For nearly 30 years a supportive group in Dunchurch has been helping its members lose a ton of weight – or more.
Through 30 years of good weigh-ins and bad.
Keep Off Pounds Sensibly (K.O.P.S.) members celebrated their status at the recent annual awards night. From left, are Sally Norman, Jane Bottrell, Pep Bryant, Muriel Stiles, Sheila Stiles, and Faye Cooper. Absent is Edith Campbell.
Charlene Peck photo
Since the #ON 3287 Dunchurch chapter of Take Off Pounds Sensibly (T.O.P.S.) began in 1982, well over 100 women – plus three men – have gathered the resolve to walk into a meeting and pledge to commit to a lifestyle of healthy eating. Weekly, the group meets at Knox United Church to encourage each other as they take off – and keep off – pounds sensibly.
Edith Campbell joined the Dunchurch chapter of the non-profit T.O.P.S. international group in September of 1982, when it was started by local members who no longer wanted to travel to T.O.P.S. meetings in Magnetawan.
“There were quite a few us going then,” recalls Campbell, who has remained a member for the past 30 years.
“The reason I keep going is because I know darn right well, that if I went out, I’d eat whatever I wanted – but not if I’ve got to go weigh-in on Monday night!” she remarks. “I know I’ve got to go in and face all those other girls.”
She credits the plan based on Canada’s Food Guide, weekly tips and peer encouragement for her successful weight loss and management.
“I’ve kept pretty well to what I wanted to get to and have been staying the same for the last two or three years,” Campbell says.
Today the chapter has 20 members – and at one time had as many as 32 – from an area stretching from Magnetawan, to Parry Sound and Seguin. The majority, however, hail from the Whitestone area and this includes summer residents.
“I think most people here came because they were being encouraged by friends who knew they had an interest in losing weight,” explains chapter president Jane Bottrell.
Renee Crossman, now a T.O.P.S. area captain who offers help and guidance to ten chapters in the Parry Sound and Nipissing District, remembers having just moved to the area in 1988. After a month, she still hadn’t met anybody from the community.
“I saw a T.O.P.S. ad in the newspaper and thought that would be a good way to meet people like me – people that are overweight – so I came,” she says, chuckling. “It was a bonus that I lost weight.”
In fact, that first year she lost 54 pounds to reach her goal weight. As the biggest loser in the Parry Sound, Muskoka and Nipissing area for that year, Crossman was crowned Area Queen for 1989. She maintained her goal weight for three years, while her life became increasingly busy with her business; then left the group thinking she could maintain on her own.
“I did for a while,” she reflects. “But soon old habits came creeping back and so did my lost pounds.”
She even managed to find another 25 pounds along the way.
“When my weight reached an all-time high and I was winded just bending over to tie my shoes, I decided to bite the bullet and return to the support group that had benefited me years before,” Crossman says. “Wrapped in my extra pounds, I hung my head in shame as I walked through the door of a meeting on September 25, 2000, not knowing how I would be received. I was welcomed with open, supportive arms and inviting smiles, not a single word of criticism.”
It wasn’t long before she was back on track with her program and the pounds began to melt away.
Always a struggle
At the recent 30th anniversary awards night, the group was a blend of T.O.P.S. members and those who have graduated to Keep Off Pounds Sensibly (K.O.P.S) status, having attained their goal weight. K.O.P.S. members are quick to point out that while it’s tough it is to lose the weight, it’s even harder to keep it off.
Pep Bryant can attest to the challenge of weight maintenance first-hand. She joined T.O.P.S. in London, Ontario in September 1993, weighing in at 198 pounds. By March 1994, she’d reached her goal weight and was a T.O.P.S. Princes in her division. For four years she maintained her K.O.P.S. status, then moved to her cottage in the Dunchurch area.
“Foolishly I quit T.O.P.S. and gained all my weight back,” she explains. “I was very miserable and unhappy, so my husband prompted me to rejoin T.O.P.S. in Dunchurch. The hardest thing was to open the doors to T.O.P.S. in shame as I had lost my K.O.P.S. status.”
Once again, she found the moral support, encouragement, hugs and caring peer support that helped her to meet her goals and she has maintained her K.O.P.S. status for the past 14 years.
Fay Clelland has a similar story.
“I decided to take charge of my life,” recalls Clelland who joined at the first meeting of 2002.
Her knees bothered her and she was unhappy with the way she looked. By watching what and how much she ate and walking at least four kilometers a day, along with other exercise, Clelland reached her 45-pound weight loss goal on November of that year.
“During my trek to success, I had only one “gained” weigh-in. My health was better and my knees didn’t hurt any more.”
She could enjoy wearing her “skinny” clothes again.
“After being a K.O.P.S. for nine years, I lost my status due to stress eating, and I am now working towards being reinstated,” Clelland says. “I know with the support of my fellow members, I will regain my goal.”
New member Brenda Kirkpatrick, who lives just down the road from the meetings, has discovered similar support.
“I observed that everybody in the group was encouraged on their weight loss journey,” she says. “The times for sharing gave you the feeling of being part of a family that cares.”
Muriel Stiles, a 20-year member, loves helping others in the program and derives the most pleasure from seeing someone reach their goal.
“As Weight Recorder, I have the unique opportunity to keep my fellow members motivated as they continue their journey,” she explains.
For 19 years, Stiles has maintained her weight and is a senior citizen who walks three kilometers almost daily, is fit, mobile and able to play with her many grandchildren.
Dieting not promoted
Basic exercise, peer telephone support during the week and confidentiality are also a big part of the T.O.P.S and K.O.P.S. program.
“We don’t promote dieting as much as healthy eating and lifestyle changes, portion control and following Canada’s Food Guide,” Bottrell explains.
Sally Norman found T.O.P.S. gave her the tools to lose weight and support from peers in the group spurred her on to keep the weight off.
“No judgment, no wonder drugs, no guilt trips,” she says. “Just lots of good common sense advice on nutrition and exercise and lifestyle. And a whole lot of friendships.”
Weigh in is from 6:30 to 7 p.m., followed by a meeting of members sharing, a professionally-prepared program covering one of a variety of health and wellness topics, and a presentation of awards.
Members leave with a parting inspirational thought for the week.