The TOPS, or Take Off Pounds Sensibly, weight-loss program has been around since 1948. It focuses on making simple, sustainable lifestyle changes so you both lose the weight and keep it off. TOPS uses a food exchange system to help you make moderate choices, allowing you to swap foods within the same category to create a highly customizable diet. The supportive group atmosphere (if you're close enough to a chapter to attend meetings) and modest fee may appeal to those who like the idea of Weight Watchers but can't afford it, or don't have a Weight Watchers location nearby.
If you can't attend meetings or dislike the social atmosphere, you can also purchase online support (*Est. $27.50 per year). The website offers a few basic tools for free, but most of the online features are reserved for paying members. A scientific study found that TOPS produced results similar to those of commercial weight-loss programs that often cost hundreds, if not thousands, more per year. Most users like TOPS and many thrive in the group meetings, although a few find the element of socializing uncomfortable.
The best evidence of TOPS's success comes from a scientific study published in Obesity. We also found a handful of user reviews at Viewpoints.com and DailyStrength, and a blog entry documenting one woman's first visit to TOPS.
Researchers evaluate the results of more than 40,000 TOPS members and find that those who stuck with the program for at least a year lost about 6 percent of their body weight. They conclude that TOPS is associated with moderate weight loss and provides "similar results" to commercial weight-loss programs, although direct comparison trials are needed.
Review: Determining the Effectiveness of Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS), a Nationally Available Nonprofit Weight Loss Program, Nia S. Mitchell, et al., Sept. 23, 2010
Twelve reviewers give TOPS a 4.5-star average rating (out of 5), and 11 of them would recommend it to others. The dieters like the encouraging group support, low price and absence of high-pressure sales; most don't see any cons to the program at all.
Review: TOPS Take Off Pounds Sensibly Reviews, Contributors to Viewpoints.com
About 25 members write short, usually one-sentence, reviews of TOPS. Most use the program for diet and weight maintenance and report a 100-percent success rate; two with food addiction have been somewhat successful, and nine out of 10 obese clients say TOPS works for them.
Review: TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), Contributors to DailyStrength
4. Perfect In Our Imperfections
A blogger recaps her first TOPS meeting. She chose TOPS over Weight Watchers, and describes the other dieters at the meeting as "very nice and welcoming."
Review: First Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) Meeting, "Jen", Aug. 22, 2011