The TOPS Program for Weight Loss

Take Off Pounds Sensibly, or TOPS, is a weight loss program which features lots of built-in support. Developed in 1948 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS has always incorporated physician involvement in members’ weight loss programs. In fact, each member is encouraged to work with her doctor to set her goal weight and design her weight loss program.

TOPS Principles

The TOPS Program is built on three cornerstones: physician support, accountability and recognition. Once you work with your doctor to develop your food plan, you’ll meet other members weekly for programs on weight management and healthy lifestyles. You’ll maintain accountability through private weekly weigh-ins, and receive ongoing group support.

Meal Planning

The Exchange Program is a key part of each member’s meal planning efforts. This program incorporates types and portions of foods to complete a healthy daily menu. Planning tools include Excel-based food diaries and 28-day menu plans. Many TOPS groups may also recommend that you consult a Registered Dietitian for a meal plan.


From the beginning, TOPS has recognized members’ weight loss success at three levels. Local and state chapters reward each member who achieves and maintains her weight loss goals. TOPS also hosts an annual International Recognition Days celebration. Members from many chapters are acknowledged for their achievements; this includes KOPS, or Keep Off Pounds Sensibly, winners. Each of these members has remained at his goal weight for at least one year.

Medical Research Support

TOPS has long supported research into obesity and associated metabolic issues. As of May 2010 TOPS has contributed over $6 million to such research at the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee campus. These funds come from corporate earnings and TOPS members’ contributions. The research findings have been published in over 140 medical journals.

Membership and Fees

As of May 2010, TOPS has approximately 170,000 members throughout the United States, Canada and other countries. These members belong to almost 10,000 local TOPS chapters. You can also enroll in a TOPS online program without attending meetings. Membership is open to men, women and children from age 7 and up; the first meeting is always free of charge.

United States members pay $26 annually as of 2010, plus weekly local fees of up to $2 per member. Most fees go to member support materials, with a small amount targeted to obesity research.