PLEASANT VALLEY — Barb Cady joined Take Off Pounds Sensibly in 1964, and found the program helped her to lose weight in a healthy manner.
Because of her success with weight loss and the support she received from fellow members, Cady eventually rose through the organization and was named its national president in 2005. Today, she serves as chair of the board of directors of TOPS.
“I had weight issues. I had gotten so heavy and could not carry a child to term, and had had a couple miscarriages,” said Cady, who lives in Pleasant Valley. “A neighbor had told me about TOPS and I figured I would give it a try, and it worked. I have three sons.”
TOPS is a nonprofit weight loss program that guides its members through weight loss and staying healthy using education and counseling. Cady said the organization helps people to control not only their intake, but their daily habits so they can keep their body health on track.
“We’re big on education, we’re big on support,” Cady said. “We’re big on doctor’s health. That is really key; TOPS will not set your diet nor will they set your goal for you.”
Cady said the program allows its members to set goals for themselves, based on their own lifestyles. This is so the program is not an unpleasant experience, even if the weight loss goal could be considered large and unattainable.
“Different people have different health issues and needs,” Cady said. “It’s just totally inappropriate to think you can rubber stamp a food plan, let alone considering personal preferences, likes and dislikes.”
The diet itself is not even the most important factor of TOPS, it is the personal commitment to the plan, which Cady said, is how the program motivates people.
“A diet is just simply a way of eating, that’s all it is,” Cady said. “However you set it up, that’s the way you eat. And why not eat the very best foods you like that’s the very best for you?”
This method has taught Cady food health lessons she still carries with her, and she said it has helped her pass it on to her sons.
“I learned how to cook better for my family,” Cady said. “It has always been family-oriented, so my boys have always known about me and about TOPS.”
Cady also said the TOPS program is not geared toward fat-shaming at all, and it’s more important that someone who joins “gets healthy, not skinny.”
“It’s really important to us that when you get to your goal weight, you’re healthier than you were when you began your journey,” Cady said.
Steven Corley of Jane Lew got started with TOPS in 2015. He said the personal help he got from the organization allowed him to lose more than 80 pounds, which was vital to his physical health.
“I was starting to have problems with my feet swelling,” Corley said. “I was taking medication for hypertension, I had to wear a Darth Vader mask because of sleep apnea. I was just starting to have problems.”
Corley said for him, the support of other people who all have the same goal was what motivated him to continue in the program, and what helped him to achieve his goal.
“It’s basically a support group of people who have similar problems that can help each other out,” Corley said. “If you have other people there you can motivate each other to stay on track.”
Corley also said that joining the TOPS program is more of a lifestyle than a diet, echoing Cady’s ideology on the matter.
“It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle, it really is,” Corley said. “I consider myself a reformed foodaholic.”
Cady and Corley both said exercise is part of the program as much as any of its other aspects. Likewise, it is up to the person to remain active.
“I encourage people to do what they can,” Cady said. “We have members of so many ages, so many sizes, so many limited abilities, it’s ‘DO what you can do.’”
Corley said his exercise of choice is walking, because he enjoys the outdoors and the social aspect of the activity.
“What I use for exercise is just a fast-paced walking,” Corley said. “I think during this period of time too, I’m a social person, I tell people get your social fix that way.”
Cady said making choices for yourself is an important part of TOPS, and the choice of restraint can lead to continuing to make those choices in the future.
“I would suggest to them that they look at making small changes that they can sustain through time,” Cady said. “Nothing is forbidden, you just choose what you want. That changes the perception totally.”
There are local chapters of TOPS in every state. For more information, visit tops.org.