Grassroots weight loss
Program involvement passed down through generations
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
The number one New Year’s resolution in 2017 was to lose weight and eat healthier. It won’t be long before any number of weight-loss products will be filling television and radio air time, trying to appeal to those resolution makers. But there is one worldwide organization that next year will be celebrating 70 years of supporting weight loss that you won’t see advertised. It’s one a Rhinelander woman swears by. You could say it’s in her DNA.
“I’ve been around TOPS all my life, but I never really knew anything more than it was a cool place that my grandma went to,” explained Carol Holtz. “I became involved with it about 13 years ago.”
TOPS, or Take Off Pounds Sensibly, was more than a cool place her grandma went. Holtz’s grandmother, Esther Manz, founded the organization in Milwaukee in 1948, with two friends and a sister-in-law. Manz had just had children, and the women talked about how they would run their program, even incorporating some of the principles of Alcoholic Anonymous.
“It was just those (four women) who first sat around and figured it out, and then a couple more people heard what they were doing, and they (eventually) had to rent a place to hold meetings,” Holtz recalled. “The next time they had a meeting there was a line out the door and down the block of women who wanted to join.”
Joining together and supporting one another while making lifestyle changes and losing weight was a revolutionary idea in the late ‘40s. Before long, Manz had started TOPS programs throughout the Milwaukee area.
One TOPS member went on to develop a successful commercial weight loss enterprise, but first wanted to buy Manz’s program and make it profitable. Manz said no.
“It’s still real grass roots,” Holtz said. “Grandma set it up to be a non-profit organization. She wanted to keep the program affordable.”
Now, 70 years later, the TOPS founder’s granddaughter manages 1,500 online members around the world, from right here in the Northwoods. There are 125,000 members in North America, who last year lost 300 tons of excess weight. Today, TOPS, a non-commercial, non-profit weight loss program with its roots in Milwaukee, is something of which Carol Holtz thinks her grandmother would be proud.
“Esther was a forward thinker,” Holtz said. “I feel she would have seen the importance of the online program … and would be proud of me working for TOPS.”
Carol’s TOPS tips to avoid holiday weight gain:
• Practice portion control.
• Never arrive at a holiday party hungry.
• Be aware of alcoholic drinks and the calories they contain.
• Don’t focus on what you can’t have, make lists of the foods you can eat.
• Celebrate the people at the gathering, not the food!