Editor's note: Mesa resident Thomas “Tom” Quillen, who lost 56 pounds, was recently named the Take Off Pounds Sensibly 2021 Arizona King. The nonprofit TOPS is a noncommercial weight loss, education and support organization.
I joined TOPS In 2018 and at that time I was morbidly obese, weighing 251 pounds. However six months prior to joining TOPS, I weighed 285 pounds, but lost weight on the Atkins diet.
I love greasy hamburgers and French fries, and my go-to sweet is an apple fritter. I wore a size 52 jacket and the waist on my pants was 44 inches. I see now I was a fast foodaholic.
I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and put on two medications. My wake-up call came when I found myself in the local emergency room in a hypertensive crisis. My blood pressure was extremely high despite the medications. I remember being rolled into the X-ray department for a brain scan, as I was told I probably had a stroke as evidenced by my symptoms of extremity numbness. They were looking for a brain bleed. To this day, I thank God when the neurologist said “there is no evidence of a brain bleed.” After a hospital stay to bring the blood pressure slowly down I was determined to make a lifestyle change that would improve my health.
The things I responded to mostly were that I wanted to be healthy again. When I was a kid, I was very skinny and was often told to “eat up boy” and boy I did. Look where that got me. So the obesity journey began.
My TOPS chapters have helped me through numerous communications, such as cards, emails, text messages and many verbal words of praise. They helped me in my struggles and my wins. I can hear them now, cheering me on to my goal. The best loser award and other chapter awards made me feel good about myself but I knew I had to do this myself. As the pounds dropped, I began to believe in myself and say “I can do this.”
There is a Bible scripture that I say often: “I can do all things through Christ who strengths me.” Tools that were helpful to me were the weekly chapter meetings, chapter members, MyFitnessPal, TOPS NEWS, the TOPS Facebook page, food scales, journaling, attending ARD and SRD, and our Arizona TOPS Leaders. We learned to shop the perimeter of the grocery store and to try to avoid the inner aisles where many processed foods are found. We also plan our meals daily.
Other people who helped me were my wife, Sherrie, and our two sons, TW and Bryan. They too have made a healthy lifestyle change. As a matter of fact, it became a race with the oldest son to see who reached their goal weight first and I won.
Now I am feeling great, as I make wiser food choices and regret when I overeat. I confess I still love these burgers, fries, and fritters, but only on occasion and in portion control sizes. I love to play with my grandchildren, go hiking and spend quality time with my wife.
Though I achieved KOPS status, I continue using all the same tools and tips. Yes, there are ups and downs, challenges and now the KOPS leeway or out of leeway with the two weeks to get back in leeway. This has been very tough for me, but I continue to work at staying in leeway.
I want to thank my wife, as she asked me to join TOPS with her. I was not very joyous but I said “Yes to TOPS.” It was a very good decision that probably helped save my life. Also I want to thank all my TOPS family who have encouraged me and all know my struggles. This is nothing to be ashamed of nor feel like a failure because at every valley I have gained knowledge. I believe it is in the valley that one gains wisdom. When you understand the knowledge and learn to apply it to decision-making, you gain wisdom.
My journey has been about portion control and retraining my mind to eat when hungry not for pleasure, comfort or to drown my disappointments. KOPS will be my journey for the rest of my life. Yes, I made it and I am now off all my medications. Weight loss can reverse so many diseases. Another achievement is I can now touch my toes.
I want to share a quote – “Success is not achieved in a single moment, but through many moments of planning and hard work.” Choose to change one step at a time. Where will you be in three months, six months, a year from now? Never give up. We did not gain our excess weight overnight. There is no magic pill. It is a journey. Please join me in taking one step at a time. God bless you in your journey.
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