Community-based programs can be an excellent way to learn from others dealing with weight-related issues. They can also be a good source of motivation and accountability. The programs mentioned in this section are not all-inclusive, meaning they do not include meals. You might want to try out several programs in your area to find the best fit.
Tops Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly)
Founded in 1948, TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) is the original non-profit 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 when using MyPlate and the Exchange System in its membership magazine and other materials. To promote a healthier lifestyle, TOPS encourages members to engage in more physical activity, consume a diverse range of nutritious foods in moderation, and modify their habits and thinking patterns with the help 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. 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. Membership includes weekly weigh-ins and meetings, chapter materials, a subscription to the magazine, a quick-start guide, and online tools. Online support includes a virtual online chat (for online-only members), recipes, a self-care program, and online weight and exercise trackers.
Weight-loss: TOPS 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: 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.
YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program
As a leading nonprofit organization for strengthening the community through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility, the YMCA believes all people should be able to live their fullest, healthiest lives. 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 sessions geared toward weight maintenance.
Weight-loss: Based on research funded by the National Institutes of Health, the YMCA Diabetes Prevention 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 ages 60 years or older. The program’s goals include:
- Lose at least 7% of your body weight
- Gradually increase your physical activity to at least 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 – Reducing body weight by even a small amount can offer tremendous health benefits for people at risk of 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.