“I am a true foodie; I even used to describe the moon as a piece of food,” said Homestead resident Barbara Van Kessel, who was named 2016 TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) Florida Queen. TOPS royalty are members who, at the end of the year, have officially recorded the largest weight loss from their starting weight, regardless of the time taken to reach their goal.
Suffering from food addiction nearly her entire life, she faced pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, and mobility issues. Having made numerous attempts with various weight-loss programs, the end result remained unchanged.
“I would sabotage my diet because I didn’t realize I needed more encouragement,” she said.
Recognizing drastic change was imperative to improve her quality of life, she took a friend’s advice and attended her first TOPS meeting in her hometown on Oct. 18, 2012. She joined that day.
Founded in 1948, TOPS, is a non–commercial weight loss, education, and support organization offering tools and programs for healthy living and weight management.
Four years and two months after joining TOPS, she was 129.75 pounds lighter and achieved KOPS (Keep off Pounds Sensibly) status, meaning she is successfully maintaining her goal weight.
“I am no longer pre-diabetic; I’m off blood pressure meds; I no longer use a cane, nor a motorized shopping cart,” she said.
She attributes her weight loss success to the support received from the weekly chapter meetings, along with keeping a food journal, exercising, and participating in TOPS contests. One particular contest that resonated with her involved improving different health aspects, including drinking more water, eating more vegetables, and getting adequate sleep. Additionally, she consumes an average of 1,500 calories daily.
When asked what advice she would give to those facing similar circumstances, she replied, “Don’t procrastinate; know this is not a quick fix and that you must want to try healthier habits.”
TOPS promotes successful weight management with a “Real People. Real Weight Loss.” philosophy that combines support from others at weekly chapter meetings, healthy eating, regular exercise, and wellness information. Visitors can attend their first meeting free of charge. Membership is $32 annually, plus nominal chapter fees.
Visit tops.org for more information.