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Making better friends, building better bodies

All of the current members of Farmington's TOPS group are women, but men have joined in the past.

There's a lot less of Linda Karline than there used to be, and she gives a lot of the credit to two years of weekly meetings with a group of friends.

Karline is the current leader of the Farmington chapter of Taking Off Pounds Sensibly, a group that meets every Wednesday at Celts in Farmington to weigh in, talk about nutrition and provide the kind of motivation each of them needs to keep eating right and keep the pounds coming off.

Karline, who estimates she's lost about 40 pounds since she joined the group two years ago, said TOPS provides the support and common-sense advice that helps members change the way they approach meals. Each meeting features a speaker. Topics include nuts-and-bolts information like the nutritional value of various foods to tips on approaching meals -- like slowing down to enjoy what you're eating rather than wolfing it down.

"It's not a quick, fast thing. It's developing better choices and developing a lifestyle and responding well to your body. To do good things for your body," Karline said.

All the meetings and all of the discussions help prepare members for those times when hunger is gnawing at their stomachs and they're looking for a snack.

The club provides prizes and other recognition for members who successfully lose weight, but Karline said that's only part of the group's appeal. TOPS members applaud each other when the pounds come off, but they're just as supportive when the scale spins the other way. The group isn't just about changing the way you look. It's about coming to terms with who you are, Karline said.

"Some people come in very hesitant because when you're overweight you have a low self-esteem feeling and you're not always included in activities," Karline said. "When people come to TOPS they're opened up to wonderful acceptance."

Rhonda Rotzien has been a member of TOPS since 1999, and while she hasn't made much progress toward her goal of losing 145 pounds, she finds other reasons to stick with the group.

"What really works for me is having a group like that," Rotzien said. "We help each other by being there for each one of us.

"Just being there with them beside me, I haven't gained weight."

That acceptance and that feeling of community is what keeps people coming back. Karline said some of the Farmington club's 12 members have been attending meetings for 30 years. Karline has about five pounds left before she reaches her target weight, but she expects to keep coming back even after her weight is where she wants it to be.

"It's more than just finding your position of what you want to accomplish weight-wise," Karline said. "It's also important to be part of the success and share that with others."

Farmington's TOPS club meets at 5 p.m. Wednesdays at Celts.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

(651) 460-6606