“Every time I am tempted to use food to satisfy my frustrated desires…”
Every TOPS meeting starts with a pledge. Taking Off Pounds Sensibly is celebrating its 70th year and in this room, Bonnie Wiles is royalty.
She became “Queen of Arkansas” in July 2017 for losing the most pounds of anyone at their goal weight. But the journey to that moment started many years earlier.
“I just wanted to lose weight because I was tired of being obese and I was tired of being, I think an embarrassment, I felt like I was an embarrassment to my kids, to my family… " said Bonnie Wiles.
But her family encouraged her as she took small, manageable steps to change her life for her husband John, their four kids - Melissa, Sarah, Jenny and John - and now four grandchildren - Manning, Cole, Cash and Adeline.
“It was only a few minutes a day for a couple days a week until I finally got where I could walk 30 minutes in the morning and 30 at night," said Wiles.
Now her daily goal is at least 10,000 steps but usually she walks at least 14,000, all counted on her Fitbit.
“I cut my calories, probably 3,000 to 4,000, down to 1,500," said Wiles.
Bonnie also tracks every bite of food she eats on her MyFitnessPal app. She’s logged more than seven thousand meals. Bonnie says she and her husband eat out quite a bit. But when she's at home, she makes salads and recently got an air fryer.
“I get kind of in a rut buy doing the same thing all the time. So I have to switch up my food a little bit, you know? And then I’ll start losing again," said Wiles.
"And it’s all her. I mean, she has put in the work. She has written everything down that she has eaten for the last, like, 4 years," said Carl Palmer, TOPS chapter leader.
Chapter leader Carl Palmer has been a part of Bonnie’s support system since she joined TOPS in September 2012.
“To go from where I was, over 300 pounds, and you know, it took me 4 years and 2 months to do this after I joined TOPS," said Wiles.
“Support is what TOPS is all about. I mean, this is what we do. It’s not a diet plan, it’s not an exercise plan. It is support and accountability, plain and simple," said Palmer. “The number one thing that makes the difference between those that are successful and those that aren’t, are those that have a good support system around them.”
Before she lost the weight, Bonnie used to wear clothes that were size 28 or 30. These days, she's wearing a size 10 pant and an XS or S top. On this day, Bonnie weighed in at 151.6 pounds, under her goal of 153, after a week in Hawaii and celebrating the holidays.
“Bonnie has definitely proven a lot of those excuses wrong about age and ability. She just put her head down and kept on going," said Palmer.
And now those efforts are being recognized in a national publication as a way to inspire others. But she knows her success didn't come overnight.
“Take one day at a time. We all have our setbacks. Just get right back on that horse. Like the old saying says, you can do it," said Wiles.
The Fayetteville chapter of TOPS meets at the Central United Methodist Church on Dickson Street on Mondays at 4:30 PM. It costs just one dollar a week plus a $32 yearly membership fee. To find a TOPS meeting near you, click here.