A weight loss support group in Wabush has been helping people shed pounds for the last 50 years. And for every year since Taking Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) has been operating in the Labrador West town, Lillian Hillier has been a part of it.
“Like everyone, I had weight on, and I wanted to get the weight off,” Hillier said on her reasons for joining TOPS back in 1969.
“It was very successful for a lot of people; they really lost a lot of weight and kept the weight off, too. I was one of those people, I’d get some off, then, of course, because of my own fault, I’d gain it back again. But I always stuck with it.”
Over the past 50 years, Hillier has also been a consistent volunteer, helping to run TOPS in Wabush. She has been the group’s weight recorder for a long time and currently sits on the executive for TOPS Wabush chapter.
Hillier recalls the early days of the group when there were up to 90 members looking to lose weight in Wabush. Today, there are 18 members and, for her, it’s like a small family.
“I find we’ve become a close group,” said Hillier. “Our group’s a lot smaller now then they used to be years back. You grow close to a lot of these people; they’re good friends.”
Charity Pickett, a friend of Hillier’s who has also been involved with TOPS for many years, says the list of Hillier’s contributions to the community is long.
“She’s one-in-a-million, fun-loving, kind-hearted, generous, and very devoted. She’s very devoted to her books. We’ve won awards by having the best-kept books in Newfoundland and Labrador," Pickett said.
“Lillian is energetic, very loyal to whatever she puts her mind to. She always puts others first.”
Point of pride
Hillier takes a lot of pride in seeing other members of TOPS succeed in their weight loss goals. She has even seen some people lose over 100 pounds in their weight loss journey.
As for Hillier herself, she reached her weight loss goal back in 2005, after shedding almost 40 pounds.
“It took me quite a while…but in 2005, I reached my goal. And so far, I’ve kept it off this time,” said Hillier.
Hillier’s favourite exercise is one of the most common ways people stay in shape: walking.
“I like the fresh air, especially when you can get outdoors,” she said. “I usually walk in the rec centre during winter months because it’s easier.”
Since 1969, Hillier has also been witness to how weight loss trends have come and gone and evolved. Peoples’ view on healthy weight loss has changed a lot over 50 years.
“Years back it was always diet, diet, diet - but we sort of try to get away from the word diet now,” she said. “It’s more or less (promoting) a healthy lifestyle.”
'We always kept our chapter going'
Hillier moved to Labrador West in the 1960s, when her husband got a job there. Together, they raised two sons and a daughter in the area. She is proud to say that, no matter the economic situation in Wabush, TOPS has always kept its doors open.
“We’ve had downturns. At Wabush Mines we’ve had the strikes here years ago…but we always kept our chapter going, we never had to close ours,” she said.
She has been an active volunteer in the community throughout the years, helping students with special needs, and organizing the local Relay For Life, among other activities.
On May 23, TOPS will be holding a celebration at the Wabush Knights of Columbus building to honour Hillier’s 50th year as a member. Despite the milestone, Hillier has no plans on retiring from the group, and plans to keep volunteering.