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TOPS success: Water, weight loss and winners

Last Modified: Monday, December 30, 2013 12:33 PM

By Justin B. Phillips / American Press

With the new year come New Year’s resolutions. From quitting smoking to finally cleaning out the attic, residents all over southwest Louisiana will soon be vowing to accomplish something significant in 2014. For locals just planning to lose weight and get healthier, Elaine Aquillard might be able to help.

Aquillard is the area captain of TOPS, Take Off Pounds Sensibly, for southwest Louisiana. This year, she presented local chapters with a “100 Bottles of Water on the Wall” challenge. Each member was supposed to drink 64 ounces of water every day for one year. The progress by each chapter member was charted and the information was given to Aquillard.

At the end of the challenge, there were 11 winners, and their total weight loss was 226.5 lbs. One of the more successful stories comes from a TOPS member in Sulphur, Tammy Myers, who lost more than 100 pounds during the process.

The chapters also kept the majority of their water bottles throughout the competition, helping to paint a picture of just how much water was consumed during the contest.

For Aquillard, it was great to see, but it also presented a small dilemma: What should be done with all of the bottles?

“They were literally consuming my garage. There were so many bottles, I couldn’t even move around in there anymore,” Aquillard said. “I decided that there was just too many for me to go and try to put them in my trash can and take them to the curb. I also knew I couldn’t move all of it myself in my car. So I decided we should recycle the bottles. I figured it was the safe, smart thing to do. I don’t know what they do with the plastic bottles there, but I know it’s better than being in the trash.”

With the help of some friends, a loaded truck bed, and a car filled up to the windows, Aquillard turned in 12,833 empty water bottles for recycling.

The water bottle challenge is just one of many creative efforts the TOPS program undertakes to help the chapter members lose weight in healthy, responsible ways. Aquillard, who has participated in the challenge herself, said drinking that much water for anyone trying it for the first time can be a daunting task. Still, she said there are ways to get through it.

“The main thing that gets people is the taste of water. One of the things I recommend is lemon juice, just a drop or two, in a water bottle before you drink it. It’s healthy, and it’s just enough of a change to make the water taste like something,” Aquillard said. “There are also the Crystal Light packets. I would take a small amount, the amount of a baby’s spoon, and pour it into the bottle. That’s the perfect amount of flavor there. Once you get used to that, it’s easy from there. I don’t even use any flavoring now.”

According to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Louisiana had an obesity prevalence of 34.7 percent in 2012. This percentage was much higher than the national average. Aquillard said she knows the obesity numbers for the state, and that’s why she believes that TOPS is a great thing for locals looking to get healthier in a fun, supportive environment.

“TOPS is over 50 years old, and it’s very inexpensive to join. The money goes directly into the organization to buy things like charms and bracelets to be awarded for the weight you lose,” Aquillard said. “This program is a support program for weight loss. We don’t have strict rules about what you can and can’t eat. Instead, what we encourage is portion control. That’s the main thing.”

With annual dues of $28 and a close-knit community of members all looking to not only get healthier, but also to help their friends gets healthier as well, Aquillard said TOPS is a great organization to join to start the new year. She said she wants to spread the word about the organization since most people get the acronym TOPS confused with the Louisiana TOPS college scholarship program.

“We just want to spread the word about getting healthier. People should know that TOPS is a scholarship, yes, but it’s also a scholarship program for you to lose weight,” Aquillard said. “And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?”

For more information on TOPS and how to join, visit tops.org.

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