Connellsville woman TOPS queen in weight loss |
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Mary Pickels

Losing more than 100 pounds is a laudable accomplishment.

Keeping it off for a year is crown-worthy, according to TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly).

TOPS recently named Kim Leistner, 58, of Connellsville its 2018 Pennsylvania Queen.

Leistner dropped 107.5 pounds over about two years, her scale sliding from 290.5 pounds to 183, the target weight her doctor set for her, she says.

She hit that goal on Aug. 7, and maintains it nearly a year later.

“I didn’t know I’d won until (January). I was shocked,” Leistner says.

She was recognized with an awards ceremony, a crown and sash and a plaque, she says. In July, she will travel to Oregon for the international competition.

According to the organization, it annually names a queen and king who, at the end of the year, have officially recorded the largest weight loss from their starting weight, regardless of the time taken to reach their goals.

TOPS king this year is Steven Klingel of Saylorsburg, Monroe County, who lost 127.5 pounds. TOPS chapter members in Pennsylvania collectively lost 22,299 pounds in 2018, the nonprofit says.

“We are so gratified by our TOPS members’ amazing weight loss accomplishments. Commemorating their life-changing achievements is an essential component of TOPS’ winning formula, whether by losing weight or maintaining goals,” says Rick Danforth, the organization’s president.

Pennsylvania is the 24th heaviest state in the United States, with 31.6% of adults affected by obesity, according to

Getting serious

“I belonged to TOPS for years, but I went up and down for years,” Leistner says.

Health problems and caring for her late parents kept her from reaching her own weight loss goals, she says.

“After they passed, I said, ‘That’s it, I’ve got to get serious. I need to do it for myself. It’s my turn now,’ ” she says.

“I had lost weight years ago, but I couldn’t maintain. I’ve always struggled with it, back and forth. I knew what to do. I just couldn’t maintain it,” she says.

That’s where the support “family” she finds through TOPS comes in, Leistner says.

“It’s more personal. When my parents passed away, if you are sick, people are there for you. I can’t say other programs don’t work, they are just not the same,” she says.

Sticking to it

Leistner still attends weekly meetings at a South Connellsville church. It’s economical, she says, with $32 annual dues and small monthly fees.

“Getting together and being accountable at meetings is what works,” Leistner says. “It’s a lifetime commitment, even if you just get weighed.”

Some members practice food exchange, while some count calories.

Leistner follows a 1,200-calorie- a-day menu, allowing so many choices from the different food groups.

Disabled and with back issues, she says her biggest form of exercise is walking.

“Some people go to a gym — whatever you are capable of. You have to have some physical activity, or you will put the weight back on,” she says.

Enjoying food with moderation

Leistner says keeping a food diary helps keep her “accountable.” If one starts to gain weight, a diary review might offer some clues.

“There is no food I don’t eat,” she adds.

If it’s a special occasion and she enjoys a slice of cake, she will cut out a bread serving.

Saying no, downing that water

What does she do when faced with temptation?

“It doesn’t hurt to say ‘no,’ and not eat if you’re not hungry,” Leistner says.

She’s also found that drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day can quell hunger pangs and make one feel full.

“That’t the biggest thing. When I started out, I was not a water drinker. Sometimes you’re thirsty, not hungry,” she says.

And fruit, she says, can satisfy a craving for sweets. “Stick with something that fits in your hand. Fresh is best.”

Looking forward

Both of Leistner’s parents were diabetic, and heart disease ran in the family, she says. “I was considered prediabetic. I didn’t want to have to take more medication or face complications.”

Her friends and family are are excited about her achievements.

Leistner is pleased, as well. “I have more energy. I feel more confident in myself. I was always a shy person. I’ve come a long way with that,” she says.

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