The weight loss support group TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) has been celebrating 75 years of success in North America this year, while in Powassan, the organization has been around for 53 years.
Donna Gauthier of Powassan is the advocate, a sort of facilitator, for the chapters in her coverage area which include Burk's Falls, Huntsville, South River, Sundridge, Bracebridge and St. Charles. Gauthier also oversees dual chapters in Parry Sound and North Bay.
“The organization is all about support, recognition and being there for each other,” Gauthier said.
Gauthier is a relative newcomer to the Powassan group having moved from the Garson, Ont., chapter two years ago. As such, she is a member of the Powassan chapter and not the advocate. But she has been a member of TOPS since 1997 and rose in the ranks through the years.
The TOPS mission statement is short and simple: “To help and support our members take off and keep off pounds," said Gauthier.
Currently at 18 members, Gauthier says the Powassan membership had been as high as 42 people just a few years ago.
“However, some people moved away to be closer to their children, others went to old age homes and some passed away,” she said adding TOPS tends to attract an older crowd.
Gauthier says TOPS is open to men, women and young people. Before joining, the applicant is advised to see their doctor beforehand so the physician knows what they are considering.
As a member, the individual receives a bi-monthly magazine that's full of recipes that are nutritious and designed to keep weight off, articles, suggestions for exercises, speeches and blogs.
“There is no shortage of information,” Gauthier said.
In Powassan the members meet every Tuesday at the local library for one or two hours.
Gauthier said the meeting includes a private weigh-in and the members talk about the kind of week they had and if they were able to maintain their weight goals.
The group is close because the members share a common goal. “We become a family,” she said.
Gauthier added when members achieve their weight loss goals "we honour and recognize them," and when they reach their goal they become a KOPS which stands for "Keep Off Weight Sensibly."
“We admire our KOPS members so much. They are an example of what possibly most of us could someday hope and work hard to become. It's not easy and everyone has a different journey with their weight loss goal.”
Gauthier said every chapter has a KOPS member or two which speaks to the success of the overall organization.
While the individual chapters have had small celebrations throughout the year to celebrate the Diamond anniversary, on October 21, TOPS headquarters in Wisconsin had a large celebration to recognize their founder, the late Esther Manz whose birthday was October 22.
Gauthier says the birth of TOPS occurred when Manz, a mother of five and her girlfriends had trouble losing their baby weight.
“They decided they would help each other,” Gauthier said. “So once a week they went to Esther's house (in Milwaukee) to get weighed and supported each other as they tried to lose weight. In time others started to see the difference in these women and they became involved.”
Gauthier said this was 1948 and in just a few years TOPS had thousands of members and today has hundreds of thousands of members across Canada and the United States.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.