Lose weight with TOPS

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, September 16, 2015

People struggling to maintain a healthy lifestyle can seek guidance from a local non-profit organization striving to ensure people in the community reach their weight loss goal and improve their quality of life. Alice McGrath, chapter 298 leader for Take Off Pounds Sensibly Inc., said they’re hosting an open house on Thursday to spread the word about healthy living.

“Our goal is to support people as they lose weight, maintain their weight and support a healthy lifestyle,” McGrath said.

McGrath was a TOPS member before becoming the chapter leader in August. She said the Picayune chapter is run by volunteers and focuses on their members.

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“Our chapter is membership oriented, we vote every year for our chapter officers and put control in the hands of our members on what programs they want to see,” McGrath said.

The open house will be held on Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Pittman Family Life Center located at 498 N. Haugh Ave. The free event will teach the community about the weight-loss organization.

“We’ll have information about the organization, they’ll get a chance to meet the members and attend our weekly meeting,” McGrath said.

Snacks and drinks will be provided.

While the chapter has hosted open houses in the past, this is the first year they’re hosting one before the holiday season, “so people can learn to keep track of their weight during the holidays,” McGrath said.

TOPS Club, Inc., is a non-profit weight-loss support organization that provides affordable dietary services and uses scientific data to help members achieve weight loss, according to their website. Chapter 298 is one of three local TOPS chapters in Picayune, McGrath said. The chapter was established in 1997 and provides dietary and weight loss plans utilizing TOPS tools.

“There’s a lot of myths out there on how to lose weight like taking weight lost pills, but we stress good habits like a healthy diet and exercise,” McGrath said.

The chapter currently has 30 members. Membership dues include a monthly chapter fee of $4 to $5, depending on a member’s age and a $35 annual fee for TOPS. The chapter accepts anyone older than 7, McGrath said.

In Mississippi, there are currently 41 chapters with nearly 700 registered members. In 2014, members across the state lost more than a ton of weight, McGrath said.

“We’ve had members that have lost 200 pounds and have maintained it. Just by losing 10 pounds, it can make a huge difference and eliminate heart problems and high cholesterol,” McGrath said.

First-time members are encouraged to meet with their primary doctor in order to determine a realistic weight loss goal. Once members have reached their goal weight, they begin a program under TOPS, which helps them maintain that weight.

Chapter members often serve as mentors to help guide others through the program.

“The mentor sits down with a member and helps them set goals, takes their measurements and takes a before picture to document the beginning of the process,” McGrath said.

Members meet every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the family center. During those meetings, guest speakers from the healthcare industry engage members about various issues, including physical fitness and the importance of fiber. Members can also receive a confidential weigh-in before the meeting between 8:45 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. The weigh-in allows members to monitor their progress, McGrath said.

A strong support system is essential when people are attempting to lose weight, McGrath said.

“People who are part of support groups like ours are 30 percent more successful in losing weight and maintaining it,” McGrath said.

For more information, contact McGrath at (601) 273-0929 or visit www.tops.org.