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N.L. man finds diet success in weight-loss support group

George Anderson of Codroy Valley, after dropping 64 pounds.
George Anderson of Codroy Valley, after dropping 64 pounds. - Submitted

While gimmicks and promises of quick weight-loss fixes abound – almost all of them costing money – it can be difficult for anyone who wants to lose a few pounds to know where to turn.
Dr. Sara Kirk, a professor at Dalhousie University’s School of Health and Human Performance, says the number-one investment should be a diet journal to keep track of what’s eaten.
“It forces you to think about things and see if you’re eating for the right reasons.”
These diet and fitness journals are also fairly cheap. Claudine Gandolfi’s Diet & Fitness Journal: Your Personal Guide to Optimum Health, for example, goes for just under $19 on Amazon.ca. It allows users to track their calories and workouts and record their weekly progress.
And then, there are the zero-cost alternatives: free apps for cellphones. These include Lose It!, MyFitnessPal, Fooducate, Pact, Calorific, and others. These allow users to track their food intake and essentially serve as diet and fitness journal online.
But while journaling and tracking calories can be useful, many dieters also like to get support from a group that offers guidance about their nutritional choices as well as exercise tips and encouragement.
At 268 lbs., retiree George Anderson already knew he wanted to trim down so that he could keep on hunting and fishing. In the four years before he joined the weight loss support group Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) in 2014, Anderson had already shed 23 lbs.
But the Newfoundlander wanted to drop another 58 lbs. His wife, Shirley, wanted to lose 30 lbs.
With 77 chapters in Newfoundland and Labrador, 130 groups in Nova Scotia, 19 on Prince Edward Island, and another 84 chapters in New Brunswick, the TOPS program seemed to offer easy access to support from others who were also trying to lose weight.  
A non-profit organization with more than 7,300 members in Atlantic Canada alone, TOPS charges $44 per year for a membership and offers a half-price deal on a spouse who also signs up. In addition to that, each TOPS chapter charges a weekly fee of between $2 and $3.
The Andersons paid $148 for the two of them that first year.
Then, they attended weekly meetings with weigh-ins, shared their weight-loss journey with others, and read Real Life, the organization’s diet guide.
It worked.
The Andersons both reached their goal weights – and then some. George Anderson now weighs 204 lbs. after losing 64 lbs. with TOPS. And he’s sporting a new wardrobe.
“I had to give up most of the clothes I was wearing,” he said. “I went from a 52-inch waist to a 38-inch.
“I feel excellent. I went hunting this year and there was a place I normally take a break at the bottom of a hill and this time I went straight up and walked three miles back to pick up my ATV.”
Among the best known of the other diet programs is Weight Watchers. It offers specials of up to 50 per cent off its prices at certain times of the year and regularly charges $7.17 per week to take part in its meetings and use its online platform. That’s just under $373 per year.
The Weight Watchers online subscription alone is $3.33 per week, or just over $173 per year.
Simply For Life, which has clinics throughout the region, charges $130 per month, or $1,560 per year, for its specialized meal plans, one-on-one consulting and weekly weigh-ins and support.
Getting social support is critical to successful weight loss – as is avoiding people and situations that can tempt a dieter to overeat, said Kirk.
“A lot of diets fail because they’re unrealistic or expensive,” she said. “If it’s very different from what you normally do or it can’t fit into your lifestyle, it’s not going to work.”
Despite the hype around some fad diets, it’s also essential that those who struggle with their weight allow themselves food they enjoy and get pleasure from the dining experience.
“Tasting good is important,” said Kirk. “We’re hardwired to look for pleasure.”

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