As far as present-day diet plans go, the TOPS diet is undoubtedly one of the oldest available. While TOPS is generally referred to as a diet, it’s technically more of a support group for dieters that’s proven effective over the years.
TOPS has an interesting and extensive background, which we will dive into thoroughly below. Plus, we’ll outline exactly how to follow this unique method of losing weight and even provide a sample meal plan you can follow.
What Is the TOPS Diet?
TOPS is an acronym that stands for “take off pounds sensibly.” In 1948, Esther S. Manz established TOPS following being inspired by supportive mothers in her community. Along with two friends, Manz start TOPS at a local community center as a way to support weight loss while she was pregnant with her fifth child. TOPS was received well and quickly grew to 2,500 members. The program still remains popular today throughout the world and might even be what inspired the eventual creation of Weight Watchers in the 1960s.
So how does the TOPS diet work? TOPS isn’t really based on a specific meal plan, unlike most diets. Instead, TOPS has a more unstructured approach for those who prefer a little more freedom with their weight loss. Members of the TOPS organization are encouraged, of course, to structure their eating habits for success with weight loss. However, how members choose to eat is up to them, and developing meal plans with personal physicians and nutritionists is highly condoned.
For those looking for recommendations, however, TOPS does recommend using either the food exchange system, the Canada food guide, or MyPlate.Gov eating plans. Here’s a look at these three plans:
- The Food Exchange System – The food exchange system was developed in coordination with the American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This meal plan focuses on cutting calories and promotes food moderation as a key point. Foods are essentially grouped together depending on how much fat, protein, and carbohydrates they have, and then dieters are encouraged to make healthy choices.
- MyPlate.Gov – The MyPlate program was developed by the USDA and is based on the food pyramid. Essentially, dieters will structure food portions on their plate as follows:
- One half of the plate consists of healthy fruits and vegetables
- One-quarter of the plate is dedicated to healthy whole grains
- One-quarter of the plate is dedicated to proteins
- A small side dish is dedicated to dairy
- Canada’s Food Guide – The Canadian food guide is similar to the U.S. MyPlate version; however, instead of the addition of dairy, it focuses on including more water into the diet.
TOPS seeks to give members success in losing weight more through community support than strict diet plans. Much like Weight Watchers, TOPS offers in-person meetings for support and a robust online community that members can seek support through. For those who have lost weight successfully, TOPS has also developed a support group to promote keeping weight off called KOPS (keep off pounds sensibly). Members are eligible for membership in the KOPS program once they have reached their weight loss goals through the assistance of their physician-guided diet plans.
Benefits of Following the TOPS Diet
The benefits of TOPS can be relatively significant for many dieters. Below are some impactful reasons that contribute to this community-based way of losing weight being enticing.
- Longevity – Part of the drawback to dieting is it isn’t usually conducive to long-term structured eating. However, because TOPS does not focus on a strict or formal diet plan, it can possibly lead to more extended dieting results through better-established eating habits.
- Personalization – Many TOPS members choose this program for the freedom it allows them to approach dieting in their own way with meal plans they feel best fit their unique needs.
- Approachable – For many people, dieting can feel rather ominous due to strict eating plans and the requirements of followers. TOPS has a much more relaxed approach that leaves all of the power and control in the hands of dieters.
- Community – Community support can be an integral part of dieting for many people. With TOPS, members will essentially check-in with their local chapters and participate in regular meetings. TOPS also regularly holds contests and events for members, both locally and nationally.
If you’re interested in joining TOPS, you can do so by subscribing on their website for $32 per year. You will also need to pay your local chapter dues monthly, which can range from five dollars and up. Following joining TOPS, you’ll be given a subscription to TOPS News magazine and a guide to healthy living called My Day One. You will also have access to subscription-only fitness guides, healthy eating tips, recipes, and weekly meeting schedules, both online and in-person. If you’re unsure if TOPS is right for you, they also allow you to meet for free one time at a local chapter.
Eating After Joining TOPS
While there is no set meal plan for TOPS, and members are encouraged to develop dieting structures with their physicians, we can review what eating on a TOPS-promoted diet plan may look like. Let’s take a look below at what a MyPlate daily meal plan may look like:
- Breakfast – One serving of oatmeal topped with one serving of fresh fruit, one sliced tomato, one egg, and one-half cup of low-fat yogurt
- Snack – One serving of grapes
- Lunch – One-half plate of salad with lite dressing, one portion of lean chicken breast, one serving of quinoa, and one-half cup of cottage cheese
- Snack – Carrot sticks and hummus
- Dinner – One-half plate of roasted vegetable medley, one portion of baked salmon, one baked potato topped with shredded low-fat cheese
Essentially the TOPS diet is all about making healthier choices and balancing your eating to promote healthy weight loss and maintenance.