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Old 09-11-2008, 02:30 PM   #16  
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TOPS is great!!! You don't have to spend alot of money and you still get weekly support meeting. It does not cost alot of money to lose weight , just alot of willpower and staying focused.
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Old 09-11-2008, 04:08 PM   #17  
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Hi ladies - thanks for your comments.

Sarah - your magnet storey gave me a laugh, thanks.

Well, I got signed up & weighed in last night & had the meeting.
It was very different from ww & they are starting a new contest, so hopefully that will be fun. And they played a game.

There wasn't any real talk about weight loss, eating plans - the girl explained they are based on Food Guide & that was about it. So, I am a little confused as to how they work. I will read through my starting books, and hopefully will know what to do from there.

Do you all count calories, or track foods?

Thanks
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Old 09-11-2008, 04:56 PM   #18  
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I think the problem with not charging a fine for an "excusable" water weight gain - is how do you determine whether the gain is legitimately excusable or not. Even for post-menopausal women, they could have a "fake" gain after eating chinese food the day before. And any one who had a gain, could say "it's TOM."

Besides which, contributing to the fine basket is voluntary. If you feel that your gain didn't "count," no one is going to hunt you down and make you put in the dime(s), if you choose not to. Generally, no one is going to notice whether you paid or didn't. There are many people who forget to bring change and don't contribute that week (whether they decide to make it up the next week is their choice).

All of the TOPS contests are voluntary, a person can choose not to participate in any of them, though if you decide never to contribute to the fine basket, I don't think you should accept the prize money if you are biggest loser any week (the person with the biggest loss, gets all the fines - which could be zero, if no one gains, but usually is at least 30 cents).

Sometimes members complain that it's harder for people who have small amounts to lose to ever get the biggest loser prize (which is true, but it often happens anyway), but that's why a lot of groups run contests that have different criteria. Each contest isn't fair for everyone, and yet the variety of contests give different folks the advantage, so overall they tend to balance out.

As for the diet itself - you can follow any food plan you want to. The advice and discussion you get in group tends to be rather generic. Some of it will apply to you, and some of it won't, and you've got to remember that almost none of the members will have had any professional training, so every tip or bit of information discussed has to be taken with a grain of salt. You will hear people say things, you know aren't true (and you'll have to decide whether or not, you want to disagree with them in the discussion or not).

In our group, some members count calories, several are following the WW program from when they were a member of WW or they have bought or borrowed WW materials. We have members following South Beach, and we have others who made up their own plans (one worked with a hospital dietician after a heart problem) and some never disclose their specific food plans to the group (or they did before I joined, and I just don't know it).

TOPS doesn't enforce any particular plan, but they do support an exchange plan. Exchange plans were developed in the 1950's for diabetic meal planning, and the exchanges themselves haven't changed much since then. Nearly all exchange plan cookbooks can be used interchangeably. Though how many of each exchange can vary from plan to plan, the exchanges themselves are very similar. This is nice because you can use any exchange cookbook you find (Healthy Exchanges, Richard Simmon's plans, diabetic cookbooks, Weight Watcher's cookbooks before 1994....).

The exchange plan that TOPS recommends is laid out in the "The Choice is Mine" handbook. It's available through the tops.org website for $15 or through your local chapter. You can almost always borrow one before deciding whether you're wanting to buy it. Either your chapter will have a copy for the group, or another member who chose to buy the book will loan you their copy. Also, they recently published an updated edition, but there are so few changes, that I'd recommend that anyone wanting to save money ask in their group if anyone was planning on buying the new edition was interested in selling or giving away their old copy. It's also something I bet you could ask for on a yahoo Freecycle group and someone would have willing to give away. I have the old edition, and it has a lot of good nutrition, diet and exercise advice. But, none of it is so incredibly new or unusual information - so you can certainly get as good information free from any library.

The exchange information is also available free through the tops.org site, and very similar plans on many websites (google exchange diets or diabetic exchange plans, or similarly worded searches).

I follow an exchange plan, but I tweaked it a bit. I had read of lower carb exchange plans in the Duke Diet Book (the new one) and the hillbilly housewife website. So I just took the TOPS exchange plan and swapped a few starch exchanges for protein exchanges. I also instead of picking a calorie level, I made the 1500 calorie plan my minimum exchanges for the day, and the extra exchanges to make it an 1800 calorie plan I made those "optional" exchanges.

I'm not saying that anyone else should do what I have done, but what is great about TOPS is that there is freedom to adapt you food plan to your own needs. If you are used to "diets" with a lot of structure and someone telling you exactly what to do, this can seem very strange at first.

Last edited by kaplods; 09-11-2008 at 04:59 PM.
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Old 09-11-2008, 05:56 PM   #19  
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Okey. It just wouldn't work for me. The system would just feel silly to me. Doesn't mean it IS silly, just would be weird to me.
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Old 09-11-2008, 06:41 PM   #20  
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I really felt the contests were silly and even stupid the first time I joined TOPS. I was working as a probation officer at the time (early 1990's) and herniated a disk, and needing to lose weigh to prepare for or maybe prevent the need for back surgery. The weekly weigh-in of a support group had always helped me stay on track in the past, but I couldn't afford Weight Watcher's, so I thought I'd try TOPS.


When I first joined, I really thought for me, the only motivation was going to be the weekly weigh-in. Having to weigh-in, in front of at least one person not related to me, tended to keep me focused for the week. Not wanting to see the scale go in the wrong direction was my only motivation, and I didn't really even think I cared what anyone else thought.

Getting applause when I lost (even if it was a quarter of a pound), was more reinforcing than I expected. I found that I needed the group support even more when I gained, because whether it was an understandable gain or not, I tend to eat when stressed - so gaining water weight (temporary) could easily become eating out of dissapointment (resulting in a "real" gain). Not wanting to say that I gained, was as much a motivator as wanting that applause when I lost.

Because I thought they were stupid and silly, I didn't join any of the contests at first. But, everyone seemed to have so much fun doing them, I joined one of the bigger contests on an impulse and won nearly $30. That really inspired my competitive spirit, and I started joining every contest our group had. I started leading contests and programs, and even did a self-hypnosis activity with the group (that I'd learned in graduate school).

I don't think all aspects of the group appeal to everyone. For some people the social aspect of the group is what helps them the most - the people and the relationships they build. For some people, it's the competitive contests that keep them motivated. For others it's the tips and recipes that are discussed, and for some it's just the committment that they made, or just the scale once a week. For some people the team contests are very motivating (whether the teams are within the chapter, or whether we're competing with another chapter), and some people are motivated by the retreats and recognition events (conferences, really). And for some it is not wanting to "waste" their investment, even if it is a fraction of the investment they would have made had they joined Weight Watcher's.

Some people find weight loss something they need or want to do alone. For me, the group adds a deeper dimension to the process. I have to admit that I've become one of the "fanatic converts" gushing about how wonderful the group is - just like the people that I rolled my eyes at when I first joined.
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Old 09-11-2008, 07:20 PM   #21  
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I'm not rolling my eyes at the group in general, or even at any goofy contests. Just blows my mind to pay a penalty for having my period . That's all.
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Old 09-11-2008, 08:35 PM   #22  
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I can see the argument that TOM "shouldn't count," but the fact is there are thousands of factors that go into weight loss and gain. Some of those factors are within our control, and some of them are not, and very often, if not most of the time, you can't separate the two. There's no way to tell with any gain or loss, at any point during the month, is due to "true" weight loss and how much is water weight. Even with TOM or PMS weight gain isn't consistent or even inevitable.

I've had TOM's where I gained absolutely no weight - they've been rare, but they've happened. In my head, I think "well, since I usually gain about 8 lbs with TOM, and this week I've gained nothing, then technically, I should be biggest loser this week, because I REALLY must have lost 8 lbs for there to be no gain." I don't think that reasoning would go over very well in my group as I tell them why I should get the money for the biggest loser prize for having lost nothing.

We've got a male member who recently had a heart attack. He has gained and lost large amounts of weight that were related to changes in his medications. The week he lost 12 lbs - he got the biggest loser prize even though the weight loss had more to do with the medications he was on than his effort - we didn't try to sort out how much of the loss was "real" and how much wasn't, because you can never know that by just the scale. The week he gained 15 lbs - also because a change in his meds - he still paid his fines of $1.50. He didn't have to put that $1.50 in - in fact, several of us told him he should forget about it since we knew it was a result of his body trying to get used to the medication changes - there was no way he "really" gained 15 lbs that week. But he said he didn't feel right about taking the BL prize money a couple weeks before for a weight loss he may not have earned, if he wasn't going to pay the fines for a weight gain he might not have earned.

I think because there's no way to sort out how much of a weight gain or loss is due to your efforts and not just luck (good or bad), you've got to decide either to do no such contests, or realize that the contests are just a wee bit inaccurate.

Yes, once a month, I may pay a fine for a weight gain I didn't earn. However, the week after that gain I also have a better chance (even an unfair advantage) at the biggest loser prize, even if I do nothing (because the 8 lbs I gained the week before are now gone, along with any weight I "really" lost).

In this scenerio (which has happened to me several times) I may gain up to 10 lbs with TOM having to pay up to $1 in fines. The next week, I may lose those same pounds (in essence not really "losing" anything but the weight I gained unjustly, the week before). But, "losing" those TOM lbs made me the biggest loser this week, and I get the prize, even though I've really "lost" nothing. Usually when this has happened, I've gained more in prize money than I lost in fine money the week before. Do I feel bad that I got a prize this week that I didn't really earn? Not really, because I had a fine I didn't earn the week before.

It's not a perfect system. Especially since for the biggest loser prize, we're going by just pounds lost, not percentage of weight to lose. But that's why we run other contests. Some may be based on exercise done, or tasks like bringing in a food journal, or for losing a percentage of body weight... Every contest is "unfair" to someone, but that's true of all contests for anything, anywhere.

The contests really aren't anyone's main motivation, or shouldn't be, as I don't think that would work very well, as such. It's just something to keep the meeting fun and interesting, sort of a little "side wager," so to speak. It's fun, it's silly, and every contest is probably always a tiny bit unfair in one way or the other as every individual has an unfair advantage or disadvantage depending on the contest.

Last edited by kaplods; 09-11-2008 at 08:37 PM.
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:43 PM   #23  
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OK, these responses are waaaay beyond me on this topic. Carry on
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Old 09-13-2008, 09:34 AM   #24  
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Hi everyone

I think the weekly support & tips like WW but for a small fee will be a nice change.

The only reason I am leaving WW is the cost - I think they are getting way too expensive & the final straw was when they reduced the missed meetings to 2/year. That means you have to pay for 50 weeks no matter what (unless you have doctors note). Also ww meetings are only 1/2 hour & lately too much time has been devoted to pushing their new products.

Anyway, am hoping this will be different & I will be successful.

Have a great OP day
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Old 09-13-2008, 11:24 AM   #25  
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Welcome, I think you'll like TOPS. Not only is it a fraction of the cost of Weight Watcher's, I think it has a lot more to offer. WW has the cookbooks and the products, but for most people those things only make the wallet, not the waistline, smaller.

If TOPS were half as good as WW, it would be a bargain, because it's about 1/10 or less the cost. But I think TOPS actually has many advantages over WW, making it the far better program, in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, WW is a great program, but it's a commercial product. WW's first priority is making money, not weight loss (doesn't mean they aren't a fine organization, as customer service insures their success, but profit is going to come before any single client).

TOPS is non-profit, and each chapter self-governing (though they must adhere to national guidelines or risk losing their TOPS affiliation), so in a very real way your TOPS chapter is what you make it (in fact, if you don't like your chapter, you can create a new one, with as few as three to five members - I forget the minimum).

Yep, I'm definitely a TOPS convert, I only wish it were a little easier to get the word out. WW has the advantage of advertisement, but since TOPS is non-profit, any advertisement has to be cheap/free and local. Chapters can advertise, but it comes out of the chapter's budget, so most don't.
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Old 09-13-2008, 05:48 PM   #26  
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I'm just wondering (because this thread has me intrigued).....how high do the scales go at Tops meetings?
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Old 09-13-2008, 07:07 PM   #27  
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It depends. Every chapter buys it's own scale. Our chapter's scale goes to 350 lbs. When we started, they had a procedure using a clamp and some math to weigh my husband and I (we were both over 350 lbs when we started). But while it seemed to be accurate for me, it didn't work well with my husband (I think because he is unsteady on his feet, needs a cane for balance, it wasn't weighing him reliably). Our chapter allows my husband to bring in our scale from home to weigh on until he can weigh on the chapter scale or until they buy the correct attachment for the scale (it's a balance scale), which is around $20. With the attachment, the scale will weigh up to 500 lbs.

I've never been to a TOPS group that couldn't way at least to 350, and I know most of the scales that TOPS recommends that chapters buy go up to at least 500 lbs. Our chapter is just such an old chapter, they're still using a very old scale (our chapter has been going about 30 years, I think).

But, if you check the tops.org site it will give you contact information for the chapters in your area. For my husband and I, I asked which chapters in my area had men in the meeting and the scale maximums, so we knew before we went.

If a chapter can't weigh a member, they do have procedures to work around that (you may be able to weigh at a doctor's office once a month, and have a nurse or doctor sign the slip). The only person that knows whether or not you weighed in on the chapter scale or what you weigh or have gained or lost is the weight recorder or assistant weight recorder. Most chapters do roll call, where you say whether you gained, lost, or turtled (stayed the same), but no one knows any exact numbers unless you want to share.

Our weight recorder keeps track of losses for our various contests, but doesn't give out specific information. For example in our 5% contest, she announces who is able to pick a prize, but not how much weight they lost to get it (because by doing so, you would be able to figure out their starting weight. The 5% contest is something our chapter decided to do, after reading an article on the health benefits for even very obese people of reducing weight by just 10%. We decided that we'd cut that in half and give a prize for each 5% lost. In our group, we all brought in a prize for a prize basket (just little doodads, worth no more than a couple dollars (mostly we brought small things from home or things we bought or would have sold at yard sales). Anything we want to get rid of that would make a cool prize, makes it's way to the prize basket. I contributed a bellydancing CD I bought at a dollar store, and hubby brought a ceramic "crying onion," soap dish a friend gave him during a household move. The prize basket is used for various contests, including the 5% contest.
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Old 09-13-2008, 08:32 PM   #28  
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Default What eating plan ?

What eating plan are all of you using at TOPS?
Thanks
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Old 09-13-2008, 10:06 PM   #29  
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In my post at the top of this page, I describe my plan and some of those of other members in my group.

I've experimented with several plans since joining, and probably will continue to tweak and experiment to find what works best for me. That's what I love about TOPS, is the ability to choose and change plans.

Plans that really influenced the plan I ended up designing for myself were South Beach, Volumetrics, Weight Watcher's Core, Exchange plans in general (Weight Watcher's before 1994, Diabetic exchanges I had researched when my mother - and later husband - were diagnosed) The Duke Diet and Hillbilly Housewife website, and the glycemic index research and foodplans.

My doctor recommended low carb, but Atkins was too low carb for me. Because I'm on blood sugar lowering medications, reducing carbs too low tends to leave me nauseous. South Beach worked well, except I can overeat even the "good" carbs too easily, so I needed the portion control. Volumetrics (choosing the "biggest" amount of food for the calorie) principles keep me full sooner and longer. Exchange plans were familiar, and the Duke Diet book (the newest) and Hillbilly Housewife website introduced the idea of lower carb exchange plans. So I just swapped out some starch exchanges for proteins and tada... my plan.

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Old 09-14-2008, 11:42 PM   #30  
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Default Any TOPS' members doing South Beach?

Just checking to see if any TOPS members' are doing SB. I just joined TOPS butr haven't decided what plan to follow. Thanks for any support.
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