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From left, Cheryl Armstrong, Amy Bull, Julie Hiatt and Hildur Lamon practice a skit they will perform for the Bemidji TOPS Club open house at 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 27, at First Baptist Church, 1555 Paul Bunyan Drive N.W. The skit, "The Demise of Lotta Fats and the Birth of Hattie Healthy," written by Bull, takes a good-humored look at weight control. Submitted Photo

Here's to You: Local TOPS chapter to enter 50th year with open house

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In 1961, the Bemidji TOPS, or Take Off Pounds Sensibly, Chapter 1464 organized to help people control their weight with support, encouragement and accountability.

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The local TOPS members will celebrate with an open house at 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 27, at First Baptist Church, located at 1555 Paul Bunyan Drive N.W. The open house will introduce those interested to the TOPS method of weight loss - a safe lifestyle without gimmicks, fads or crash diets. The event will also feature a skit written by Amy Bull and performed by TOPS members. The skit, titled "The Demise of Lotta Fats and the Birth of Hattie Healthy," emphasizes the importance of attaining and maintaining an appropriate weight.

Lorrie Richardson, co-chair of the Bemidji TOPS Club with Diana Wahl, said the club members' total weight loss for the past year is 167 pounds, with the champion losers Eileen Mistic, who took off more than 20 pounds in 2010, and Ingie Benson, who lost 11 pounds 8 ounces since September and won a trip to the International TOPS Convention in Milwaukee, Wis.

Members Hildur Lamon, Valerie Gothberg and Jean Lauderbaugh have also been honored as TOPS Queens for their accomplishments.

Longtime member Lamon, 89, joined TOPS in 1961 and graduated to KOPS (Keep Pounds Off Sensibly) 19 years ago.

"She's been our inspiration," said Richardson.

The newest member, Theresa Pierce, said she joined three weeks ago and has taken off almost four pounds already.

"Just the camaraderie, the scale and the contests and the educational programs make it fun," she said.

Members have weekly weigh-ins. The data on weight losses and gains are recorded and submitted to the national TOPS organization for analysis, Richardson said. She said TOPS records are the largest study of a weight-loss program in the United States. The study indicates that participants who remain in the program for at least one year achieve clinically significant weight loss.

Dixie Vollen said the cooperative system and group encouragement gave her the incentive and ability to lose weight.

"If I don't have to face that scale and weigh in, I gain," she said. "I weigh less than when I was in seventh grade."

Lamon said the emotional support of the group is also important, not only for weight control, but also in coping with other life difficulties.

TOPS membership costs $26 a year for national dues plus 50 cents per week local dues. Richardson said the program does not exclude those who have undergone surgical weight-loss procedures.

For more information, contact Richardson at 444-9966 or Dahl at 760-4749.

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