General Diet Plans and Questions - TOPS as effective as WW and other more expensive programs.

11-27-2010, 01:12 AM
I found this article today, describing a recent research study that suggests that low-cost, nonprofit weight-loss programs are just as effective as more expensive plans (specifically non-profit groups like OA and TOPS were compared to Weight Watchers and other commercial programs. The non-profit groups were found to be as effective as the pay-for-service groups).

I'm not bashing WW. If you prefer WW and feel the price is affordable and a good value for you, that's great. But it's nice to know that if you can't afford WW, or if you're just a bargain hunter at heart, that TOPS is an affordable and effective option.

I've had friends tell me that TOPS can't possibly be as effective as WW, because of the price difference (the "you get what you pay for" theory). I've even believed it myself (in the past). It's good to know this isn't necessarily so.

Yeah, TOPS!

11-27-2010, 09:35 AM
I have never tried Tops or OA and have always been tempted too. I tend to be shy in new situations around people I don't know so it kind of weirds me out to think about going to one.

11-27-2010, 12:58 PM
Do they actually have diets or are the just support groups? They sure don't have the success statistics of WW. Of course, WW is not a diet. It's behavioral modification leading to lifestyle changes that promote weight loss. When you look at comparisons of all the plans out there, WW is still #1 and now Dr. Oz has partnered with them.

11-27-2010, 04:46 PM
Do they actually have diets or are the just support groups? They sure don't have the success statistics of WW. Of course, WW is not a diet. It's behavioral modification leading to lifestyle changes that promote weight loss. When you look at comparisons of all the plans out there, WW is still #1 and now Dr. Oz has partnered with them.

Dr. Oz is very popular, and so is Weight Watcher's, no doubt the partnership will increase the popularity (and income) of both, and hopefully it will benefit a lot of people. But that doesn't change the fact that TOPS DOES actually have the success statistics of WW. That's the point of the research study. If by statistics you mean the percentage and degree of success. If you mean by number of members, then you're right Weight Watchers have had more members - but that's primarily because WW is a corporate entity that can attract more members through advertising. TOPS as a non-profit organization must rely on word-of-mouth. TOPS will never be able to compete number-wise with the advertising power of a mega-billion dollar company.

I read a book about 10 years ago, I believe it was The Unofficial Guide to Dieting Safely, that rated many different popular weight loss plans. The author rated WW marginally better than TOPS, but specifically noted that it was only because of the wider availability and visibility of Weight Watcher's. The author also pointed out that TOPS was open about it's success rate, whereas Weight Watcher's was not (and still is not). I have to get a copy of that book, because now that I mention it, I think that book cited research that also found TOPS and WW's success rates to be comparable (noting it was not research endorsed by WW, because WW doesn't give out it's success data).

TOPS has become affiliated with the Medical School of Wisconsin and both TOPS as an organization and the Medical School are very open about their results. Weight Watcher's isn't. They don't want you to know how many drop out (or why they do - I read in another study that the main reason given for dropping out of Weight Watcher's is the cost. As a result more people need to know there is a low-cost option).

As to whether TOPS has a diet (a lifestyle food plan) - yes it does, actually a couple (variations of exchange plan/calorie counting) but members are free to follow other healthy plans as well. The TOPS guidebook, "The Choice is Mine," an optional purchase (or you can usually borrow one from the chapter or a member) is chock-full of research-based information on weight loss, diet and exercise including nutrition information so a person can evaluate whether or not the diet they want to follow is healthy. It also details the exchange plan (based on the diabetic exchange plan that Weight Watcher's was based on until 1997 or 1998).

On the website, you can print off meal-cards (sort of like Richard Simmon's Deal-a-Meal Cards).

They've also developed a "Tops Diner" program of calorie counting (which as I understand it, you calculate calories/food groups as if they were cash. You print out the calorie cash

and use the diner order pads as your food journal

The main author of book is Dr. Ahmed H Kissebah, M.D., PhD., who I believe is Head of the weight loss department of the Medical School of Wisconsin (I assume he still is, I haven't heard otherwise).

Weight Watcher's is a great program, but TOPS has the advantage of being affordable to virtually everyone (Some groups will even sponsor members unable to pay the $26 national dues, and will pay the dues out of the treasury). Weight Watcher's isn't affordable to everyone, especially in this economy. Many people just don't have the money, especially if they want to join with family members. TOPS, unlike WW provides a discount to family members in the same household. As part of membership, each member (or in the case of discounted memberships, each household) gets a nice monthly magazine newsletter with success stories, recipes, articles, and upcoming events. It's not as flashy as Weight Watcher's magazine, but it's very nice and included in everyone's membership. In TOPS the yearly dues are $26 for the first member, and half price to additional members in the household. Each pays their monthly dues which run from $2 to $5 per month in the midwest (and nationwide averages under $5). There are also ways to "win back" your expenses (for example I earned free dues in December, because in our group this year, anyone who had and maintained a loss for a month, earned the next month free).

Even if TOPS was less successful than WW (which the research suggests is not true), the incredible inexpense would still make it a viable choice for people who can't afford Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers isn't going to advertise that fact, and TOPS can't afford to, so people who've experienced it have to get the word out.

11-28-2010, 01:08 PM
Wow, I'd never even heard of TOPS before. I'm glad you posted this, thank you.

11-29-2010, 08:48 PM
Kaplods you rock!:high: And so does TOPS

I've been the co-leader of our chapter since March and I just love my TOPS and KOPS (keeping off pounds sensibly) members.

I really can't say more than kaplods already did, but I will add that having TOPS to support and hold me accountable has been invaluable to me. For many personal reasons I've had a huge struggle with my weight this year due to some extreme stress. Instead of shying away from my meetings, I've embraced them. Many know of my personal struggles and their love and care has meant more to me than I can express. I hope I'm as supportive with their struggles.

Being accountable to the scale and to each other is one of the keys of success at TOPS. I love it that when we have a loss we clap and cheer. And if we have a gain we are told how happy they are to see us at the meeting. We celebrate in so many positive and encouraging ways that are fun and motivating.

A couple of months ago, I attend our state fall rally where there were 26 chapters represented. I saw some amazing weight-losses and heard their stories. There is a lot one can get out of their TOPS chapter than just a weekly weigh-in, but as with every group it depends on the people and what they put into it. Iím blessed to have a chapter where so many really give it their all. Next week is our annual Christmas party and I canít wait!

11-30-2010, 12:34 AM
I think what I love best about tops is the personal element. You really feel you're part of a team because you are. While the competition is friendly, chapters do compete against each other for national recognition, so you're losing weight for yourself, but also for the group.

I also recently discovered (by browsing the website), that tops allows you to join other weight loss organizations as well. I don't think this was always true. I remember it being in the guidelines about 20 years ago that if you belonged to another weight loss organization such as WW, you weren't eligible for national awards. Of course at that time, you couldn't have wls either (now they've added weight loss surgery divisions for the awards. So wls patients are competing with other wls patients).

I don't plan on joining WW, but it's rather neat that I could. Or I could join other free support groups like Overeater's Anonymous or First Place (a Christian Weight loss group that also endorses an exchange plan).

Actually what I'd like to do, if I can get well enough to do it is start a TOPS group for people who want to meet more than once a week. I'd also love to see a TOPS group start in our local schools as an extracurricular activity - but unfortunately our schools are cutting, not adding activities.

12-08-2010, 03:34 PM
Excellent post!

I had two or three experiences with TOPS. Once was a teenager in the mid-80s and they did some obnoxious noise for each pound you gained, and a positive chime for each pound you lost. It was a group much older than me, so I didn't have much interest.

About 15 years later, I attended another tops group. This group had shed some of the old-school practices (calling the meeting together with a gavel, etc). It was a small group of women mostly about 5-10 years older than me, and it really worked for me for a few years. I had to quit because my job changed to the other side of the city and I couldn't make it in time.

A few years after that, I joined another group close to my house. This group was about 15-20 years older than me, and they were kind of stern with me when I didn't lose weight. I didn't really connect much with that group, so I stopped going.

So I suggest, if you check out a meeting and you don't like the feeling of it, try out another meeting or two in your area. I've been toying with the idea of doing the same, in my new neighborhood.

I have to add, TOPS is nice because the price is low enough that you don't feel pressured to lose a lot of weight fast to save money, or feel like you lose a lot of money when you keep paying weekly fees through a long plateau.

12-12-2010, 08:48 PM
i looked at the tops site today. it is much cheaper, works on meetings and the online version too. is their food plan exchanges that are based on the federal gov pyramid? i wouldn't really be following that federal pyramid if i did tops. various reasons from things i've read. i'd be trying to get as many whole foods in as i could and the least processed. somewhere about weight watchers, i read that ww is based on a 1200 calorie diet? i have trouble getting my calories down to 1600 regularly so i figure i would eat more points than allowed but maybe this new plan will be different for me.

12-12-2010, 09:33 PM
You can follow any plan, and any calorie level you want at TOPS.

The food plan they do offer, is based on the diabetic exchange plan. They provide Sample Daily Exchange Distribution Lists for three calorie levels 1200, 1500, and 1800. The distribution of exchanges may be indirectly based on the food pyramid.

I think the book "The Choice is Mine" may give even more options. I don't remember (and can't find my book offhand).

I don't follow the TOPS guidelines, because I do much better on a low-carb food plan. I also prefer a calorie range to a static limit, so I created my own, modifying a low-carb exchange plan I found on the hillbillyhousewife webstite (where it's called a high protien food plan).

My plan is essentially their 1500 calorie plan, with additional optional protein, fat, and vegetable exchanges so my calorie level varies from 1500 to about 2000 calories.

I like the hillbillyhousewife website because it lists four different calorie levels for three different carb levels (12 variations in all).

Really you can distribute your exchanges any way you want to. A lot of people criticize exchange plans as too-high in carbs, which I never understood, because if you think the plan as written is too high-carb, then exchange some of the carb exchanges for protein exchanges - Tada problem solved.

12-13-2010, 11:43 PM
I love TOPS. My Grandma took me to he meetings when I was younger (I always had weight issues). I really enjoyed the group of women and thesupport I got even at my young age. However, a few years ago I decided to join another TOPS group and I was not happy because I did not relate to the group of women.

Now I have moved across the country and am looking at a new TOPS group. I want to find a group that I like and the members ar closer to my own age.

I think the TOPS platform is a very positive one and can encurage anyone who wants to lose weight to do so.

12-14-2010, 09:48 AM
This is a great thread. I'm going to a TOPS meeting Friday morning. It's walking distance!

I know it sounds like I bashed Weight Watchers on a few other posts, and I apologize for my frustration with it and the money spent, but I KNOW there are other ways that work just as well.

Wannalose, I think TOPS is like WW meetings in that you sometimes have to go to different meetings to find one that "clicks."

3fatchicks is such a great website. What wonderful shared information.

12-14-2010, 12:48 PM
I have a hard time not bashing WW myself. Not because it isn't a good program, but because there are far cheaper plans that are just as good (and now there's research to prove it).

How can you not bash a business that sells a product that can be obtained at less than 10% of the cost?

I like the way the author of the Tightwad Gazette books approaches it - if something is 10X the cost, is it worth 10 times as much?

Even if TOPS were only half as good as WW, it would be a bargain (especially for people who can't afford WW).

I assumed WW success rate was at least a little higher than TOPS, just because the leaders do get more training, and everyone is on the same food plan. But I figured that 80 to 90% as effective was a good bargain at les than 1/10th the cost.

I was surprised to learn that the research study found no difference in the rate of success, between TOPS and WW so what exactly is the extra 90% paying for in WW? As for many things, it's the name brand. It's the cost of research and development and advertising.

There's nothing wrong with WW being a business, but there's also nothing wrong with looking for the best value, and now that I know the success rates are the same, TOPS comes out the clear winner when it comes to value.

If you prefer WW to TOPS, TOPS may not be the best value. My hubby doesn't like TOPS, and prefers WW, and if he would actually go, WW would be a better value for him, but he refused to go to either TOPS or WW.

Seeing me recommit to TOPS though, seems to be inspiring him to try harder now too. I hope it lasts, but I can't drag us both along, I don't have the energy, and it wouldn't work anyway, you can't lose weight someone else's weight for them.