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Voyageur's Best Features of 2005

'TOPS' King and Queen Runner-up's

Nothing ‘TOPS’ Evelyn
Evelyn Swedberg reached her goal to lose weight
by John Grones  |  May 31, 2005

It is funny how life’s twists and turns of-ten bring a person full circle. It happened once again – this time to a special person near and dear to the Voyageur Press newspaper, Evelyn Swedberg.

Evelyn was recently rewarded for her efforts to lose weight in a program called TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly). She was crowned queen runner-up and was recognized for reaching a goal that took her 25 years to complete.

The goal for Evelyn was to lose 84 pounds, a goal set by her doctor. “My doctor said, ‘We’re not going to make this unrealistic,’” said Evelyn, and 25 years later she wonders where that doctor is now. “I would like to see him now and show him that I made it.”

The TOPS celebration was held on Saturday, May 21 in Bloomington and over 700 people registered for the two days of workshops culminating in a recognition program. The highlight of the recognition program was the crowing of the royalty. That’s when Evelyn made her discovery.

Evelyn, the queen runner-up, met the queen. “We introduced ourselves and when she said her name was Doris Brandt, I asked her if she graduated in 1953. I graduated in 1953,” said Evelyn, who now knew that name sounded familiar. After further questions, it was discovered that Doris Brandt (now Dee Raden) graduated from Cromwell and that Evelyn and Doris both attended Cromwell together in the 5th grade.

“It’s hard to believe. Sixty years ago, we were in the 5th grade,” Evelyn said.

At the ceremony, Evelyn received a plaque and a bouquet of flowers and the following short story by Evelyn was shared:

I joined TOPS in October 1979 at 259 pounds. I reached my goal 25 years and two months later at 175 pounds. I am the only original member of our club as some have died, others moved or quit. I was determined to stick with it. My cholesterol was over 400 so the doctor said I better get on a low fat diet. That is when I decided to join TOPS. With diet and exercise I was able to get my cholesterol down to 200. I was a school cook in McGregor for 20 years and that job did not help my weight problem. I was close to goal a few times but I had a number of set backs. My husband died, my home was destroyed in a fire, I had hip replacement surgery and 6 months later I fell and broke my leg, shattered my knee, and broke my arm. Six months after that I had my knee replaced.

Throughout the years and during those times, ‘food’ was my friend. Because I was pretty much immobile for almost a year, my weight crept up again.

Throughout the years my family and TOPS pals have all been very supportive. I have held every office several times, the last being secretary. I am retired now, recently turned 70, and finally living a healthy and happy life-style. I went from a size 24-26 to a 14-16.

Later they crowned Evelyn’s former 5th grade classmate Dee Raden (Doris Brandt) TOPS queen for 2004. Dee’s story is not one of perseverance, but one of diligence. Dee also had a conversation with a doctor, but hers occured in 2003. The doctor shared that she needed knee replacement surgery.

Dee’s weight had crept up to 254 pounds in 2003. She could not walk more than one block without tears in her eyes, or up a flight of stairs without severe pain. Dee’s doctor, after trying medications, shots, therapy and home exercises, coyly recommended weight loss as the last resort before scheduling surgery.

In March of 2003, coincidentally, Dee’s very good friend was starting a nearby TOPS club. Her friend encouraged her to join. She made a commitment to the TOPS program and her main goal was to lose weight every week, no matter how small. Secondly, she planned to keep doing a little more exercise every week.

Her actual TOPS goal was to lose 89 pounds in one year. She kept that pledge and reached her weight loss goal the last week of her one year time frame. Currently she has surpassed her goal and is maintaining a 92 pound weight loss.

Both Dee and Evelyn were pretty popular that Saturday. They shook hands with the hundreds of other TOPS members and many stopped by to state how inspirational the two women’s stories were. A few even had their pictures taken with the two queens.

For Dee, it was a special week. Not only was she crowned TOPS queen, but she won another award that same week. Dee and her husband Ed are a part of the Minnesota Good Sam camping club. They were honored with the “couple of the year” title. “It was a special week,” shared Dee. “That evening, I pranced around the campground like a big shot with my two banners on. I had my crown on too!”

For Evelyn, the week has been just as special. She does have one regret. “It’s an exciting time,” she said. “The downside is that my sister (Eleanor) couldn’t be there to share my celebration.”

Now that the celebrations are over, it’s time to move on to a new phase in life and the TOPS program. “Now we are KOPS (Keep Off Pounds Sensibly),”concluded Evelyn. “I will now just continue to basically stay away from fried foods, limit my sweets, and eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.”

The only thing she might add to her diet, is a phone call to her friend Dee to talk about how things are going and encourage each other to eat sensibly and not overindulge.

This article first appeared in the May 31, 2005 issue of the Voyageur Press.