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New year brings new resolution

It’s New Year’s again, and traditionally, it’s time for reflection and change. This time of year, millions of Americans resolve to lose weight and live healthier lives. Myriad diets abound. An internet search reveals more than 57 million results, so how do people decide which plan is best for them? Well, in Sheridan, a support group called TOPS exists for that purpose.

TOPS stands for “Take Off Pounds Sensibly” and is a nonprofit organization that operates on a local, state, and national level. The mission of TOPS is to “support our members as they take off and keep off pounds sensibly.”

I heard about TOPS from a friend of mine. A Web search revealed a site with weight loss tools and resources designed to accompany a weight loss program designed by the member and his or her healthcare provider. This makes TOPS more than a weight loss program. It is a support system fostering inclusion, flexibility and fun. One member, Shirley Weber, commented that TOPS helped build her self-esteem. She has lost weight at TOPS, but mostly, she has grown into a more confident person, and this confidence continues to help her lose weight.

Like Shirley, I found TOPS to be welcoming and informative on the Web and in person. The first meeting was free, and it was like no support group or weight loss program I had ever attended.

I was instantly welcomed and introduced to several people standing in line for weigh-in. The meeting began like many committee meetings I had attended; except with roll call came recognition for accomplishments and encouragement for those who struggled. A series of voluntary games and incentives followed. Once complete, a member stood up and talked about emotional eating — a subject I needed to study. I went home smiling and looking forward to the next meeting.

Run like many other community clubs, TOPS has elected officers and by-laws. According to Dianne Barclay, President of the Sheridan Chapter, “there are national rules to follow, but each chapter has autonomy in the games, incentives, and programs offered.” The bylaws dictate the basic structure of the meetings, but a meeting in Sheridan will look different from a meeting run in New York, for example.

Although a nonprofit organization, members pay a nominal yearly fee and monthly dues. Incentives help offset these costs, however. For example, the top “loser” of the month receives the next month free. Membership dues pay for the rented space at the First United Methodist Church, where the group meets every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Dues also pay for maintenance, supplies, and expenses to State Recognition Days (SRD), a state convention where top “losers” earn recognition for their accomplishments. In fact, the 2011 Queen was a local member, Carol Yates, who lost over 130 pounds.

Sheridan currently supports 37 members, and other chapters exist in Dayton, Buffalo, and other cities across Wyoming. For more information, visit www.tops.org and prepare for a unique weight loss experience.

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