A Bolivar man has garnered international attention because of his fitness journey, having lost over 100 pounds in seven months through local weight-loss group TOPS.
Art Rodriguez, 42, has been involved in Bolivar’s TOPS club for over four years. TOPS — Take Off Pounds Sensibly — is a weight-loss organization with chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada.
He recently came in second for most weight loss in an international TOPS competition, beating out over 170,000 members.
Rodriguez, former leader of Bolivar TOPS, took first place in the state of Missouri and then advanced to international competition.
Although Rodriguez is down 100 pounds, he says he still sees room for improvement.
“I’ve still got another hundred to go, so I’m working on that this year,” he said.
Rodriguez originally joined TOPS because his wife, April, and other relatives were members, and encouraged him to tag along.
“I would sit there through the meetings. I really wasn’t interested. Then (April’s mom) offered me a cell phone if I would officially join,” he said. “I was like, OK, I’ll do it for the phone.”
Even though TOPS didn’t interest him at first, the group of 25 members eventually became a community for him.
“But then it kicked in,” he said. “I had fun. I got to know a lot of the ladies there, and of course, my wife was there.”
Rodriguez is the only man in the group, and he and his wife are the two youngest members.
Rodriguez lost the weight through exercise and the Ketogenic Diet, also known as Keto. Rodriguez started Keto last year, alongside his wife, April.
“We started Keto, which is pretty much no carbs, no sugars and lots of fat,” he said. “High proteins and green vegetables, and then exercise.”
Rodriguez said he started the diet in May and was down 100 pounds by December. April lost 68 pounds on the diet.
In addition to the weight loss, Keto has also improved Rodriguez’s health as a whole, he said.
“I was able to get off some of my diabetic medicine. My diabetes has been under control. I haven’t had any super high blood sugar, and my cholesterol has been down since I’ve been on (Keto),” he said.
Rodriguez said his weight-loss journey has had highs and lows, but the payoff is worth the work.
“The best part about the whole journey is the fact that I’ve lost the weight. I’m able to fit back in my clothes, I’m a little more active, and it's easier for me to do things,” he said.
His stepdaughters, Rosalynn, 12, and Olivia, 10, “definitely like” that Rodriguez has lost the weight, he said.
“I get to get out, I can run with them some and help coach some of their sports,” he said. “It’s stuff that I enjoy doing.”
Rodriguez is especially excited about coaching, as he was a girls softball coach “for years” before his weight stood in his way, he added.
Although Rodriguez has seen results in his weight-loss process, he said the journey was not an easy one.
“Weight loss is not an easy thing. For me, it wasn’t easy because I thought I could just do what I wanted, and that didn’t work,” he said. “The hardest part was trying to stick to the whole diet itself, but that’s why I like our TOPS group. I can go, and they’ll all pick me up. They keep me going.”
Rodriguez emphasized how encouraging TOPS is and made it clear that everyone supports each other within the group.
“All the ladies in TOPS make sure I stay on track. They want me to succeed just as much as I want them to succeed,” he said.
Bolivar TOPS meets from 10 a.m. to noon every Wednesday at the United Methodist Church, where group members weigh themselves, say a pledge and have programs.
“The programs are usually about healthier eating, how to exercise, stuff like that,” Rodriguez said.
“It’s a very relaxed atmosphere. If you do bad, you do bad, and we just try to raise you up and hopefully we all do better next week. Our whole goal is for everybody to do the best they can,” he added.
In order to receive his international award, Rodriguez and April traveled to Portland, Oregon, for TOPS International Recognition Days. The couple arrived in Portland Monday, July 8, and will be there until Saturday, July 13.
Rodriguez said he has a busy schedule at the conference.
“There’s all kinds of things we’ll be doing there,” he said. “I’m going to a photoshoot for the TOPS magazine. All the winners will have a dinner, and I’ll get to meet the higher-up people in the TOPS organization and other international winners.
“Then, I’ll take the stage Saturday and give my speech and get my award.”
It may seem like Rodriguez has reached the top of the TOPS ladder, but he still has goals for next year that he’d like to reach.
“My goal is to make KOPS next year,” he said.
KOPS — Keep Off Pounds Sensibly — is a section of TOPS for those who have met their goal weight and are now working to keep it off. April is a member of KOPS.
Rodriguez encourages anyone who is struggling with their weight or in need of support to join TOPS.
“I think more people should go to TOPS, whether they need the help or if they need people to talk to,” he said. “We’re all trying to achieve the same thing — weight-loss and healthier living.”
Rodriguez said the group is inexpensive, fun and welcoming.
“We hold each other responsible for what we do, and we’re there to push everybody to their highest potential of weight loss,” he added.
For more information about TOPS, call area captain Claudia Gaylord at 599-9927, or visit tops.org.