Treatment for Obesity

Community-based Programs

Group ActivityCommunity-based programs can be an excellent way for you to learn from others dealing with weight or weight-related issues. They can also be a good source of motivation that will help keep you accountable. The programs mentioned in this section are not all-inclusive (they do not include meals), and it might be good to try out several programs in your area to find the best fit.


Founded in 1948, TOPS is the original nonprofit weight-loss support group. TOPS does not sell foods, endorse products, promote quick fixes or push a one-size-fits-all meal plan. TOPS provides members in thousands of chapters across the U.S. and Canada with the information and support needed to make healthy lifestyle changes they can enjoy for a lifetime.

How does it work? No foods are required, and none are off limits. When it comes to healthy eating, TOPS advocates portion control and balanced eating within two healthy frameworks: the USDA’s MyPlate, and the Food Exchange System developed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Diabetes Association. Many dietitians use these same frameworks for teaching healthy eating.

TOPS offers tools, tips and meal planning ideas for using MyPlate and the Exchange System in its membership magazine and other materials. Members are encouraged to move more and eat a greater variety of healthy foods in smaller portions as well as change habits and thinking patterns with the aid of weekly group support. Weekly TOPS meetings, led by volunteers, focus on making small, steady lifestyle changes that provide lasting weight-loss and better health. Each meeting includes a confidential weigh-in so members can stay accountable to the scale, a brief educational program on nutrition, fitness, health or behavior change, and an opportunity to share challenges and successes from the previous week if the Members are urged to consult with their healthcare provider to set a realistic, healthy goal weight and a calorie level that is safe, effective and sustainable.

The first visit to any chapter is free. The annual cost to join TOPS is $32 for a chapter or online membership. Chapter members also pay local chapter dues, which vary by community but average $5 or less per month. Fee and chapter dues cover the costs of weekly weigh-ins and meetings, chapter materials, subscription to the magazine, a quick-start guide and online tools. Support online includes facilitated online chat (for online only members), recipes and self-care program as well as online weight and exercise

Weight-loss: TOPS stands for “Take Off Pounds Sensibly.” The organization advocates slow, steady weight-loss using techniques and small behavior changes that members can naturally incorporate into their day and keep for a lifetime. A 2010 university study of 42,500 TOPS members found that those staying in TOPS for three years were able to maintain their weight-loss throughout that time and lost as much weight as dieters using popular commercial weight-loss programs.

Concerns: TOPS can’t do the work for you. You only get out of TOPS what you put into it. Regular attendance and participation in a local chapter (or online community) are necessary for success. Each chapter tends to take on its own personality, reflecting the ages, backgrounds and interests of its members. Finding a local chapter that is a “fit” for your personality and schedule is important.


As a leading nonprofit organization for strengthening community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the Y believes that all people should be able to live life to its fullest, healthiest potential. In the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, a trained lifestyle coach will introduce topics in a supportive, small group environment and encourage participants as they explore how healthy eating, physical activity and behavior changes can benefit their health.

How does it work? The 12-month group-based program consists of 16 one-hour, weekly sessions, followed by monthly sessions led by a trained lifestyle coach who facilitates a small group of people with similar goals. You will discuss topics such as healthy eating, increasing physical activity, reducing stress, problem solving and much more. The program will also help you stay motivated to maintain progress toward program goals with monthly maintenance sessions.

Weight-loss: Based on research funded by the National Institutes of Health, the program has been shown to reduce the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes by as much as 58%. The reduction was even greater, 71%, among adults aged 60 years or older. Diabetes Prevention Program goals include:

• Lose 7% of your body weight.
• Gradually increase your physical activity to 150 minutes per week.

The program states that you will accomplish these goals by eating healthy, increasing physical activity and losing weight:

• Healthy Eating – Eating smaller portions, reducing fat in your diet and discovering healthier food options have been proven to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
• Increasing Physical Activity – Studies have repeatedly shown that moderate physical activity (walking, swimming, mowing the lawn) for as little as 30 minutes, five days a week can help improve your blood pressure, raise your good cholesterol and prevent blood flow problems.
• Losing Weight – It has been shown that reducing your body weight by even a small amount can offer tremendous benefits for people at risk for diabetes.

Concerns: As with all support-based programs, you must take part in the program to experience the results. The main focus of this program is to prevent diabetes; however, weight is also addressed as weight and diabetes are related. You must also be diagnosed with prediabetes to enter the program.