Wednesday July 30, 2014


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Coming out on TOP(S)

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Aleisha Hendry Photo

The members of the Thursday night TOPS meeting.

Weight loss is something many people in this day and age struggle with.

Obesity is on the rise all over North America. According to Statistics Canada, in 2009 449,945 youth in this country considered themselves overweight or obese. That same year, 12,731,188 adults over 18 years of age considered themselves overweight or obese.

In B.C. alone, approximately 1,509,127 adults are considered overweight or obese.

BMI stands for Body Mass Index, which uses a person’s height and weight to determine their BMI number. A person with a BMI of 18.5 or less is considered underweight; a person with a BMI of 18.5 to 25 is considered normal; someone with a BMI of 25 to 30 is considered overweight and those with a BMI greater than 30 is considered obese.

The BMI does have its shortcomings, as it does not take bone density or muscle mass into consideration when determining a person’s BMI number.

Fort St. John resident Sheila Hards-Volz made the decision to take off her excess weight in 1979 and reached her ideal weight in 1982.

She’s kept it off ever since, and attributes her success to the support she got from the local TOPS program.

TOPS, which stands for Taking Off Pounds Sensibly, was originally formed in 1968, and has been an active in Fort St. John since 1975.

“You really have to watch your exercise and your diet, go to the meeting every week,” explained Hards-Volz. “And your TOPS pals, they’re really what does it.

“There’s always something going on, and some goal to reach,” she said. “I just need to come every week.”

Angel Schepens can attest to that.

She joined the program earlier this year, and has lost 40 pounds so far. Like Hards-Volz, she believes that coming to the meetings and having others to lean on is what’s made her so successful.

“I can’t do it on my own,” she said. “ I need everybody else.”

Joni Simpson is the current leader of the Thursday evening group, and says the program is about more than just weight loss.

“It’s not just a weight loss group, it’s a social network, and for some of our members it’s the only time they get away from their kids or whatever,” she said.

TOPS has 180,000 members worldwide, and quite a following in the Peace Region. There are two groups that meet in Fort St. John, plus other groups in Baldonnel, Monteny, Goodlow, Dawson Creek, Arras and more.

To get down to an appropriate BMI, members first meet with their doctor to determine a healthy goal weight.

Once the goal weight is determined, the member can figure out an eating plan that works for them with the help of the group leaders and other members.

Joni explained that while TOPS has its own diet plan, the group supports other plans as well.

The program uses calories-counting as well as an eating plan similar to a diabetic diet – where certain amounts of food from all the major food groups are allowed each day.

“That’s what TOPS itself recommends, but it’s basically whatever works for the person and we’re just there for support and to cheer them along,” said Simpson.

“We joke about the fad diets that come out – like the cabbage soup diet – it’s strange… they go on these wacky diets, lose a bunch of weight, which is mostly water or muscle, and as soon as they get tired of it, they gain it back and more.” Simpson said.

“They come to lose weight but they go away with so much more – we have friendships there that have lasted the 35 years that we’ve been around,” she said

“We know how hard weight loss can be.”

But for those that succeed, there are benefits.

Not just the loss of excess weight and all the health benefits associated with that – when a TOPS member reaches their goal weight, like Hards-Volz, they become a KOPS, which stands for Keeping Off Pounds Sensibly.

And if they lose 100 pounds, they are inducted into the Century Club.

“It’s a very prestigious club, because it’s so hard to lose 100 pounds,” said Simpson.

Simpson noted that people tend to hop on the weight-loss wagon this time of year as holiday parties involving large meals are looming over the horizon.

“Any kind of celebration, it’s all about the meal, which is great, because everything in moderation is fine,” said Simpson

The group also shows that people can reward themselves with things other than food, which is something many people will do.

The non-profit group is holding an open house next week to show residents that are battling the bulge what they’re all about. She encourages those who are considering starting a weight loss journey to stop by the open house at the Shared Church on 100th Street on Oct. 14 from 5 to 7:15 p.m.

“What have you got to lose?” asked Simpson.

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