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Locals learn to 'Take Off Pounds Sensibly'

Date: 1/18/2011

Jan. 19, 2011

By Lori Szepelak


WESTFIELD — As January winds down, some individuals who put losing weight at the top of their new year's resolutions may already be faltering, but not those enrolled in a local chapter of TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly).

MA TOPS 0412 is one of several chapters in the area, and on a recent chilly evening, members came to weigh-in first from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m., then enjoyed some light conversation with friends before a brief business meeting and lecture started promptly at 6:20 p.m.

Judy Valente is the leader of the group that meets Tuesdays in the social center of St. Peter & St. Casimirs Parish on State Street. Valente stressed to everyone that dieting is never easy, but with the support of each other, new avenues of losing weight, as well as eating correctly and sensibly, will be a bit easier.

Carol Mercer of Westfield joined the chapter on the evening of Jan. 4, mainly because it was recommended by her physician.

"My family is supportive so I'm hoping that the motivation I receive here will get me kick started into the new year," Mercer said during an interview with Reminder Publications.

Mercer noted her goal is to lose 40 pounds "sensibly."

Mercer has come to the right place, according to Della Hayden, also of Westfield.

"We help each other on their weight loss journey," Hayden said, who has lost 18 pounds since joining the group. "Plus, our members are very friendly."

Barbara Davenport of Westfield concurs.

"The structure of TOPS is supportive, beginning with the weigh-in each week, but we also keep members motivated and accountable," Davenport said, who has lost 43 pounds since last March.

Contests are one of the motivators that TOPS uses as part of its overall strategy, and a "Loser of the Month" program is a coveted prize to win. On the flip side, a weight gain fee of 25 cents is assessed for the first pound or any portion thereof and 10 cents for every pound or portion thereafter, according to Valente.

Valente noted during her remarks it is important to monitor one's food intake and maintain a weekly food journal which is verified by the weight recorders at the weekly weigh-in.

"You must be accountable for what you've eaten," Valente said. "Whatever works for you, learn to do it correctly."

TOPS also features a unique program called KOPS (Keep Off Pounds Sensibly). Current KOPS members in this local chapter are Janet Flynn, Ginny Downie, Carol Whitehead, Jeanette Fletcher, Dan Aguda and Coretta Seguin. KOPS criteria notes that members are only allowed to exceed three pounds above their goal weight or can be seven pounds below their goal weight to remain in the program.

Westfield resident Kellie Brown, one of the co-founders of the local chapter, noted that through the years, she and others have had their "struggles" with gaining and losing weight, but the continuing support from others is what drives her to stay on track.

Downie echoed those sentiments.

"The scales also allow me to be true to myself," she said.

As Valente wrapped up the informative lecture, she reminded members of the "plate method" that is recommended by TOPS as a way of controlling one's portions. The plate method recommends marking off half of one's plate for vegetables, then dividing the other half in two — one half for potato, rice, or pasta, the other half for meat, poultry or fish.

Of course, no weight program would be complete without adding exercise to the equation.

"Put your exercise clothes out the night before so you are ready for a walk in the morning," Valente said. "Look around, you have plenty of friends right here to take a walk with."

For more information on the local group, contact Valente at 562-1297, or Brown at 568-6489. Chapter dues are $2 per week, payable on a monthly basis on the first Tuesday of each month.

TOPS is an international, nonprofit charitable corporation engaged in research in weight control. For more information, visit

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