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TOPS offers support to people with weight loss goals
TOPS meeting leader Rebecca Mesa, left, with members Dorothy Van Vleet, center, and Mitzi Eades after a recent weekly meeting at the Senior Center in Riverton. Mesa was given flowers because she recently met her desired weight goal. Photo by Alejandra Silva

TOPS offers support to people with weight loss goals

Feb 12, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The beginning of every new year is used by many as the time to start over and set new goals to lose weight.

The urge to quit typically emerges in mid-February or March. Weight loss programs aim at giving people the tools to lose excess weight, which can add up over the years.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported the No. 1 cause of death for adults in the United States in 2010 and 2011 was heart disease.

The reasons for being overweight or obese vary. Not enough physical activity, family history and eating unhealthy portion sizes are some of the common reasons.

More than 78 million adults and 12.5 million children in the United States were obese, according to a 2009-10 CDC report.

CDC also reported the number of obese men has increased while the number for women has stayed the same.

Weight loss programs have increased in popularity in past years, and gyms are being built in all corners of communities hoping to push those in danger toward a healthier lifestyle.

Taking Off Pounds Sensibly is a weight loss program with a chapter in Riverton. In 2011 it received the Best Average Weight Loss Award at the yearly Wyoming State Recognition Days event in Casper. Each member lost an average of 13 pounds.

The state of Wyoming registered a total weight loss of 3,010.75 pounds in 2011. Individuals are awarded when all the chapters get together to receive recognition. Last year's winners will be revealed on stage at this year's recognition days.

With the aim to provide direction, information, support and an affordable price tag for losing weight, men, women and children are encouraged to join.

"Each member enters the scene with their own set of health issues," said Avis Veach, state coordinator for TOPS in Wyoming. "We help our members set SMART goals -- specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely -- to help them achieve it."

Anyone can join and has the choice of going through the program online or by attending a weekly Tuesday meeting at at 2:30 p.m. at the Riverton senior center, 303 E. Lincoln Ave. Veach said members are also asked to consult with their physician to "discuss their special needs and prescribe an ideal weight."

TOPS has several chapters through the United States. Wyoming has 31 chapters with Riverton's being the first one in the state. It was established in 1963 by Dorothy Van Vleet who started the chapter with only a few members. She still attends the meetings every week.

"They used to weigh on a bathroom scale in somebody's kitchen," meetings leader Rebecca Mesa said.

Today, Van Vleet assists in weighing members and providing encouraging advice. She said all information is kept confidential unless the member chooses to share it.

"We're here to help, not to criticize," Van Vleet said.

She is also a Century Club Award member because she lost 100 pounds with TOPS.

At the meetings, members share stories, recipes, advice, ideas, articles and challenges.

"We talk about anything that will get us on track," Mesa said. "Every week is different."

A member for three years, Mitzi Eads said as a diabetic, the program has helped her maintain her weight and holds her accountable because she weighs in every week.

"If you bite it, write it," Eads said.

When members reach their desired goal weight they become KOPS members (Keep Off Pounds Sensibly).

"This has been the best thing for me," Mesa said.

First meetings are free. More information can be found on

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