MILWAUKEE, WI - Thanksgiving is filled with good food, company, and gratitude.  For many people, it's also the source of weight gain and anxiety.  This season, don't let the holidays derail your healthy habits.  TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, offers tips to eat right, stay active, and reduce stress.

Eat without Regret

• Watch portion sizes. You don't need to fill your plate with everything that's offered.  Sample your favorite foods and use a smaller plate to "trick" yourself into thinking you have consumed more.

• Slow down. Take time to enjoy your food and stop eating before you feel full.

• Change the focus to family at the table. Food and drinks are a large part of the holidays, but they don't have to be the focus.  Instead, go around the table and have everyone say why they are thankful, share favorite holiday memories, and reconnect.

• Don't forget about breakfast. Approaching the Thanksgiving meal on an empty stomach can be a recipe for disaster.  A nutritious breakfast helps control appetite, so you aren't as inclined to overindulge during dinner.  Breakfast can also keep energy levels up.

• Send off leftovers. Don't fill your refrigerator with leftovers; send extra food home with guests.  This will help avoid temptation to dip back into high-calorie treats.

Stay Active

• Take a hike or go for a walk. Make time to get moving on Thanksgiving Day.  Take a walk or hike in the morning or head outside after dinner.  Many communities offer "Turkey Trots," a 5K walk/run, which can be an invigorating way to kick off the day.

• Plan an activity. The day doesn't need to revolve around the Thanksgiving meal.  Go for a family bike ride, play football, or have a relay race for the kids.

Say Goodbye to Holiday Stress

• Take time for yourself. During the holidays, there can be a lot of togetherness.  It's important to spend a few minutes alone periodically to give yourself time to recharge.  Take a nap, listen to music, or simply sneak off to a quiet room in the house to clear your mind.

• Be thankful. Feeling stressed or tired?  Find yourself complaining?  Take time to think about or write down the things you're thankful for, big or small.  Being grateful can decrease stress, boost the immune system, and improve sleep patterns.

• Share the load. There's no reason only one person should plan, cook, and entertain.  If guests offer to prepare a dish, let them bring it to your Thanksgiving celebration.  Also, have the kids help with household chores.  This will decrease your workload and make the holiday more pleasant.

• Help those less fortunate. Forget about your troubles for the day and spend time volunteering at a local soup kitchen or food pantry.  Spread cheer by giving back, taking the focus off of your own stress and helping others in need.

• Breathe! It may seem simple, but people tend to forget to breathe when they're stressed.  Take deep breaths to increase your oxygen intake.  Find a comfortable place to rest and consciously slow the rate of your breathing.  You'll be amazed how good you will feel.

• Keep it simple. Make a few fancy dishes and keep the others easy.  It's okay to scale back the meal and festivities, so you enjoy the holiday rather than spend all of your time preparing.

To successfully employ these tips, make sure to plan ahead and practice an attitude of gratitude.  The holidays are a time to focus on the people in your life, so make an effort to take the emphasis off of sweet treats and creating the perfect meal and be thankful for friends, family, and good health.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) is the original weight-loss support and wellness education organization.  Founded more than 63 years ago, TOPS is the only nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss organization of its kind.  TOPS promotes successful weight management with a "Real People. Real Weight Loss." philosophy that combines support from others at weekly chapter meetings, healthy eating, regular exercise, and wellness information.  TOPS has about 170,000 members - male and female, age seven and older - in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge.  Membership is affordable at just $26 per year, plus nominal chapter fees.  To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.

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MILWAUKEE, WI - With busy schedules full of work, sports, and other activities, it can be difficult to get the family together for a meal.  October is National Eat Better, Eat Together Month, an opportunity for families to start new traditions, make time for one another, and eat healthy.  TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight loss support organization, provides ideas to make time for family meals and reap the rewards.

Enjoy the benefits

According to Martha Marino, M.A., RD, CD, and Sue Butkus, Ph.D., RD, of Washington State University and The Nutrition Education Network of Washington, there are many benefits of eating together.

• Family dinners promote healthy eating habits and are an ideal opportunity for parents to teach their children about nutrition and demonstrate healthy practices.  Kids who regularly eat with their families tend to consume more fruits and vegetables rather than junk food.  Parents can also broaden their children's horizons and introduce new foods during family meals.

• Time together can open the lines of communication between parents and children and help form stronger, healthier relationships.  Family members have a chance to share details about their day, plan, learn about one another, and more.  Table talk also allows children to express ideas and learn new vocabulary from adults' conversations.

• Studies show that eating together can contribute to higher academic performance and improved well-being.  The stability of family meals and conversation are essential for kids as they develop and learn.

• Food dollars can go further with large, homemade meals, rather than fast food or individual dishes.  Cooking one meal and preparing food in advance also saves time in the kitchen.

Put it on the calendar

The calendar fills up quickly, especially as kids get older.  It's important to make family time a priority and set a schedule that will work for everyone.  If there is only one day that works for each person, make it a weekly habit and work up to two or three times each week, if you can.  Breakfast and lunch count as meals, so don't limit family time to dinner.

Prepare meals ahead

To avoid falling into the common excuse that everyone's schedule is too hectic, make meals ahead of time.  Weekends are a great opportunity to compile a shopping list, purchase groceries, and prepare weekday meals.  If you have extra time, cook double servings and put the extra food in the freezer, to be used as a backup for busy nights.

Get the children involved

It's important to engage the kids and have them participate.  Give them the opportunity to provide input on what is served or assign tasks - setting the table, washing the produce, pouring beverages, and mixing ingredients.  Teenagers could even cook one of the meals.

Make it fun

Want to make meals more interesting?  There are many creative ideas that can keep family time exciting.

• Move it outdoors and have a picnic.

• Turn off the television, cell phones, and the computer and have a conversation.  Go around the table and talk about the highs and lows of everyone's day and ask each other questions.

• Plan a theme for different meals - fiesta, dinner and a movie, fondue party, build your own burger or pizza, "favorites meal" (making each family member's preferred dish), and more.

• Take turns planning the meals.  One night Mom or Dad can arrange dinner, and the kids can prepare breakfast another day.  This will get everyone involved with meal planning, and it will give family members an opportunity to be creative.

• Dress up the dinner table, making the occasion seem special.  Use candles, table clothes, fancy dishes, or props for a themed dinner.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) is the original weight-loss support and wellness education organization.  Founded more than 63 years ago, TOPS is the only nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss organization of its kind.  TOPS promotes successful weight management with a "Real People. Real Weight Loss." philosophy that combines support from others at weekly chapter meetings, healthy eating, regular exercise, and wellness information.  TOPS has about 170,000 members - male and female, age seven and older - in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge.  Membership is affordable at just $26 per year, plus nominal chapter fees.  To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.

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MILWAUKEE, WI - Spices and herbs can give a boost of flavor to any meal, but they also have health benefits.  With increasing interest in "functional food," herbs and spices have been receiving greater attention for their potential to decrease inflammation, reduce the risk of cancer, fight heart disease, and more.  TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, along with the International Food Information Council (IFIC), explains how different spices can benefit people who are on their own wellness journey.

Basil

Basil can give a fresh flavor to any pizza or pesto, but this spice is more than just a seasoning.  Basil has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help prevent swelling and alleviate pain caused by arthritis.  It also contains the flavonoids orientin and vicenin that can shield a person's cells from radiation and other damage.  Have a cut or scrape?  Basil has strong antibacterial capabilities and can help prevent infections.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon has a subtle heat that is perfect for baked treats and warm beverages.  Significant attention is being directed toward its potential in diabetes management.  Research suggests that cinnamon may lower blood glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and improve lipid profiles.  Also, the sweet aroma of cinnamon has been shown to boost brain function.

Parsley

Parsley adds flavor and color to meals and is a source of vitamins A, C, and K.  It also has antioxidants and can aid heart and optimal health.

Mint

Found in tea, ice cream, toothpaste, and more, mint is a versatile flavor.  Containing vitamins A and C, mint has antioxidants and can help decrease the risk of cancer.  It can soothe an upset stomach, relieve heartburn, loosen congestion, and help calm.  Let's not forget that mint can also keep a person's breath fresh!

Cilantro

Cilantro is delicious in salsa, guacamole, and salads and has numerous health benefits.  It contains anti-inflammatory properties, is a good source of iron, magnesium, and manganese, and can control blood sugar and cholesterol.  Research shows that it also can help battle salmonella bacteria.

Garlic

Garlic has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral capabilities.  It also can lower cholesterol and the risk of cancer and contains vitamins B6 and C, which fight heart disease.

Red and Chili Pepper

An increase in body temperature or heart rate upon ingestion of a pepper is believed to increase metabolism.  Red peppers contain capsaicin, which accelerates energy expenditure and increases lipid oxidation.  Studies also suggest that consuming capsaicin decreases fat intake.  Chili peppers can fight inflammation and help relieve pain.

Ginger

Ginger provides gastrointestinal and nausea relief.  Recent studies also suggest that ginger may play a role in preventing inflammation, which could be useful in alleviating pain caused by arthritis.  Ginger plays a potential role in cancer prevention with its antioxidant properties.  Its immunity boosting capabilities is another advantage.

Turmeric (Curcumin)

Turmeric, a popular spice contained in curry powder, contains curcumin.  Curcumin gives turmeric its yellow pigment and may reduce the risk of cancer, osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease.  It also has antioxidant properties.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization, was established more than 63 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success.  Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.

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MILWAUKEE, WI - Life is hectic.  Nothing seems to work.  Gym memberships are expensive.  There is an endless list of reasons to skip a workout or never begin exercising in the first place.  With excuses blurring the benefits, getting fit can be an even bigger challenge.  TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight loss support organization, provides tips to overcome justifications for avoiding physical activity.

"I'm too busy."

Make working out a priority and it will become routine.  The best way to fit physical activity into your day is by setting a schedule and writing it on the calendar.  If you don't have time for an hour of cardio or weight training, take steps to ensure you move during the week - take the stairs, park at the back of the parking lot, do an abdominal workout during commercials.  Ten-minute 'mini' exercises, such as a brisk walk during the lunch hour, are also useful.

"I feel self-conscious."

Exercise at home with fitness DVDs and resistance cables.  Once you have gained confidence, go outside, join a gym, or take an exercise class.  If you want to beat the crowds at the fitness center, go mid-morning or late in the evening, when less people are around.

"I don't like working out."

Perhaps running or weight lifting is too monotonous for you.  Working out doesn't have to be something that's painful or boring.  Today's workout world offers a variety of options to stay fit - yoga, hiking, swimming, dancing, Pilates, recreational sports, and more.  Grab a friend and participate in a workout that you enjoy.

"I don't know how."

Personal trainers help people tailor their exercises to their ability and the proper intensity level.  Whether you want to learn how to cycle indoors, dance, or play a sport, fitness classes with instructors can teach new movements and correct form.  The staff at most gyms should be well-versed in their facility's equipment; don't be afraid to ask for help.

"I can't afford a gym membership."

Although fitness centers have a lot to offer, gym fees can be expensive.  Perhaps your community's local recreation department offers low-cost classes you can participate in.  Walking or running outdoors are free, effective activities.  You may even want to consider roller-blading.  Fancy equipment isn't necessary to get in shape - it's more important to stay active on a regular basis.

"I can't get motivated."

Make a list of reasons to workout - to get healthy, boost energy, look better in your clothes, etc.  Post the list in a place you look at everyday to remind yourself of your workout ambitions.  Friends are also a great place to seek motivation.  At TOPS, weekly chapter meetings give members the opportunity to cheer for and encourage one another in their weight-loss efforts.

"I don't see any results."

It's important to understand that exercise may not produce immediate physical changes.  Remember your long-term goals and think about how working out makes you feel.  Writing down the little improvements you see on a daily basis can be helpful.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization, was established more than 63 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success.  Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.

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MILWAUKEE, WI - Bicycling is a healthy way to experience the outdoors and incorporate physical activity into an individual's daily life.  It's a flexible activity - not limited to certain ages or intensity levels - that keeps people moving, helps with weight control, and provides enjoyment.  With summer in full swing, TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, offers tips for safe cycling.  Whether you are a member of TOPS or not, use these ideas to stay fit and cycle sensibly.

1. Good fit makes you fit. When choosing a bike, make sure the frame is appropriate.  To find the right fit, straddle the bike and stand flatfooted.  There should be at least one inch of clearance between your groin and the top tube and two inches on a mountain bike.

2. Location, location, location. The handlebars and seat should be positioned correctly for a comfortable, optimal ride.  The seat should be located high or low enough so each knee is bent only slightly at the bottom of each rotation.   Seats are not "one size fits all" and should be appropriate to your build and riding situation.

3. You're not as hardheaded as you think. Always wear a helmet when you ride.  This simple rule protects you from head trauma and brain injury.  The helmet should have a bright, visible color and snug fit that covers as much of your head as possible.

4. Nighttime is not the right time. Avoid riding your bike at night.  Most cycling accidents occur between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. when light levels are low.  If you must ride in low-light conditions, wear brightly colored, reflective gear and install a bright headlight and blinking red taillight for better visibility.

5. Give your brakes a break. Gently and firmly pump brakes at the same time.  Don't squeeze the brakes too hard - and never squeeze the front brake first.

6. Know the rules of the road. Attach a rear-view mirror to your helmet, handlebar, or eyewear.  Ride with traffic, obey all traffic rules, and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and other vehicles.  Observe your surroundings and communicate with drivers, using hand signals and eye contact.

7. What's your hurry? If you're out of shape or unaccustomed to riding, start slowly.  Thirty minutes on a flat terrain is a good way to start for the first few weeks.  Gradually work up to greater intensity and hillier terrain for better workouts.

8. Be kind to your body. Cycling should not involve stress or strain.  Keep your arms and shoulders relaxed and avoid locking your elbows.  Shift your hand and body positions frequently.

9. Share the ride. Riding with another person - or as part of a group - can motivate you to become a better cyclist and make the miles fly by more quickly.

10. Variety is the spice of life. Cycling should not be your only workout.  It is not a weight-bearing exercise, so be sure to vary your fitness routine with walking, weightlifting, and other activities.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization, was established more than 63 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success.  Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.

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MILWAUKEE, WI - Traveling can be exciting and a chance to get away from the hustle of the real world, but it also can derail a person's healthy routines.  People may become relaxed with their nutrition selections or think that it's too much effort to exercise.  With numerous opportunities to travel - whether for business, family vacations, or weekend getaways - TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, along with the Produce for Better Health Foundation, shares hints to help stay on the wellness track, cut out calories, and feel satisfied.

Eat healthy on the move.
• Bring your own meal for the flight or car ride.  Homemade sandwiches and fresh fruit are a great option.  Not only will you be able to control what you eat, but you will also save time and money.
• Pick up prepackaged fruit and vegetables at the grocery store.  You can also buy peanut butter in a tube or small container to pair with fruit or granola bars.

Be smart with snacks.
• Have a sweet tooth?  Keep dried fruit, which provides disease-fighting antioxidants, handy for snacking instead of candy.  It can also be mixed with nuts and sunflower seeds to create trail mix.
• Pack peppers, celery, or carrots to snack on during a trip.  Resealable containers are perfect for dips, such as ranch dressing, peanut butter, or hummus.
• Frozen grapes make great bite-size snacks and are delicious with low-fat cheese.

Eat out without overdoing it.
• Do your research.  Check out your destination online and look at restaurant menus before the trip.  This will give you an opportunity to find places that serve healthy options.
• Practice eating small portions.  Bring half the meal home or share an entrée with a friend.  Consider choosing two appetizers instead of one entrée.

Give thought to your drinks.
• Switch from soda to low-fat milk, water, or tea with one sugar or a non-nutritive sweetener.
• Opt for tomato juice or vegetable juice on the plane.
• Out for coffee or a smoothie?  Order the smallest size available, request coffee with fat-free or low-fat milk, skip the whipped cream, ask that the smoothie be prepared without added sugar, and look at nutrition facts, if possible.

Watch portions sizes, but don't deprive yourself.
• Use the half-plate rule.  Make fruits and vegetables 50 percent of what you eat at every meal.
• Don't skip your favorite dessert or fried foods.  Eat smaller portions of these foods - just make it a treat, not a regular occurrence. 
• Don't cut out meals.  This may lead to eating too much later in the day.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization, was established more than 63 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success.  Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.

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MILWAUKEE, WI - With the surge of social media and smartphones over the years, some believe that the Internet and computer programs have encouraged inactivity - but what if these technological advances could actually help a person lose weight?  Many people on the journey to wellness, including members of TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, have turned to technology for encouragement and weight-loss management.

Share your experience with friends

Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, can hold people accountable and provide them with support.  Posting a Facebook status or tweeting about weight-loss goals and plans can help keep a person on track.  Not only may individuals feel the need to uphold their weight-loss declaration, but people may also gain a sense of camaraderie.  Facebook friends or Twitter followers may have the same goals and can provide encouragement, healthy recipes, exercise tips, and more.  They are personal weight-loss cheerleaders.

TOPS' Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TOPSClub, features inspirational photos, links to articles, videos, seasonal recipes, success stories, and news.  Another popular social tool is DailyMile.  Users can connect to DailyMile for free and track workouts, compete with friends, map exercise routes, post status updates, and use tools to help their fitness training.

Use an online calorie counter

Online calorie counters, like MyFitnessPal and Lose It!, are a great way to track the amount of calories a person consumes and burns each day.  Many allow users to personalize their profiles with their height, weight, target weight, activity level, gender, and other criteria.  Calorie counters can help individuals reach their goals, because they make the user aware of the nutritional value of the foods and beverages they consume.

Take advantage of a support network

Chat rooms and online forums are a convenient (and anonymous way, if you prefer) to find support, share experiences, and get advice.  Individuals are able to join a conversation with people who are going through the same experience while in the comfort of their own home.  TOPS members have access to the organization's members-only chat rooms and message boards, particularly helpful for those who aren't able to attend their weekly local chapter meeting or are seeking extra encouragement.  Topics may range from exercise tips to simply getting to know one another.  It can be easier to struggle past cravings or get motivated to work out if a person knows that others are sharing the same experience.

Keep track of goals

TOPS members have many weight-management tools available for their use.  One such tool is "My Weight Record" for weight tracking, available in the members' area of TOPS' website at www.tops.org.

Mobile "apps" focusing on diet and exercise abound with the rise in smartphones.  Want to count calories?  Wonder where you can find a healthy recipe on the go?  Calorie counters, training apps, and restaurant information, such as Restaurant Nutrition, are just a few examples of the apps that people can download on their smartphones - and many are free.  Mobile apps can easily track calorie intake, calculate calorie needs, or provide tips to train for that future 5K.

Many TOPS members use Together Counts, an app where people can pledge to eat weekly meals together, be active, and stay connected to an environment with similar goals.  It encourages families and communities to get healthy together with a simple pledge:  Eat at least one meal and do at least one activity together every week. Together Counts helps users keep track of their progress while holding them accountable to their team and others in the community.

With hundreds of options, people can easily choose a technological program that fits into their lifestyle and weight-loss goals.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization, was established more than 63 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success.  Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.

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MILWAUKEE, WI - May 17, 2011 - National Senior Health and Fitness Day is May 25 and TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, and its members are offering their expertise and suggestions to help Americans reshape their bodies and lifestyles in the journey towards a lifetime of good health.

According to Amy Goldwater, M.S., educator, former body building champion, and physical fitness expert for TOPS, scientific studies indicate that the more active people are, the greater their life expectancy. "Scientists believe that a healthy, active lifestyle allows people to live a vibrant life - a physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially active, and functionally independent existence. These are the rewards of a wellness way of life," she says.

For those who are looking for a way to begin on the path to good health, TOPS suggests starting with a walking program. Walking is a slow and easy way to ease the body into a higher level of fitness.  It is accessible to most everyone, doesn't require any special equipment or practice, and offers a long list of health benefits, including:

• Lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) and raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ("good" cholesterol)
• Lowering blood pressure
• Reducing the risk of, or managing, type 2 diabetes
• Preventing osteoporosis
• Managing weight
• Improving mood

According to TOPS, speed is not as important as one might think.  For example, recent research indicates that walking at a normal, brisk pace can reduce the risk of heart attack by nearly the same amount as jogging or another aerobic activity.

Even though walking is a low impact activity and sustaining a serious injury is unlikely, it is important to prepare for this exercise to prevent things like blisters or muscle pain.  For this reason, one should wear comfortable footwear with arch support, a firm heel, and thick but flexible soles. Wear loose-fitting and comfortable clothes in layers and dress for the weather and the time of day you are walking. Good posture is important. It is also important to begin slowly, to warm up the muscles, and to stretch your muscles before and after your walk.

Here are a few other things to remember when taking the first steps toward fitness:

• It's okay to start slowly, especially if a fitness routine is new. Set defined goals of time and distance and stick to them.  Then slowly increase the time and distance to 30 to 60 minutes several times a week.
• Measure the intensity of the workout by monitoring heart rate. This can be done manually by checking the pulse in the wrist or neck or with an electronic device. Knowing the intensity of the workout will help to maximize its effect on the body.
• Set realistic goals that are attainable.  Again, starting slowly may be best for those just beginning a fitness routine.
• Keep track of the number of steps taken or the distance walked as a source of motivation.  Consider a walking journal or automated pedometer to keep this record.
• Bring a friend along if you don't like to walk alone.
• Take different routes to avoid monotony.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization, was established more than 63 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success.  Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, visit www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.

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MILWAUKEE, WI - Supermarket shelves abound with "value-added" foods, offering innovative twists on traditional products. Cereals that make you lose weight, yogurt that eases digestion, and chocolate calcium chews that replace milk - the options can seem endless and overwhelming. The difficulty with value-added foods is that, much of the time, they actually aren't all that valuable, according to TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization.
"You may find yourself purchasing foods that offer a very slight nutritional advantage that's not worth the extra money or indulging in a perceived health benefit that has not proven to be effective," says Katie Clark, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.E., Assistant Clinical Professor of Nutrition at the University of California - San Francisco and nutrition expert for TOPS.
Here are a few value-added food industry favorites - and what they do or don't do:
Juice with Added Fiber
While whole fruit is a great low-calorie source of fiber and nutrients, fruit juice packs in the calories and forgets the fiber in the discarded pulp. Fiber-enhanced fruit juice is essentially pulverized fruit with its fiber removed, with a different type of fiber added back in. One cup of orange juice with fiber can boast three grams of dietary fiber per 120 calorie serving. But one orange has four grams of fiber and only 70 calories - a lower-calorie, cheaper option with no processing needed.
Drinks with Vitamins
In 2008, the most popular diet soda in the U.S. released its "plus" product, a diet cola with a small amount of water-soluble vitamins added.
Other vitamin-enhanced drink and waters have taken off in recent years, although, according to Clark, "Many are merely overpriced, sugar-sweetened waters with a tad of vitamins thrown in for good measure. Despite the fact that you can get 100% of all the vitamins and minerals you need in a well-balanced diet, a generic multivitamin only costs about four cents a day. Why spend nearly $3 on a special vitamin drink when water is free and a more comprehensive multi-vitamin is substantially cheaper?"
Immunity-Boosting Foods
Lately, there has been a wealth of foods on the market touting "immune enhancing" or "pro-immunity" benefits - from yogurts to cereals, drinks, and even frozen vegetable blends. While there is ample data to support the notion that a diet with insufficient nutrients compromises immunity, the opposite does not hold true: eating more nutrient-laden foods has not been proven to increase immunity.
Clark notes, "By eating a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly, you are already maximizing your immune-enhancing behavior!"
Omega-3-Enhanced
Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in fish, fish oil, and, to a lesser degree, in flax and flaxseed oil, canola and soybean oils, and walnuts. Omega-3s have numerous heart-health benefits, including reducing cardiovascular disease risk, lowering blood triglycerides, and lowering blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of 1,000 mg of EPA + DHA (two types of omega-3 fatty acids) for people with documented heart disease, equivalent to eating two to three servings of fish per week. Because many people don't eat as much fish as they should, omega-3-fortified foods, like eggs and butter, can seem appealing.
"These foods contain such small amounts of the beneficial fatty acid that you'd have to ingest many portions per day to get the recommended amount," cautions Clark. "You actually end up losing, calorically."
The Nutrition Facts panel on one such enhanced omega-3 butter spread reveals it contains only 32 mg of EPA + DHA per each one tablespoon serving.
"If you were to get all of your recommended 1,000 mg EPA + DHA omega-3s from this butter, you would have to eat 31 tablespoons of butter per day (one entire tub), consuming 2,480 calories," says Clark. "Incorporate more fish into your diet for an effective, comprehensive way to consume more omega-3s."
TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization, was established more than 63 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success. Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.
Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, visit www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.
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MILWAUKEE, WI - TOPS Club (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nation's oldest weight-loss support organization, has released a new video to help educate people on the dangers of obesity and being overweight. The video also seeks to motivate viewers through a series of dramatic testimonials from TOPS members who have lost substantial weight through the TOPS nutrition and exercise plans and other members' support. The video is available to view at the TOPS website, www.tops.org.

Narrated by Nicholas "Dr. Nick" Yphantides, M.D., M.P.H., an executive medical consultant to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency and co-chair of San Diego County's Childhood Obesity Initiative, the video also features interviews with researchers from the TOPS Obesity and Metabolic Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. TOPS, a nonprofit organization, has been actively involved in the clinical study of obesity since 1965 and has contributed over $6.5 million to the Medical College of Wisconsin in support of these efforts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), two-thirds of the U.S. population is now overweight and as many as 72 million adults are considered obese. About one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate of 1963. Obese children also have an 80% chance of staying obese their entire lives. Research has shown that, for adults, as weight increases, the risks for the following preventable, chronic conditions also increase: coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, hypertension, stroke, and more. Obesity costs U.S. companies an estimated $45 billion per year and 39 million lost workdays.

To help temper this trend and increase overall wellness for its members, TOPS promotes lasting, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., more than 63 years ago, TOPS has approximately 170,000 members in about 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Recent findings from what is believed to be the largest study of a weight-loss program in the United States indicate that TOPS is effective and associated with clinically significant weight loss among participants who remain in the program for at least one year.

According to a study published in "Obesity," the official journal of The Obesity Society, TOPS members who participated over a consecutive period of one to three years lost between 5.9% and 7.1% of their initial weight. People who remained in the program maintained that weight loss for up to three years.

In addition to regular group meetings designed to reinforce healthy habits, the TOPS program includes a six-week "quick-start" guide, "My Day One," and TOPS' lifestyle guide, "The Choice Is Mine." Membership also includes a one-year subscription to "TOPS News," the organization's members-only magazine.

The researchers noted a substantial difference in cost between nonprofit TOPS and commercial weight-loss programs, like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. TOPS' annual membership fee is $26 in the United States and $30 in Canada, plus nominal chapter fees (on average, $5 per month) collected for local chapter expenses. There are no special foods to purchase. Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, go to www.tops.org or call 1-800-932-8677.

As noted in the new video, members of TOPS lost a combined total of 431 tons in 2009. Regular chapter meetings, awards programs, and regional events comprise a system of recognition and positive reinforcement for TOPS members on the wellness journey. Goal weights are set in consultation with members' health-care professionals. About 80,000 members have achieved significant weight loss and are maintaining it with the support of TOPS and the support its members provide for each other. Maintaining one's weight loss is believed to be one of the most challenging parts of successful weight management.

For additional information about TOPS and to view the new motivational video, go to www.tops.org

For more information on the TOPS chapters in your area, visit www.tops.org and click "Find a Meeting." If you would like to speak with a local representative from TOPS, please contact us.

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