Seen at Dallas conference, Take Off Pounds Sensibly

Patsy Cowan of Sulphur Springs, Texas, TOPS queen runner-up in her state, with her formerly fitting pants.Our booth neighbors over the fence at the Obesity Action Coalition's "Your Weight Matters" conference in Dallas last weekend represented Take Off Pounds Sensibly, or TOPS, as it is known.

I'd heard of TOPS, but only in a historical sense, as in hearing friends occasionally say things like, "I've been trying to lose weight all the back to the days of TOPS, so that gives you an idea of how long." (The TOPS website says it was founded in Milwaukee in 1948, and is still based there.)

So I was surprised to learn about our neighbors, but also delighted. We turned out to have plenty in common, including a history of weight loss and a philosophy of mutual support. The latter is a bedrock principle for my recovery — not only the aid I get from others, but the aid I get for myself by helping others as well.

Among the TOPS reps was Patsy Cowan of Sulphur Springs, TOPS queen runner-up for Texas, a title I'm pretty sure recognizes her as the 2d highest weight loser in the state in the past year. She's lost more than 100 pounds.

Part of TOPS's support regimen is celebrating queen and king reducers. As you can see in the photo, you get a sash and everything. Though I have never gotten one of those in the support groups I frequent, I too keep a pair of old pants around as a reminder and/or to illustrate the magnitude of my overeating. Mine are size 64 sweats, which I bought on Long Island while in rehab. I didn't really need 64s, but as I recall (it was more than 20 years ago), the store had nothing between 56s and 64s, and I felt lucky to get them.

Sometimes in the groups I attend, people pass around photos to document their "before" status, but others just unfurl their fat pants as if they were flags — and in some cases, they're big enough to have served as same.