has to support themselves.
According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, one in four Canadian’s are obese. In BC there are 255 TOPS chapters and together they have lost about 24,312 pounds in 2011. A membership costs $29.50 and can be purchased online at the TOPS website.
TOPS members are able to attend any chapter meeting in any town.
The meetings here in Tumbler are held at the New Life Assembly. They meet every Thursday at six p.m.
Lynn Wall, long term member of the group says, “The principle thing to learn is to take off pounds sensibly, no starvation diets.”
She explains there is a book for TOPS, which can be purchased, called The Choice is Mine. The book is based on the American food guide.
“You can be a member of Jenny Craig and still be a member of TOPS; you can use your own food plan. There are all different things you can do to help stay on track or get back on track,” says Wall.
The group is meant to bring emotional support to those wanting to lose some weight, and Wall herself has seen its benefits. She says, “Off and on I’ve been a member since it started here in Tumbler about five years ago. There have been times I’ve been tempted to quit. I lost about 20 pounds on my own, and then I joined TOPS, since then I’ve lost about 77 pounds, so over 100 pounds.”
When the meetings begin, the group first does a weight-in, where all members weigh themselves and see if they have made any progress during that week. After this they discuss business and each week they do a quiz. “If you see us in the stores looking closely at products, we’re reading,” says Wall with a chuckle.
The quiz works like this, one person goes out and gathers calorie information about a bunch of products. They then ask the group to guess how many calories are in each item. Whoever comes closest is the winner for the week. They get a little prize and next week they bring the calorie count.
“We run around the stores like crazy, picking up different things. We’ll come up with eight different foods. When you write it down you tend to retain it more. We also have secret pals, whoever wants to take part, you don’t have to. We put our names in and draw names for somebody next week. You don’t sign it or say who you got. You look forward to these little encouraging notes,” says Wall.
The group also does special things to encourage each other by, say, sending someone a bouquet of flowers because they lost two pounds that week. “The main thing is to help someone lose weight. What we say is we provide the support, but you have to do the work. All of us have to lose the weight and that is something we have to do on our own, but you can call me, just like AA or any other support group.”
The group does a few fundraisers. For instance, in October they start collecting for the food bank.  “You would not believe how much nine women can bring in, in six weeks,” laughs Wall.
Another activity the group does to raise money, is to clean up the highways. “We also do ditch cleaning. We get hired by CRS [Caribou Road Services]. We have our own route, and we insist on having the same area ten minutes from CO-OP then almost out to Bearhole Lake.”
But Wall says, “Most of us are getting too old for doing that. We get some exercise, walking and bending. I carry my little scooper for reaching.”
The newest idea is a bake sale, but without the baking. Wall explains, “We’re fully self-supporting. We’re talking about doing a no bake, bake sale. We all donate how much we would have spent to make a dish or a cake or some cookies,” she continues, “It’s an on-going thing to raise money. Sometimes we do walks and we’ll put a challenge out to groups. What we’re finding is we don’t get the benefits people in the cities do because it’s so far for us to travel to get to any function and they very seldom come out here.”
However there is a rally happening close to home and the group is really trying to get there. “Right now we’re trying to raise enough money to be able to send a few of the girls to Calgary this summer for the TOPS International Recognitions day. It won’t be back this way for many years. I’ve gone to area rallies and you come home really inspired.”
TOPS TR has about 16 to 20 members on the books.

“The big thing is we try to encourage everyone to journal. You don’t have to put down your feelings, just put down what you ate. If you put down what you ate, it’s a little piddley because you need to measure and weigh everything, you can go back through it,” she continues, “Occasionally, we have an annual banquet and we have a Christmas party, only two functions we do. The thing is trying to get across that you don’t have to starve to death to lose weight. It’s all portion control.”