Kay Cline’s TOPS’® Victory: Part 2

| By Mary Ickes |

Hendersonville TOPS® invites you to an open house on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, between 9:00-11:00 a.m. in Stull Activity Hall of the Grace Lutheran Church, at the corner of Blythe Street and Rt. 64W. Since TOPS follows the school schedule for weather conditions, our open house will be postponed to Wednesday, February 22 if schools are closed or opening is delayed. Please call Rosemary at 828-707-4883 or Barbara at 828-685-8667 with questions or for further information.

Kay after TOPS

Last month we shared the journey of Kay Cline (member of NC 0672 Marion) who, utilizing the TOPS’ program, lost 130 pounds in 2015. This month the program she followed, beginning with what TOPS is not.

TOPS, a not-for-profit organization, is not prohibitively expensive. Members pay $32 yearly to national headquarters and local yearly dues, payable monthly. (Members of NC 0186 Hendersonville pay $48.) TOPS does not manufacture, sell, deliver, or recommend specific foods; each member defines a food plan for their individual needs. TOPS makes no promises that a member will quickly drop two dress sizes three weeks before the holidays or magically dissolve that cookie-eggnog bulge before their Valentine binge. TOPS does not pay celebrities to advertise; only members, neither solicited nor paid, endorse TOPS. Finally, TOPS does not utilize or endorse pills, supplements, gadgets, injections, drinks, sweat suits, or diet gurus.

Instead, TOPS provides “the structure, information, support, and encouragement [members] need to look and feel great, but it’s up to [them] to make the commitment” (2).

As the legacy of TOPS’ founder Esther Manz has proven, the most crucial resource for healthy weight loss is the “power of mutual support” through weekly meetings, retreats, and recognition (3).

TOPS offers three membership options: In-Person, Online, and Workplace Chapters. The In-Person membership is available to men, women, and children ages seven or older who present their doctor or health care provider’s written approval. (Parents of children need not join TOPS to attend meetings.)

Since the first meeting is free, potential members are encouraged to visit various chapters to find one suitable for their specific requirements. Membership dues provide weekly meetings; a weight tracker; My Day One, a beginner’s guide to healthy living; a subscription to TOPS News; and access to the members-only website. TOPS also publishes for sale Real Life: The Hands-on Pounds-off Guide, a comprehensive explanation of the TOPS’ philosophy and program. Members may review their chapter’s copy before deciding to purchase.

Online members share most of the In-Person benefits and may join a local chapter when their circumstances permit. For the Workplace Chapters, TOPS provides a leader to weigh and to conduct meetings. More information on both memberships is available at www.tops.org (To call TOPS for information, the number is 800.932.8677.)

A new member’s first question is often, “What sort of diet will I have to follow?” Because of members’ diverse ages and requirements, TOPS does not promote a one-for-all food plan. For new members unfamiliar with healthy options, TOPS offers the Exchange Plan. Many members follow that plan to goal; others, like Kay, switch to My Fitness Pal or another app providing feedback. Others record their calories and exercise in a journal. Since recording calories and exercise for six days weekly is a proven weight-loss technique, method is less important than daily follow-through (4).

Kay Before TOPS®

Before weekly meetings—the main source of mutual support—members weigh privately and record their weight in the tracker while the weight recorders update their official record. (Weight loss or gain is strictly between the member and recorders.) In some chapters, gaining members pay a small fine for the general fund.

The chapter leader, elected yearly with other board members by secret ballot, opens meetings by asking members to recite their pledges. Next, the voluntary roll call, a time of true camaraderie as members cheer a loss, encourage a gain, or share an experience. After the weight recorder reports weekly gains and losses, the Loser of the Week announces a good and bad food and activity for the coming week. The business portion includes event planning, information from headquarters, announcing awards, reports on absent members, and updates on member-sponsored competitions.

During the program, “members learn to eat better, move more, and stay motivated through engaging educational programs that . . . experts prepare and that volunteers present at weekly meetings” (5). Sometimes the program is a guest speaker, such as Kay Cline, who willingly shares her story. Finally, a rousing cheer—such as “Fit and Lean in 2017”—and the meeting adjourns.

A crucial advantage of the TOPS’ program is that members reaching goal weight are not considered “done” and bid a fond farewell. Instead, they “graduate” to Keep Off Pounds Sensibly (KOPS) status to maintain their weight. KOPS are granted leeway of three pounds above their goal weight and seven pounds under. When asked if losing weight or maintaining leeway is more difficult, a KOPS usually replies that maintaining leeway is more difficult. Yet, all are relieved to have reached a healthy weight. Reaching KOPS’ status earns a standing ovation and hearty cheers from the chapter and anniversary recognition, currently ranging from five to forty years, in TOPS News.

Aware that members sometimes need an extra jolt of support beyond their weekly meetings, Mrs. Manz and 59 members, in 1975, headed to Catalina Island, California, for the first TOPS’ retreat. “A TOPS’ retreat is a time to get away, relax, learn, have fun, and fire up your weight-loss motivation …” (6). Men and women members, age 18 or older, may attend retreats for fees ranging from $175 to $500.

Barbara, Hendersonville 0186, shares her retreat experiences: “TOPS retreats, which last from three to six days, provide a judgement-free environment for members sharing health goals. Learning the TOPS’ Exchange Plan was our main focus, but our week offered many opportunities for fun and inspiration.

Our sessions were sometimes emotional as we shared difficult life experiences and began releasing the burdens that make weight loss so difficult. What a relief to discover people who understood our pain and to realize that we’re not the only people struggling. Attend a retreat and free yourself to be the best that you can be!” Retreat schedules and registration forms are available at www.tops.org.

When Mrs. Manz, who was 5 feet 2 inches tall, founded TOPS, she weighed 208 pounds, so she understood well the trials and tribulations of losing weight. Therefore, she declared that members reaching goal weight should be treated like royalty. And they are! The winners of the Annual Royalty Competition, the king, queen, and two runners-up, lose the most weight to KOPS’ status regardless of the time period.

The 2015 International TOPS Queen was Monica Thomas, NC 0407 Gastonia, who lost 200 pounds. She happily exclaimed, “I moved from: Can I do it? Will I do it? Should I do it? To, It is done” (7)! The 2015 TOPS International King Kenneth Connor, TX 9345 Vidor, lost 176.75 pounds. For him, weight loss was a medical priority, “Now my diabetes is under control, and I am off several medications. I enjoy a much more active life . . .” (8). (For videos of Monica, Kenneth, and other royalty sharing their stories, click on “Success Stories” at www.tops.org.)

Also, men and women competing within each of the nine weight divisions are honored for losing the most weight from January 1 through December 31 of a given year. As we saw last month, Kay was the Division 1 Winner for losing 130 pounds in 2015. Royalty and the Division Winners are announced and honored at the local level, then lauded during State Recognition Days and International Recognition Days.

Though she rejoiced about TOPS’ success, Mrs. Manz became increasingly concerned about the rising national obesity rates.

A generous woman with foresight, she donated, in 1966, $250,000 to the Medical College of Wisconsin. Little did Mrs. Manz suspect the future benefits of her donation.

TOPS has since donated almost $9 million to the college and, in 1994, joined forces to establish the TOPS Obesity and Metabolic Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. “They’re working to find the genetic cause of obesity and its links to various other diseases including diabetes, coronary heart disease, and cancer” (9).

Another major collaboration: the TOPS Obesity and Genetic Research Laboratory at Texas Biomedical Research Institution in San Antonio, Texas, established in June 2015, focuses “on the role of genetic predisposition to the metabolic changes, nutritional preferences, appetite regulation, food intake, and choice and incidence of obesity-related illness” (10).

Studies are another crucial TOPS’ approach to solving the obesity threat. A study of 43,000 TOPS’ members, completed by the University of Colorado, concluded that “People who remained in the [TOPS] program lost 6% of initial weight in the first year and maintained that weight loss for up to three years” (11).

TOPS has accomplished much since those days when Mrs. Manz dashed around Milwaukee establishing new chapters. Her innovations of mutual support, retreats, recognition, and research have made great strides, yet “Half of the United States will be obese by 2030 if current trends continue” (12). North Carolina, with 29 percent of adults obese, rates twenty-fourth in the nation (13).

As stated in the opening, TOPS makes no promises that losing weight is easy, but does offer viable solutions for people willing to commit. Click on “Find a Meeting” at www.tops.org to see if you live near one of the ten chapters in Western North Carolina.

If not, start one! The basic requirements are four people, a meeting place, a reliable scale, and a TOPS’ contact established at www.tops.org. Kay had never heard of TOPS until a friend in her water aerobics class invited her. Thanks to four committed people, who started a group years earlier, the Marion chapter was well established and glad to support her.

And how is Kay progressing? Like all successful TOPS’ members, Kay works to remain focused, mutters her way through gains, grins at losses, exercises on days when she’d rather not, and occasionally gives in to a craving. In other words, Kay is doing great and will reach her KOPS’ goal!

So can you!


As a member of TOPS for three years and NC 0816 Hendersonville leader for almost a year, I am continually amazed by our chapter’s determination and enthusiasm. Over the years, I’ve noticed the number of resolved health issues. One member is off her pills. Another announced that her blood pressure is within the normal range. Yet another walks easier. I cordially invite you to attend our open house for an introduction to the TOPS’ program and to our members. Whether you come by yourself or bring a friend, you will be cordially welcomed.

Best Wishes,
Rosemary Lequire

1. “History of Tops.” https://tops.org/topsTOPS/History2.aspx.
2. “Taking Off Pounds Sensibly ® the Canadian Way.” topsatl-qc.com.index/php/component/content/article/8.
3. “History of Tops.”
4. Ahmed H. Kissebah, MD, PhD, FACP et al., Real Life: The Hands-on Pounds-off Guide. (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: TOPS Club, Inc.), 89.
5. TOPS brochure. “Powerful Support for Real Weight Loss and Lifelong Health.” PI-028 (Rev 9/15) © 2015 by TOPS Club, Inc.
6. “TOPS’ Retreats.” http.www.tops.org/tops/tops/TOPS_ Retreats. Aspx.
7. Thomas, Monica. “TOPS International Queen.” TOPS News October/November 2016: 28-29.
8. Connor, Kenneth. “TOPS International King.” TOPS News October/November 2016: 29.
9. Ahmed, 224.
10. Ahmed, 225.
11. “Weight-Loss Study Determines that TOPS is Effective.” PL-093 (Rev 12/14) © by TOPS Club Inc.
12. “Obesity Statistics and TOPS Fabulous Figures.” W-016 (Rev 9/16) © 2016 by TOPS Club, Inc.
13. “Obesity Statistics and TOPS Fabulous Figures.”

Mary Ickes lives in Hendersonville with her husband Roy and their cats Buddy, Tooley, Figaro (tuxedos), Tabatha (white and tabby), and Munchkin (a somewhat neurotic white and gray Manx). Since Roy believes that “it’s never the cat’s fault,” he’s not convinced that Munchkin is the neurotic resident in the house. Mary’s e-mail:mickes1@morrisbb.net

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker