ORANGE PARK – George Paugh walked by the window he had walked by for years. It was the window of the Department of Agriculture in Gainesville, a place he had called work for years. One day, though, …
ORANGE PARK – George Paugh walked by the window he had walked by for years. It was the window of the Department of Agriculture in Gainesville, a place he had called work for years. One day, though, he saw something he hadn’t seen in a while. He saw himself.
“I walked by that window every day of the week and never thought anything of it,” said Paugh. “Then, one day I walked by that window and saw my reflection.”
“I said to myself, ‘Oh my god, that’s me,’” continued Paugh.
Immediately, Paugh began looking into weight loss. Weighing in at 375.5 pounds, he wanted to change. He lost 10 pounds on his own, but it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t until he had discovered the local chapter of TOPS, which stands for Taking Off Pounds Sensibly, that he really understood the key to his personal weight loss plan.
“There’s so many options out there but it wasn’t until I started at TOPS that I felt like I was onto something,” said Paugh, who now lives in Orange Park.
Even after joining TOPS, he only managed to drop his weight down into the 350 to 360 pounds range. He remained there for years.
Having a bad back as far as he can remember, likely due to his time in the Air Force he said, he had been receiving cortisone shots for years. This pain, something he admits only got worse as a result of his weight, eventually led to his doctor telling him he needed a knee replacement.
“It was the day I was told I need a knee replacement that I remember thinking to myself, ‘this is stupid,’” said Paugh. “I’m carrying all this extra weight and it’s taking a toll on my body.”
Paugh had been an active member of TOPS at this point but not necessarily an active weight loser. That all changed though.
By 2011, he was 100 pounds lighter. TOPS made him the division one – the division his TOPS chapter found itself in – winner for weight loss. In 2012, he was put in the TOPS century club, meaning he had lost 100 pounds and kept it off for a full year.
Despite this weight loss though, Paugh was still having mild health problems. He wanted these problems quelled. By 2016, he lost an additional 20 pounds. Overall, he hit his goal weight after losing 115.5 pounds and he did so at the age of 79. Paugh urges others to prevent age from deterring their potential weight loss. Because of that, he was crowned the State King of TOPS.
Looking back, and still today maintaining his weight, Paugh attributes most of his success to TOPS.
“Most of my success comes from TOPS,” Paugh said. “Dedication also plays into it but without TOPS, I don’t think I’d have lost the weight.”
According to the national TOPS president, Barabara Cady, it’s the unique history of TOPS that has led it to become the nonprofit that is so successful in helping people lose weight today.
“It began when Esther Manz, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, picked up a few pounds over the holidays,” Cady said. “She got together with her girlfriends and said, ‘let’s help each other out.’
“That basis, that goal to simply help each other out, is the foundation TOPS is built upon,” said Cady.
Cady said, TOPS is a nonprofit support group that is focused on creating an action plan that allows members to lose weight but still eat from the same table with their family.
This action plan, this way of losing weight and the support built up around it, is Paugh’s favorite thing about TOPS and the reason he thinks TOPS is so successful.
“I’ve tried WeightWatchers and I’ve tried Nutrisystem,” said Paugh. “They are all so impersonal and at the end of the day, it feels like you’re alone in your weight loss.”
“With TOPS, you’re losing weight with others struggling in the same way you are,” continued Paugh. “We don’t have a prescribed diet – we just lower our caloric intake – but what we do have, and this is why [TOPS] is better, is a support group made up of people that want to see each other succeed.”
With nearly 30 members in the chapter based in the Orange Park area, each weekly meeting feels like a meeting with family. This family-centric feeling and a simple lowering of his caloric intake is what led to Paugh being 115.5 pounds lighter than he was the day he walked by that window in Gainesville.
With the holidays here, Paugh is prepared for the onslaught of cookies, pie and other treats that usually deck the family table, but, he knows exactly what he’s going to do.
“I’m going to eat that cookie and I’m going to eat that pie,” said Paugh. “It’s Christmas and you deserve to enjoy it.”
“With TOPS, I never changed my diet – I just started eating less, eating smaller portions, of the food I love – and that’s what I’m doing next week,” Paugh said. “We all love food and that’s our problem, but if you can find a group to build you up, like TOPS did with me, and if you can simply eat less, you’ll lose the weight.”