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TOPS weight-loss program growing in numbers

It was a simple goal, but one that eludes so many. Lose weight. That is what Esther Ferguson wanted to do.

However, with the buffet table of ways out there, that prospect can be expensive, as well as daunting. That’s why Ferguson chose TOPS, the national organization whose acronym stands for Take Off Pounds Sensibly.

TOPS was started in 1948 by Esther Manz, a Milwaukee-area housewife, who pregnant with her fifth child, found she tipped the scales at 208 pounds. It is a weight management program that combines support with an emphasis on nutrition and exercise.

Manz turned her weight-loss approach into an international company that currently has approximately 200,000 members in 10,000 chapters. Manz died in 1996 at the age of 88.

“I didn’t really have a goal, except to just start losing weight,” said Ferguson, who has lost 30 pounds since she joined the program. “I am on a limited income. I have to stretch my money.”

Now Ferguson is president of the organization that received its charter in June 1995.

In the TOPS program there is a $24 membership fee, plus a weekly dues of 50 cents. Other programs can charge up to $10 a week, Ferguson said.

The local group meets once a week on Tuesday mornings. A meeting is broken into a mandatory weigh-in that enables members to keep track of their progress; and a program. The programs can range from information on nutrition to lectures emphasizing positive philosophies to exercise counseling. There is also a nutritional guide available to all members entitled, “The Choice is Mine.”

But besides the information dispensed at meetings, Ferguson finds the camaraderie as the plus which has helped her.

“It is more or less the support. We do not tell the girls what they have to eat,” she said. “It is a friendship. We are kind of a close-knit group. We’ve been there together.”

Right now, the Proctorville TOPS is a small organization with 10 members. It meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Proctorville branch of the Briggs Library. Anyone interested in joining may attend the first meeting at no charge.

“I needed to lose. I didn’t feel I could pay out $8 to $10 a week,” Ferguson said. “I decided to give it a try. I like. I learn something every time.”