Q&A with Marge Collins and Kim Spencer, TOPS Leaders in Spirit River and Northwestern Alberta

Marge Collins

NOTE: TOPS meets at the Happy Hour Club on 47th Avenue in Spirit River on Tuesdays at 8:30-9:30am. For more information, call TOPS Leader Marge Collins at (780) 864-3407.


What are the TOPS meetings like?
Our TOPS chapter, TOPS AB 1887 Spirit River, meets at the Happy Hour Club beginning with private weigh-ins from 8:30am to 9:20am. We begin our meeting at 9:30 with TOPS/KOPS pledges. Roll call is taken, and members can discuss what worked or did not work for them the past week. The business portion of the meeting includes reports from the weight recorder, treasurer and secretary. Chapter awards and contests are celebrated along with birthdays/anniversaries. We then have a short exercise break before presenting the TOPS program. Topics range from motivational ideas, to goal-setting, to healthy food choices. The emphasis of our program is information, participation and support which hopefully results in a healthy weight loss. At 10:30am the meeting is adjourned.

Each chapter may have a slightly different agenda. But we are all there for the same purpose.

Information on TOPS meetings in Spirit River says “maximum scale weight is 350lbs.” Does this mean that people who weigh more can’t become members?
No, that means the scale can weigh members, without any special adjustment, up to 350lbs. Our chapters have instructions on how to weigh members over 350lbs on a balance beam scale. It can happen. Many of our chapters have reverted to digital scales that can weigh members up to a maximum of 600lbs.

I do not like being weighed in front of others. Will this be a problem?
Our members are weighed in by a weight recorder in the chapter, in a private area, and confidentially.


Kim Spencer

There are a lot of weight loss programs out there. What makes TOPS work?
We offer weekly meetings for our members to attend, so they can be accountable. Programs are presented at chapter meetings on various topics to help our members to change their lifestyle, lose weight and become healthier individuals. We not only help and support our members while they are losing weight, but also as they maintain their goal weights.

What is the success rate of TOPS?
I do not know an actual percentage or number to give you as to our success rate. Every year, we hold chapter, provincial, and international recognition days to honour our weight loss winners each year. We have many members – called KOPS (Keeping Off Pounds Sensibly) – they have reached their goal weight and some have maintained up to 50 years! We ask our members to obtain a goal weight slip from their health care professionals. We do not set their goal weight in TOPS.

Is it a caloric-restriction eating regimen or more of a lifestyle-change program?
We are absolutely about changing your lifestyle, eating sensibly and portion control, combined with healthy exercise.

Are there special meals or shakes I have to purchase?

What do you say is the main success of this program?
Having weekly accountability, support from like-minded people, learning about eating healthy, awards given as we lose weight, contests and incentives to help achieve our goal, and our wonderful recognition events, recognizing our members who maintain their goal weight each year; it’s a combination of things that makes our program successful.

Can you share a bit of your success story?
I am a proud TOPS Member of AB 5321 Slave Lake as well as the TOPS Advocate for NW Alberta. I joined the Slave Lake Chapter in January of 2014 and have previously been in TOPS in Edson and Fort Saskatchewan. In 2009, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and weighed well over 330 pounds. I have lost 60 pounds mostly through TOPS. (I had lost some between 2009-2014 before I rejoined TOPS in Slave Lake). TOPS helps keep me motivated. Although my personal weight loss journey is slow, the TOPS accountability keeps me heading in the right direction. I enjoy our weekly meetings and the information (diet tips, recipes, exercise challenges) shared at the meetings as well as what I receive in e-mails and from what I read on the TOPS website. I also treasure the camaraderie among our members. They are very non-judgmental and offer kind support and guidance when the scales are heading in the wrong direction. As I visit the chapters in my TOPS Advocate area, it feels the same as visiting longtime friends and family. TOPS has become a way of life for me.

Give us a little bit of history of TOPS.
TOPS is a non-profit weigh loss support organization started in Milwaukee Wisconsin in 1948. Our mission is to help support our members as they take off and keep off pounds sensibly.

What is involved in membership to TOPS?
Our membership fee is low – $48 a year. And when attending a chapter a nominal fee, usually about $5 a month, is charged to help with any expenses the chapter may have to operate the chapter meeting. With a membership, they receive yearly 6 issues of our TOPS News Magazine, access to our website, www.tops.org, which has a section restricted to members only and filled with fantastic information, a monthly meal plan, success stories of members as well as a monthly inspiration calendar, to mention a few things.