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Pre-teen takes initiative, joins group and loses weight

August 8, 2011
By Beth Ann Downey

Adults routinely struggle with managing their weight and could learn a thing or two from a local preteen.

Grant Whitfield, an 11-year-old from Altoona, was recently recognized for his weight loss success story through the TOPS Club Inc. program with Chapter 379 in Hollidaysburg. His 15-pound weight loss from 127 pounds to 112 was the most in the Division 8 preteen category for TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly).

In turn, Grant was named a 2010 state and international winner for his age group.

Article Photos

Mirror photos by Patrick?Waksmunski
Melissa Whitfield and her son, Grant, 11, of Altoona, lost weight together through the TOPS?(Take?Off Pounds Sensibly) Club program.

Grant noticed a problem with his weight when kids at school started teasing him "because of how big I was," he said. After having been to a few meetings before with his mother, Melissa, Grant asked her if he could also join TOPS when he was only 10 years old.

"I went with her and I liked it," Grant said. "I started going and I lost a lot of weight - it just helped me."

Melissa has been a TOPS member since 2009, and has lost 40 pounds with the program. She said she also knew it was time to do something about Grant's weight after the family returned from vacation last summer and she could visibly notice a gain.

"It's just hard because with children, with your kids, you kind of hate to say no when they want something," Melissa said. "But it got to a point where I realized myself, too, that we needed to work on him because diabetes runs on my husband's side [of the family]."

So Melissa and Grant said "no" together, and radically changed their lifestyle and the way they ate in their home. This included staying active, switching to whole wheat, only buying healthy snacks and always applying portion control. With the support of their TOPS family, Grant has been continuously losing weight for the past year. He said he feels "better" and "active."

"My mom's helped me, God's helped me and the TOPS members have helped me," he said. "They're like family to me because they've helped me out."

Members of chapter 379 are proud of Grant's accomplishments, including its captain, Patty Flanagan.

She said that Grant has been "an inspiration to the entire group."

"I'm so thrilled to see that a young person like this can be an example to other young people his age," Flanagan, 57 of Altoona, said.

Flanagan leads the group meetings, which take place at 5 p.m. on Thursdays at the Zion Lutheran Church, 500 Allegheny St. Meetings start with a weigh in, but go on to include a run down of healthy eating tips, talks about weight loss goals and challenges, and contests with prizes.

Patty said the reason she herself and others have had success with the TOPS program is because of the support provided at those meetings.

"TOPS makes you realize it's not what you pay or where you go," she said. "It only matters if you up your mind and you do it."

The yearly fee for the TOPS program is $26 and $3 per month. Melissa, who has tried other programs before, said the low cost is something that she really enjoys about TOPS. She added that Grant benefits from how TOPS makes weight loss into something fun.

"The big thing is to make it fun for kids," she said. "I think with the meetings it was fun for him and he was interested in it. I guess if you can find different, creative ways to make it interesting for kids, I think that would probably be a big help."

Grant provided a simple reason for other kids his age to watch their weight - so they don't end up looking like a contestant on "The Biggest Loser."

"I would say if you don't want to be like him, you should start doing interactive stuff, like walking every day, not eating chocolate and ice cream, not eating out every day, and not eating all this junk food," he said. "If you don't do that, you're going to be in big trouble. You're going to regret what you didn't do when you were a kid."

Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.



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