Losing weight can be difficult; keeping it off is even harder. But Mary Lou Beck has won state honors for both through local non-profit Taking Pounds Off Sensibly.
Beck of Tooele lost 85 pounds from July 2014 to June 2016. And she did it in the basic, healthy way: portion control, more exercise and less snacks.
For 2017, she was awarded the Queen of the Utah TOPS organization. She also recently represented Utah in the international competition in Arkansas last month.
As her weight loss progressed, her available clothing options shrank.
“I got to go and buy new clothing. It was exciting,” she said. “But obviously you can’t go out and buy a whole new wardrobe at once, so I would shop for used clothes and share with friends. But it was so fun to go get new things.”
In addition to a new wardrobe, Beck won accolades for her dedication to her health.
At the state competition, she showed a 3X T-shirt from her heavier days, and then modeled a new dress.
“There were so many pictures,I felt like a model,” she laughed.
At the international competition, before and after pictures of the winners were projected on a wall.
“My husband helped me pick out a big, Cinderella-type peach and white satin dress,” she said. “It cost more than any dress in my adult life! He said I looked fantastic and he wanted me to have it.”
Beck said it was great to go and meet people from so many places, both in the U.S. and abroad, and she was proud to go and represent Utah.
The TOPS organization paid for Beck’s airfare and hotel to go to the international competition.
While the amount of weight lost by members was interesting, Beck also enjoyed seeing some of the sights. One night there was dancing with a DJ and on Saturday, Merle Osmond came and sang. There were also good motivational speakers.
Beck enjoyed hearing everyone’s success stories. The woman who won the international competition lost 187 pounds during her time-frame for weight loss. Total weight loss is calculated by looking at a candidate’s ideal weight and goal.
“Once you reach your goal, then you need to stay within 10 pounds for at least a year,” Beck said. “So, my goal now is to maintain.”
Beck said life hasn’t always been so rewarding, and she had a long struggle with her weight.
“I have been overweight for most of my life. I was not very popular and I felt left out and depressed at times,” she said. “I felt like an embarrassment to my family and friends. I wasn’t able to run and play with my grandchildren, which I really wanted to do.”
Beck wanted to lose weight the correct way — not through some fad diet — so she first joined TOPS in 1983. She attended three different groups, but would lose, then gain the weight back.
“In 1986, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I tried to ignore it for a while — I was in denial,” she said. “But eventually I started my treatment, began to diet and take my medication. However, I was relying mostly on pills because I was never very good at controlling my diet.”
Then, in January 2006, she gave TOPS another try.
“The main reason I joined this time was so that I could support my sister, although I really needed to lose weight for myself,” she said.
Yet, once again, Beck started the yo-yo cycle of losing and gaining weight. In 2014, she weighed 230 pounds.
“That is the most I have ever weighed since first joining TOPS,” Beck said. “My diabetes had never been under control and my doctor had tried giving me several different medications to help me. In November 2014, we finally found a medication that helped me with my illness.”
It was then permanent changes started happening.
“With the love, encouragement, and support of my TOPS group, my family and my doctor, I have been able to change my eating habits and achieve my weight loss goal,” Beck said. “It is fun and exciting to be able to shop for smaller sizes and receive compliments about my weight loss. I now have more energy and self-confidence, and I have been able to reduce the amount of medicine I take to control my diabetes.”
Beck attributes her weight loss to the basics: smaller portions, fewer snacks, more water and more activity.
“I still do take some medication, but I feel lots better all around,” she said. “I just do lots more walking, water aerobics and simple things like parking farther away from the store and taking the stairs — all things to just get more activity.”
But, Beck does not want weight loss to seem quick and easy, as portrayed in weight shows and programs.
“It was a difficult journey and it’s still a daily struggle to maintain my weight — but it is worth it,” she said. “With the continued support of my family and my TOPS group, I know I will be able to maintain my weight and help others reach their goals as well. Now I am trying to do the same things I did to lose the weight now by staying on track. This is a lifestyle change. This is why diets don’t work. Life changes take time and not overnight.”
Beck said when trying to lose weight, remember some things work for one person and something else will work for another person.
“My sister counts calories. I just can’t stand to do that. I watch portions,” she said. “Remember it took years to put on and it will take a while to get off. I took a year-and-a-half to reach my goal.”
Beck sings praises of her TOPS group.
“The support of having family, along with friends, being there and understanding the struggle, is what helps,” she said. “There are about 15 members in our group, and they understand.”
Tooele TOPS member Sue Bergeron was also honored in 2017 as the Utah Queen runner-up.
Losing 85 pounds is a lot of weight, and requires a significant lifestyle change. But Beck encourages everyone who is interested to start making the slight changes that lead to considerable success.
“I would definitely tell people to do it. It is well worth the time and effort to make these life changes, so you can be there to enjoy life,” she said. “I really like to go swimming and now I look better in a swimming suit and have the energy to go!”