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Loss is good news for Sarver woman

Michele Malkowiak, of Sarver, was crowned 2021 TOPS Pennsylvania Queen in May 2022 in Erie. She earned the title by losing the most weight in the state of Pennsylvania — 100.2 pounds — in the previous year with the TOPS, or Take Off Pounds Sensibly, program. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Michele Malkowiak won by losing.

The Sarver woman was crowned 2021 TOPS Pennsylvania Queen last spring for losing the most weight in the state of Pennsylvania using the TOPS, or Take Off Pounds Sensibly, program.

Between March 15, 2020, and March 3, 2021, Malkowiak said she lost 100.2 pounds.

“I got a bouquet of flowers and a crown,” she said during last year’s area recognition day ceremony at an Erie hotel.

But what she really received was better health when she dropped from 244 pounds down to 125 pounds.

She credits her participation in TOPS Chapter 1406 in Sarver, which meets Wednesdays at Evangel Heights Church, 120 Beale Road.

TOPS Club Inc. is a nonprofit weight-loss organization, which provides an individual approach to losing weight using group support and health education.

Although Malkowiak had joined the group 20 years ago, she didn’t stick with it.

“Over 20 years ago, I joined TOPS because I had quit smoking and needed a way to lose weight, as I gave up smoking, but traded it for eating,” she said.

“I ended up leaving TOPS because I never did what it took to lose weight. I accepted I would be heavy for the rest of my life. I believed quitting smoking would be enough to keep me healthy and my weight wouldn’t matter,” she said.

But 20 years later, Malkowiak said her weight was causing her health problems, such as aching joints and arthritic knees. She was tipping the scales at 244 pounds.

She rejoined TOPS in September 2018, and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

“That was my wake-up call. I realized the extra weight put me in a higher risk category for severe symptoms if I contracted the virus. I decided if I was stuck at home, I might as well focus on losing weight,” she said.

Malkowiak said the weekly meetings and weigh-ins, as well as changes in her lifestyle, such as eating breakfast every morning, adding more fiber to her diet, drinking more water, eating appropriate portion sizes and knowing the amount calories in the food she was eating.

The meetings include a prepared program and sometimes includes guest speakers who share their views on fitness, nutrition and more. Meetings conclude with action steps related to the program presented.

Every day, I did my part by following my plan and every week I was sure to weigh-in with my “accountability partners,” my TOPS leaders and chapter friends.

She now weighs 125 pounds and says it’s not hard to maintain that weight.

“It’s exactly what I did to lose it,” she said. “I eat breakfast. Every meal I try to get fiber in. I really, really reduced the amount of fat. And in 2020 when all the restaurants were shut down, that really helped.”

Malkowiak said she also exercised by walking every day.

“I’m at Pittsburgh Mills every day at 11 a.m. The mall is pretty empty except for us walkers. They should charge us,” she said.

“Through their participation in TOPS, we are extremely proud of our TOPS members’ weight-loss accomplishments,” said TOPS President Rick Danforth. “Celebrating the life-changing achievements of not only these individuals but those who have come before them is a hallmark of TOPS’ winning formula. By maintaining a commitment to personal lifestyle changes, TOPS members are given the tools and assistance to achieve their weight loss goals.”

“It’s good to have a support group when you are trying to lose weight,” Malkowiak said.

This picture of Michele Malkowiak of Sarver was taken in 2019 after she had joined TOPS again because of health concerns. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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