Triumph over the scale

Rudy Norman
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The year was 2001, and Wanda Squires found herself at a turning point.

She had just become mother to two boys - one who had just been born with severe complications and challenges - and reality set in. Suddenly her condition couldn't be ignored anymore.

"I remember when my second son was born, and he had so many problems, and he was so sick, and I knew I had to take care of him, but I just wasn't in any condition to do it," she said.

Squires weighed over 400 pounds - her blood pressure and cholesterol were high, she had other health challenges, and she found it difficult to do simple tasks like walking short distances and doing housework.

"I couldn't pick up groceries or anything like that," she said. "I would just get too beat out and tired, and I just didn't have it in me to do it."

Squires knew her weight was a major factor. Doctors and others warned her of the seriousness of the situation.

"I remember a friend of mine came over and recommended TOPS to me," she said. "She used to go, and she invited me, so I figured maybe I'd give it a shot too."

The TOPS program has been active in Springdale for a number of years, and Squires says she always knew it was there, but never really considered it as something for her. She attended the next meeting with her friend, though, and thus began her journey.


When Squires attended her first meeting, she got ready for her first weigh-in. Suddenly, though, as she stepped on the scales, embarrassment set in.

"I remember the scales they had there only went up to 300lbs and they couldn't take all my weight," she said. "They had to use a clamp to mark off the weight of the person before me, then do mine, and add the both together, just to find out how much I weighed."

The clamp suddenly became a symbol of where Wanda had found herself in life. While others in the group tried to encourage her and lift her spirits, Wanda says on the inside she felt debilitated.

She persevered though and continued with the TOPS program. Progress, however, was an up and down battle of losing a few pounds, and gaining them back again.

"I never really lost a lot of weight for the first five years I was in TOPS, because I just didn't take it seriously," she said. "Then one day I remember we went to Corner Brook, and suddenly, you know, everything changed."

By 2006, Wanda had progressed in her local TOPS Chapter - she had taken on the role of Assistant Weight recorder, a job that saw her in a position of encouraging people every week to reach their goals in weight loss.

"I used to see people come in and maybe they only lost a couple pounds, or maybe they gained a pound," she explained. "I would be the one that would tell them it was OK and that they could do better next week, or that they shouldn't be themselves up over it, and all that."

Squires became known for her encouragement of others, and her constant cheerful and positive attitude toward them achieving their weight-loss goals. However, the same encouragement she gave to others wasn't something she gave to herself.

"I used to make fun of myself - I used to call myself a pig or a big cow, and laugh about it."

A day came when the TOPS group in Springdale was going to travel to Corner Brook for their annual gathering. The PRD is a time for other TOPS groups across the province to gather under one roof and celebrate what each of them are trying to accomplish.

On this day, Wanda and sat and listened to stories of success and triumph as others celebrated their weight loss.

"I sat there listening to everything, and it was almost like something came and hit me up side the head, and everything clicked with me," she said. "I realized that I wasn't doing a very good job at the weight-loss, and I needed to step it up. I needed to try harder."

Over the next eight years, Wanda says she turned over a new leaf and a new lifestyle of weight loss. This time, she wasn't basing it on her view that she was a 'cow' or a 'pig' - suddenly she had a different outlook.

"I started looking at myself as beautiful, and worthy," she said. "I realized that I was worth it, all of a sudden, and that's what kept me going."

Success and triumph

During the next several years, Squires kept eating right and kept losing pounds. She says exercise wasn't a big part of her routine, since her condition still didn't allow her to do much physical activity.

She also says she opted to lose her weight gradually, rather than the popular methods employed by modern dieting techniques which promises fast losses.

"I didn't go on any special diets or take any medication or pills," she said. "I just ate right, I watched my portions, and I watched the ingredients on the food I ate."

It was a long process, but a worthwhile one she says. Perhaps her biggest secret was the learn how to take joy in the little triumphs.

"I would weigh in some weeks and lose a quarter-pound, and I'd be happy over that," she said. "I was still making progress, and I still had something to be happy over."

The most weight Squires lost in any given year was 49 pounds - averaging to less than a pound per week.

"The doctors tell me that I did it right, and because I did it like this, I'm at a low risk of gaining the weight back," she said.

Today, eight years after her lifestyle change, Wanda is down to 235lbs - five pounds off her ultimate goal of 230lbs, and well below the weight where that clamp is needed on the scales at the TOPS meetings.

Recently, she was honoured at the Provincial Gathering for TOPS, and crowned Provincial Queen as the person who had lost the most weight. Shortly after that, she was invited to Milwaukee to share her story at the International TOPS conference. There, she was crowned International Queen Runner-up, for losing the second most weight across all TOPS programs in the world.

Wanda says she's proud of what she's accomplished, but she wants people to realize that what she did isn't impossible.

"It's all about your attitude," she said. "If you tell yourself you can't do something, then you won't do it; if you tell yourself you're ugly, then you're going to believe it. I gave up that, and now I tell people I can do it - because I am beautiful."


Organizations: Provincial Gathering for TOPS, International TOPS

Geographic location: Springdale, Corner Brook, Milwaukee

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