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When losing is winning, TOPS weight loss plan

Staff writer

While many residents started New Year’s resolutions this past week, Taking Off Pounds Sensibly members have a head start.

“We want a loss to start the New Year,” Marion TOPS founder Lucille Bitner said.

TOPS does not provide miracle cures, an intensive workout regimen, or fool-proof diet. For Bitner, TOPS provides a support group and a platform of accountability. On Thursday, each member recited whether they lost of gained weight over the holidays to the group.

The Taking Off Pounds Sensibly pledge sounds like alcohol was replaced with food during an alcoholics anonymous meeting.

“Every time that I am tempted to use food to satisfy my frustrated desires, I will remember, even though I over eat in private my excess poundage is there for the world to see.”

Bitner said the pledge is not meant to be a mindless mantra but a symbol of a member’s determination.

“You’ve got to want to do it,” she said. “You’ve got to have it in your mind.”

For Bitner, losing weight was difficult. She burned 55 pounds, dropping from to 209 to her physician-selected target weight of 160. The transformation took two years.

She then graduated from TOPS to KOPS, Keeping Off Pounds sensibly. Although she has maintained her weight consistently since joining the program in 1996, she said keeping the weight off has been even harder.

What motivated Bitner was health concerns related to diabetes and obesity, which she said runs in her family.

Bitner lost weight with a healthy diet, limiting sweets and carbohydrates, and by exercising three times a week at a pool.

“Swimming is good for you and helps strengthen muscles,” Bitner said. “I have a torn meniscus in my knee; you’re not pounding the ground.”

Bitner said that the feeling after losing the weight was having more energy. She also said her diabetes is under control, causing her family to wonder if she still has the disease.

Bitner originally started TOPS in Wichita before moving to Marion five years ago to retire. She has since become a dietitian for St. Luke Hospital, much of her resume being based on her own dieting success. The Marion TOPS group started with five members but has grown to 14.

Rhonda Brenzikofer was one of the original members and has been a member of TOPS since 1993, starting in El Dorado. She also lost a substantial amount of weight, 72 pounds, and was motivated by health concerns. She was a nurse at St. Luke for 20 years before retiring.

Brenzikofer agreed with Bitner that exercise and diet were equally important; she swims four times a week.

Since hitting her target weight of 170 she said she has yo-yoed between TOPS and KOPS.

“It’s so much easier to get there than keep it off,” Brenzikofer said.

What she enjoys about the Marion TOPS group is its intimate size and the support from the other members.

She was one of two members who lost eight over Christmas and was encouraging other members to start the New Year right.

Last modified Jan. 5, 2012

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