Lake Wales Man Sheds Over 100 Pounds Through Local Non-Profit TOPS, Named Florida King
by James Coulter
Jack Clifford was once so big he lied about his weight. He used to tell people he was 220 pounds. He was actually 293.
At 83 years old, he was not tremendously active, and the extra weight didn’t help. He had trouble walking and problems with high blood pressure.
The worst part was buying new clothes. His weight and size required him to buy extra-large clothes, which were much more expensive than regular sized clothes.
“Most of our money were spent on new clothing,” she said. “We don’t make that money anymore, so it is difficult.”
Jack had tried many methods to cut back on his weight. He once attended Weight Watchers for a short period of time, but quit when he failed to make permanent progress and when the meeting dues became too expensive.
Finally, he joined TOPS (Take Pounds Off Sensibly), a non-profit organization, true to its name, to helping its members take off pounds sensibly through the aid and resources provided by its support group.
“TOPS offers tools and programs for healthy living and weight management, with exceptional group fellowship and recognition,” its website states. “Weekly meetings include private weigh-ins and professionally prepared, informational chapter programs, featuring up-to-date information on nutrition, exercise and healthy lifestyles.”
After attending the group for nearly a year, Jack lost more than 95 pounds. He was once 293 pounds. Now he’s near 182. For his weight loss, which allowed him to lose more weight than any other male member in Florida, Jack was named the 2019 TOPS Florida King.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped him take off and keep off the extra pounds. Before, they often ate out twice a week. As he could not go out to eat out, he and his wife ate at home more often and skipped off on meals with extra calories.
“We do not go out to eat anymore,” Jack said. “We used to go out at least twice a week… [During lockdown] you could not go for so long; it was a special occasion to get a pizza.”
His wife has been an off-again, on-again vegetarian. During the past year, they have returned to that lifestyle, cooking meals with a greater emphasis on vegetables and with meat substitutes.
“So consequently, we changed our eating habits tremendously,” Jack said.
More than simply losing weight, his lifestyle change has allowed him to save on clothes shopping. No longer does he have to pay extra for extra-large clothes. Now he no longer needs to buy new clothes.
“I was at a point where I could not go into Walmart and buy clothes at a reasonable price,” he said of his past self. “It is always a large price, and I found that it was much easier to spend less money on clothes. Because the smaller sizes [cost] less money.”
His blood pressure also decreased with his weight. His doctor has since cut his medication in half. He now takes half the heart medicine and blood thinner.
He has also become much more active. With less weight bearing down on his knees, he can more easily move. His light weight has especially proven helpful for his knee replacement.
“I had a knee replaced. It does not have to support as much weight when I stand up,” he said. “I think most people who lose weight, they notice their ambition has improved and their step is lighter because they weigh less and they are healthier, their health has improved.”
Jack owes his success to his TOPS chapter. More than any other weight loss program, it helped him to take off pounds sensibly and for him to keep it off through their support and resources.
“TOPS is not a diet,” explained Dave Amaroso, Vice President of Ron Sonntag Public Relations (RSPR). “It is a lifestyle change for a lifetime. TOPS has been fighting obesity since its founding in 1948. There are more than 100,000 members in the U.S. and Canada. In 2019, they lost a total of 241.5 tons of excess weight!”
Their membership includes a monthly magazine with recipies for healthy meals and anecdotes of other members who lost weight through the program.
They have monthly meetings where members track their weight, record their progress, and receive support from other members. No pressure is forced to make their members lose weight. Even if they don’t, they still receive much needed help and encouragement.
“It is the most reasonable weight loss program there is,” Jack said. “If they want to lose weight, it is a great way to do it. It is a good support group. If you don’t lose, we are at least glad you are here. You can make friends with other people.”