I have posted a copy of the TOPS success story that I read during the 2002 Area Recognition Days (ARD) for Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties. I hope this story helps you achieve your personal weight goals, or any other goals that you happen to have.

If you have any questions, comments, or would just like to talk, please e-mail me at mdipper@alumni.engr.ucsb.edu.


College prepared me for a lot of things, but none of them happened to be the sedentary lifestyle that followed. After I graduated college in June of 1990, I went from being an active student, with a job that required me to walk up nine flights of stairs and an activity list that included swimming and participating in intramural sports two to three days a week, to being a software engineer and spending most of my time sitting in front of equipment and then going home to rest after a long day's work.

The change in lifestyle meant that I needed to burn a lot less calories than when I was in college. My metabolism seemed to know that right away, but my stomach and appetite were never informed about the change. As a result, I began a steady path to increased weight.

Eventually my wife, Terri, convinced me that I should go to TOPS meetings with her. I had seen some of the TOPS magazines, and I thought attending a meeting would rank right up there with the feeling I had the first time I had to carry her purse, or buy feminine hygiene products, but it wasn't that emasculating. After I made friends with everybody, I began to look forward to the meetings.

I'd like to say that the pounds just started to melt off. I could, but that would be a lie. I continued to gain weight, maybe at a bit slower, but the gain still happened. I really wasn't all that motivated to loose the weight, and the motivation wasn't going to come from charms, a pledge, or songs to tunes that I had never heard before.

In 1998, I got a big shot of motivation. I ripped the seat of my pants while bending over at work. That shot of motivation lasted for a good twenty pounds. Unfortunately (for my weight anyway), I was more motivated to complete my Masters degree and the weight slowly started to come back.

I finally completed my schoolwork in September of 2000 and I had the time it takes to do something about my weight. Yes, losing weight is an activity that occupies your time. School and work took huge chunks of my time. With school out of the way, I was able to catch-up on lost sleep and spend the time it takes to loose weight.

The one thing that helped me the most in my effort to loose weight was remembering the well hidden secrete to weight loss: "Burn more calories than you digest". I had to go from a lifestyle of eating more than I burned, to burning more than I ate. But that meant that I had to change the lifestyle I had developed. Ordinary people just don't make those kind of changes without motivation, and I'm about as ordinary as you can get.

During the course of my weight loss, and now during the maintaining period, I have had several motivations, but like most motivations they're personal, and won't work for anybody else. Everybody needs to find his or her own motivations for change. Once that's done TOPS is a great place to get some ideas about the types of changes that can be made. More than nine out of ten changes that I've tried came from ideas that were talked about in my chapter.

As a vegetarian, most of my excess calories were coming from dairy, eggs, and sugars. Terri convinced me to eat a vegan diet, and give up the dairy and eggs. That removed a fair amount of calories form my diet, but if that were all I did, I'd be one of nature's oddities, an overweight vegan.

I also needed to increase the amount of calories I burned. That's the time consuming part of weight loss. When I lost weight after the great pants ripping episode, I had been walking for a half hour on each of my lunch breaks. I started walking again. I also found a local pick-up game of soccer and began playing. Just for the record, playing soccer with 40 pounds of excess weight is not an activity that is kind on the ankles or the lungs. As I started to loose the weight soccer became much easier. I'm still not any good at it, but it's easier.

I tried jogging for 20 to 30 minutes each morning, but it was something I hated and wasn't motivated enough to do everyday. Eventually the jogging stopped, and it has now evolved into a half hour walk with Spike and Penny, our dogs.

Changing the foods I ate and burning more calories all helped, but if that were all I did, I would still be eating more calories than I burned. I had to cut back on the food I ate, but I didn't want to go hungry. What good is being at a healthy weight if you're going to be hungry everyday of your life?

Eating less did, and still does, require me to reach into my bag of tricks and pull out a trick that might work. No one trick is right for all occasions. Among the tricks I use to make myself eat less are:

  • Brushing my teeth when I should be done eating. Nothing tastes good right after you brush your teeth.
  • Forcing myself to take care of some housework before I eat. Sometimes when I'm done, I don't want eat anymore. At the very least, there will be one less thing that I need to take care of.
  • Eating slower. The realization of lack of hunger will sometimes hit before I finish everything.
  • Starting with less calorie dense food.
  • Trying to save leftovers to pack for the next day's lunch.
  • Reminding myself of my motivations.
  • Most importantly, reminding myself that I am the one about to over-eat, and I can stop just by not putting the food in my mouth.

Over time these little efforts paid off. I didn't loose weight every week, and there was almost always somebody in chapter with a bigger loss than me. However, with some patience and continued focus on my goals, I was able to reach my goal weight. I didn't do any thing extraordinary; there were no magic products. I just kept doing the little things and stayed my course.

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Last updated on November 23, 2014