TOPS members win by losing

Published on Wednesday, 1 June 2016 19:40
Written by Erica Schmitt

Staff Writer

Newington resident Joel Small is no stranger to diabetes or obesity. Last April he finally met his weight loss goal, shedding 32 pounds. Not only has Small kept the weight off since, but he’s 10 pounds lighter today.

As a member of the Newington chapter of TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), he was recently crowned King for being the top weight-loser in 2015.

“He struggled for years,” Small’s wife, Sheila, said. “After a while you get discouraged.”

The King credits portion control for his weight loss, but also encouragement from the TOPS support group.

Members can choose how to lose; they’re not all required to be on the same diet. That’s where the “sensibly” part comes in: New hopefuls get a note from their doctor with a goal figure, which is then registered by the club. From there they support one another, meeting once a week to see a different presentation on weight loss.

There are 18 faithful members in the local chapter, most of whom live in New Britain or Newington. They gather at the Newington Senior & Disabled Center at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday mornings, where they share tips and step on the scale to see where they stand.

Those moments are the toughest, says Chapter Leader Bill Carroll. Although he met his ideal number, he admitted to gaining back more than his fair share.

“We encourage people to stick with it and reach their goals,” the Newington resident said.

After meeting their marks members gain KOPS status, which stands for Keeping Off Pounds Sensibly. From that point on any fluctuation of more than three pounds higher or seven pounds lighter requires re-evaluating one’s goal.

But it’s not all about the weekly moment of truth.

When goals are met, the chapter goes out to breakfast together. Groups usually wait until they have several successful losers before indulging, since TOPS bylaws limit such celebrations to only twice a year.

This past Tuesday morning was one of those occasions. Members met at Paradise Pizza in New Britain – after their weigh-ins, of course.

“We don’t make going out a habit,” Small pointed out. “We don’t need the temptation to keep gaining weight.”

Since it is such a rare gathering, plates across the table Tuesday were teeming with French toast floating on syrupy puddles, steaming sausages and countless buttered toasts – delicacies for this group.

“We’re all cheating today,” joked Carroll, savoring a big bacon-and-egg breakfast.

“We ate light on Monday,” added Jackie Landry, assistant weight recorder and a former TOPS CT Queen Runner-Up.

The Newington resident joined the club in 2013 and by October 2014 had met her goal, losing 34 pounds. Her blood pressure had also dropped. She now calls herself a successful KOPS member.

“I did it by staying away from fried foods and carbs,” Landry said. “I was introduced to kale.”

Joseph Stobierski has a particularly special story.

The New Britain resident once weighed over 314 pounds and received what he calls “a death sentence” from his doctor.

“He said I had six months to live,” Stobierski remembers.

He joined TOPS in 2004 and lost more than 100 pounds.

“I’ve kept my weight off over 10 years now,” he said at the breakfast, sitting over a plate of giant pancakes. “It’s very hard to keep within your leeway. This is a great program.”

TOPS membership costs $32 a year and $1 more per week. Anyone interested in joining is encouraged to call Bill Carroll at 860-604-6793 for more information.

Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or

Posted in Newington Town Crier, State on Wednesday, 1 June 2016 19:40. Updated: Friday, 7 October 2016 08:19.