Carol Ryder of Richland took more than a decade to get to her ideal weight, but she says it was worth it.
She credits the weight-loss support group Take Off Pounds Sensibly, or TOPS, with helping her lose 112 pounds. She now weighs 150 pounds.
“They give you encouragement,” she said. “They have a special diet, but you don’t have to follow it exactly.”
TOPS honored Ryder on Saturday with its Queen of Washington award at a ceremony in Ocean Shores. She will attend the organization’s International Recognition Days in July in Reno, Nev.
Ryder, 72, joined TOPS 14 years ago after disappointment with other diet plans. She wanted to see her grandchildren grow up, which is why she also quit riding her motorcycle, she said.
“I tried a lot of different programs,” she said.
The nonprofit TOPS has 4,385 members in Washington, who lost a combined 21,740 pounds last year. Spokesman Mark McLaughlin points to University of Colorado-Denver research that nonprofit weight loss groups are as effective as for-profit diet plans. But they are less costly, with annual memberships to TOPS at $32.
TOPS is easily accessible to people, with 11 meeting spots within 25 miles of the Tri-Cities, according to its website. Most of the meetings are at churches and community centers, Ryder said.
“If you find one and aren’t comfortable with it, you can find a different one,” she said.
The TOPS group becomes like a family, with members holding each other accountable, Ryder said. Some people have been in the group with her the entire time.
“When people have been in the group for 14 years, you get to know everyone,” she said. “We all help each other out.”
TOPS has 130,000 members and 9,000 chapters in the United States and Canada, said Barb Cady, the organization’s international president.
Ryder’s weight loss accelerated in recent years after her Richland group had some KOPS — Keeps Off Pounds Sensibly — take part in the meetings. KOPS are TOPS members who have lost weight and been able to keep it off.
“A lot of times you feel like you won’t ever make it, but, if you see other people doing it, it gives you encouragement,” she said.
TOPS members also weigh themselves each week, which helps them keep off the weight they lose, Ryder said.
“It helps people who are a little out of control,” she said.
Eating less and consuming healthier food is important, though occasional treats are allowed as long as portion control is used, Ryder said. She also takes her beagle out almost every day for a 1.5-mile walk.
She feels much better since the weight loss. She is planning to take part in a 5K event near Lincoln City in August. She will walk most of the way, but jog some.
“I have a lot more energy,” she said.
Ryder, who lost the most weight of any woman in Washington, exemplifies the type of weight loss the group promotes, Cady said. TOPS members don’t fall prey to fads or gimmicks.
“We don’t encourage rapid weight loss,” Cady said. “We encourage slow, steady weight loss.”
Ryder, a retired Battelle employee, enjoyed getting the award at the state conference in Ocean Shores. But the best part was meeting others who lost weight, particularly seeing younger people slimming down.
“I wish I had lost weight a long time ago, because it gives you a better quality of life,” she said.