DIXFIELD — From that first forkful of Thanksgiving stuffing to the cocktails on New Year’s, the conventional wisdom is that’s when people pile on the pounds that many fight to lose afterward.
Darla Sanford of Dixfield, who leads the Take Off Pounds Sensibly group in Dixfield, knows a lot about those extra pounds. She has been battling to lose them for much of her 73 years.
In her more than 20 years with TOPS, Sanford said she has lost over 130 pounds and was named to the TOPS Century Club. And she’s not done yet.
“I’m in my 70s, and for the first time since I graduated from high school, I’m below 200 pounds,” she said. “I’m doing this for health reasons. I want to be healthy.”
“Once I reached a hundred pounds, and I kept it off for a full year, I was awarded with what they call the Esther Mann Award,” she said.
Mann started the TOPS program 75 years ago. Around her kitchen table, she and four friends started a group to support each other in losing weight.
Sanford continues to work and can often be found in the pharmacy department at the Mexico Walmart. “I’ve got more energy now than when I was 50,” she said.
Once you learn how to control your diet, Sanford said, “You can eat anything you want. But it’s the amount of it that you eat. If you deny yourself something, you’re going to eat all around it, and then end up eating it anyway.”
“Controlling your portions is more important than what you eat,” she said. “It’s how much of it that you eat. And taking in water is one of the most important things you can do. You need six to eight glasses of water a day.”
Sanford cautioned, “But you can’t cut out any food groups. You got to eat them all. And I think you can lose better if you don’t cut out any food group. Cut out your bad carbs — candy and sugar-filled soda, etc.”
She said that more than 20 years ago, about the time of the Ice Storm of 1998, “a friend of mine joined TOPS and I said, ‘OK, I will join.’ I planned on losing my weight by the time my son graduated from high school.”
Easier said than done.
After joining TOPS, Sanford said, “My weight went up and down, and up and down. My youngest son, Austin, joined the service right out of high school. He was in Iraq twice and Afghanistan once. I ate my way through his service, being nervous. And I went up again, then down.
“I finally said, I’m not doing this for my kid,” Sanford said. “I’m not doing it for all these reasons people decide they want to lose weight. When I finally made up my mind of doing this, I’m doing it for me. I’m doing it for my health. Once I decided that I wanted to do it for me, that’s when I started really losing.”
At a typical meeting the group talks about a program on nutrition and whether they’ve lost or gained weight. The Dixfield group has 18 participants. Once a person reaches the goal the doctor sets for them, they become a KOPS — Keeping Off Pounds Sensibly.
There are eight KOPS in Sanford’s group; one has kept the weight off for 31 years and another for 29 years.
Sanford is working to make KOPS status. “I’m pretty close,” she said. “Probably about 20 more pounds.”
TOPS supports people through their “weight loss journey,” she said.
TOPS is open to anyone over the age of 7. Anyone is welcome to attend meetings which are held Thursdays from 5-7 p.m. at 1 Blayne St.
For more information, call Sanford at 207-418-5944 or Stacy Thompson at 207-357-7635.