My name is Sarah Hernandez and I became familiar with the name TOPS many years ago when my mother, Susan Feathers,
now passed, belonged to a chapter at the Eagles her hometown of St. Mary's, Ohio, however this chapter is now disbanded.
In December of 2002, I decided I was tired of wearing elastic shorts that expanded with my weight as did the
size 2X and 3X T-shirts I wore. Remembering my mother was a member of TOPS at one time, but unfamiliar with TOPS, I decided
to find a chapter in my area to attend. I looked on the TOPS website where I was given the contact information of Donna Bragdon,
the area captain, who was very helpful in locating my chapter TOPS #FL660, Lakeland.
On January 8th, 2003, deciding to start the New Year right, my daughter, SuZee Hick and I walked into this
strange new place and was greeted as if we had been long lost friends.
I was shocked when I stepped on the scale--238 & 1/2 pounds! I knew I was heavy, however I never realized
how obese I really was. The first thing I did when arriving home from my first meeting was to throw out the bathroom scale.
I knew if it was in the house I would be checking my progress each day, which we know can be disappointing.
In the following weeks at chapter meetings I learned many things and continue to learn something new each
week. The first thing I learned was new ways of NOT dieting, but eating sensibly.
Next I learned to drink water---YUCK! That was the most difficult for me and I still struggle, however I do
drink atleast three 20 ounce bottles of water each day, which I must admit is much better for me than the 12 pack of coke
I use to drink each day.
I learned to write down everything I would eat, even a bite. Each week I could go back into my journal and
know my reasons for gaining or losing. There were no surprises!
I learned to read labels, understand serving sizes and adjust my meals. I have taught my young daughter, Jasmin
and my 3 grandchildren to read labels. My grandson, Alex, age 6, is always quick to let me know how many fats and calories
are in a product.
I learned exercise is important. I learned there is an abundance of great tasting recipes, foods, beverages
and desserts. I learned that eating sensibly doesn’t mean you dontt get to enjoy great tasting meals.
I learned I could call a member, like Leader, Bee Jay Marchand when I was feeling down, happy, or just needed
I learned going to TOPS with a family member, like my daughter, SuZee and my daughter, Krystyna, who joined
our chapter in October of 2003, is like bringing along your own personal cheering section!
I reached my goal on December 10th, 2003 with a 100 & 1/2 pound loss. I love to see the smile on my husband,
Sebastian’s face when people we haven’t seen for a while takes him to the side to ask him what happened to his
wife and who is that new lady on his arm!
So in closing, if someone were to ask me how I lost my weight in TOPS, I would have to say with the support
and friendship of my fellow members at TOPS #FL660, Lakeland, Area Captain, Donna Bragdon of Winter Haven, Florida, Area Captain,
Joyce Zimmer of St. Petersburg, Florida, along with 3 members I met on TOPS .ORG Message posting, Sharlene Heimes from TOPS
#IN514, Terre Haute. Linda Dunn from TOPS #0R773, Springfield. and Angela Stephenson from TOPS #MI1744,Taylor,
It is true that I drank the water each day. I watched my fats and calories. I kept a journal. I exercised,
but it was my fellow members “my friends”, who gave me, the encouragement and strength to succeed. Their kind
words, their hugs, their cards and their smiles are what gave me the strength to continue the journey to my goal. They had
faith in me when sometimes I did not have faith in myself Words cannot describe what is engraved deep in my heart for each
and every one of my fellow members. Each person with their own personality, those with a different way of eating or exercising,
those with a different way of showing support, but each member has taught me something to help me achieve my goal.
So members of TOPS #FL660, Lakeland, and all other TOPS members who have helped me reach my goal, give yourself
a pat on the back, hold another members hand and feel proud in your heart to know that Hand in Hand, you are the reason for
my succeeding. I thank you for being there then.. ..and now!