Saskatchewan weight loss king credits persistence, patience and a strong support group for his success

Saskatchewan Weight Loss King Brian Hagel (right) of Shellbrook and Saskatchewan Weight Loss Queen Pearl Kora of Saskatoon pose for a photo after being recognized at the TOPS International Recognition Days in Portland, Ore. In July 2019. -- Brian Hagel/Submitted

What’s tougher than dropping more than 25 pounds? How about dropping more than 50 two decades later?

That’s exactly what Shellbrook’s Brian Hagel did as part of Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS), a non-profit, non-commercial weight loss, education and support program with roughly 80 chapters in Saskatchewan alone.

His reward is not only a healthier and more active life, but also a crown. In July, Hagel travelled to the TOPS international recognition day in Portland where he was named Saskatchewan Weight Loss King for losing more pounds than any other male TOPS member in the province.

“It’s not quite that lustrous,” Hagel chuckled when asked about his crown. “But, I’ve got people calling up and congratulating me (asking) ‘what did you do and how did you do it? What do you suggest? I’m having problems, what do you suggest?’ It’s one day at a time, one hour at a time if you have to.”

This isn’t Hagel’s first time taking part in the TOPS program. His first run came roughly 20 years ago, when he was looking to slim down and get healthy. He says he succeeded in dropping around 25 pounds, but then got complacent and put that weight back on, and then some.

When his health began to deteriorate two years ago, he thought back to how helpful that TOPS was. He decided to jump back in and give it another go. In two years he lost 51 pounds and claimed a provincial title.

“The most challenging was keeping on track, putting my mind to it and, just, saying, ‘this is it. I’ve got to do it,’” Hagel remembered. “Once I did that it was good.”

“When I started I couldn’t walk a block,” he continued. “Now I’m doing three to five miles a day, and looking forward to it. If I don’t get out and walk I miss it.”

So what’s the secret to losing a lot of weight? Hagel says there are three important factors: getting good advice from a doctor, being patient and persistent, and having a strong support group.

He said his own TOPS support group in Prince Albert has helped a lot with that last one, especially when he’s on the road.

“I won’t be able to make it there tonight because I’m stuck in northern Alberta hauling fertilizer today,” he chuckled. “But, I’ve got their support every week either through messenger on Facebook or a phone call and I support them as well in their losses.”

Hagel liked TOPS so much he not only attends a group in Prince Albert, he’s also an area captain overseeing other groups in surrounding communities like Melfort, Candle Lake, Tisdale and Nipawin.

He said the group focus is on helping participants improve their eating choices and start exercising, with a focus on small increments. If participants stay patient, Hagel believes those efforts will yield results, and he encourages anyone who wants to lose weight to talk to their doctors, and visit a TOPS meeting to see what it’s like.

“It’s sometimes a bit of a challenge, but it’s rewarding,” he said. “I get out what I put into it and I find that having the extra responsibility helps keep me on track.”

TOPS was founded in 1948 and has more than 100,000 members across Canada and the United States. Saskatchewan members lost a combined 4,253 pounds in 2018 along. There are currently two TOPS chapters operating in Prince Albert.