Albert Lea husband and wife lose big with TOPS program

Published 9:00 am Saturday, August 17, 2019

Take Off Pounds Sensibly, the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, has begun unveiling its top male and female royalty from 2018 for 2019.

According to a press release, TOPS royalty are men and women 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 goal.

Daniel Wirkus, who lost 51.2 pounds, and Mary Louise Wirkus, who dropped 99 pounds, was recently crowned Minnesota King and Queen. The couple shares their individual stories below.

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Minnesota tips the scales as the 36th heaviest state in the U.S., where 28.4% of adults are affected by obesity. Minnesota TOPS chapters combatted this statistic by collectively losing 12,950 pounds last year.

TOPS offers an individual approach to weight loss and overall wellness, the release stated. Consistent group support, health education and recognition are all key components to successful weight management.

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

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge.

To find a local chapter, view or call 800-932-8677.

Daniel Wirkus

In November 2017, I joined TOPS in southern Minnesota. After having lived with multiple sclerosis for 26 years, my disease had changed to the secondary progressive type. MS had prevented me from getting the exercise I needed and I fell into bad eating habits.

When my wife Mary Louise joined TOPS, I was supportive of her decision. I began to recognize that my own weight was an issue. My wife was having great success in her weight loss journey with TOPS and I was impressed and inspired with what she was doing. She invited me to come with her and join as well, as TOPS had a unique personal approach that might appeal to me.

Initially I was hesitant, since I would be the only man in the group, but my MS had worsened and I knew I needed to finally be proactive about managing my weight. I was under considerable stress in my life caring for an elderly parent while teaching full-time with failing health. The initial success I had with my weight loss inspired me to keep going. I was eating healthier and feeling much better.

As a result of my MS, I lost my driver’s license in August 2018. I had to work hard to learn how to use hand controls, taking driving lessons and having to pass a new driver’s test without the use of my legs and feet. I also had to have my vehicle retrofitted with hand controls.

All the while, I was ecstatic about the recognition and encouragement Mary Louise and I received from TOPS. I am back to driving and it is much easier to walk without carrying around an extra 50 pounds.

A great benefit of my weight loss has been the lowering of my cholesterol without medication. In changing our eating habits, I now consume lots of nuts and we always make sure to have healthy choices to eat at home. I concentrate on portion control so I don’t overeat.

I am proud to represent Minnesota as the TOPS 2018 King and look forward to Keeping Off Pounds Sensibly.

Mary Louise Wirkus

What an amazing year this has been with TOPS and my supportive husband, who is now a TOPS member. This has been a year of new beginnings, as I changed a lifetime of poor eating habits to making sensible and healthy choices.

I have been so inspired by the members in my club and I would not be where I am without their support, advice, friendship, love, joy, fun and camaraderie. I have grown to be a new person, with newfound strength and confidence. I have a new sense of commitment that came with the inspiration that my weight loss brought to me.

I was so tired of starting over and never finding success that I finally decided to stop giving up. It was then that my journey began. There were many days I did not think I could do it. But there were far more days where ounce by ounce, I say that could do it.

Before I lost weight, my health was poor. My back and feet hurt so badly that I could barely walk any longer. I had undergone a cornea transplant, suffered from Bell’s Palsy and had broken my foot.

So much was happening that I could not control, so I decided my weight was something I could work on.

Now I walk almost daily, sing and dance joyfully all the time and I’m making new friends. My eyes have opened to a whole new world. I have returned to school and dreamt dreams I dared not ever dream.

There has been hard work, tears, laughter, and overcoming life’s excuses. When I joined TOPS, I never dreamed reaching a goal was possible as I had so far to go. I remember clinging to those that had achieved Keep Off Pounds Sensibly status as my role models. I voraciously listened to each and every member for tips and ideas that worked for their success.

I have now lost more than 105 pounds, plus I’m off diabetes medication. I am so honored and humbled to have been selected as the Minnesota Queen.