Betty Rose Cortes
TOPS member Elvina Downs sits in her local Subway on 128th Street in Burien, WA. She credits her daily visit to the restaurant in her journey to shed over 100lbs of weight.

You’ve heard of Jared. Now meet the Queen of Weight Loss

Burien resident kicks the fat and becomes TOPS Queen of Washington

By Betty Rose Cortes

Do you remember the story of Jared, the “Subway Guy” and his weight loss success achieved by eating only Subway sandwiches? Now, there’s a new woman in town - meet Elvina Downs.

The Burien resident was crowned Queen of Washington state for her weight loss success of shedding the most pounds among all state female members of “TOPS”, an international non-profit organization that helps members to “Take Off the Pounds Sensibly”.

Downs has lost an incredible 129 pounds to achieve this grand honor. Like most people struggling to attain and maintain a healthy weight, Downs went on diet pill after diet pill, program after program, with short term success as her weight would fluctuate until it continued to just climb to her heaviest. And then it hit her. “You know when football season starts and before each game they go over each player and get the heights and weights? I was as heavy than most of them!” Downs said, “That is what really set me off.” “I like football, but I don’t want to be like (the players)!” she joked.

At the time Elivina was 279 lbs sitting on a 5’7” frame, the heaviest she had ever been. So, she began to plan her meals in somewhat the same manner that the “Subway Guy” Jared had. “I would come (to Subway) around lunch time and order a sandwich. I can’t eat it all, so I would have half for lunch and save the other half for dinner. And then I would have a something sweet before bed, or else I would feel deprived!” she said and laughed.

For Downs, needing to lose weight wasn’t such a big concern until she needed knee surgery. She has been a member of TOPS since 1976, joining with a good friend named Janet, whose goal was to lose weight. Her membership had always been in support of her childhood friend, but it wasn’t until just a few years ago when her physician told her to drop some pounds that weight loss became her focus as well. “He said that I needed to get below 200 pounds if I wanted the surgery,” Downs said, “I needed it, so I did.” And she did so doing the things she enjoys. “I didn’t exercise more or eat less. I just ate healthy and in moderation,” she said, “I don’t like to cook and I love Subway, so I would go to Subway on 128th for lunch, order a BLT – the gal who helps me would wrap the bacon separately so I can cook it at home – with American cheese, lots of fresh spinach, tomatoes and lots and lots of black olives. And it worked.”

Downs would also have two pieces of toast with fruit cocktail and some juice for breakfast with fruits in between meals. She infrequently exercises, but said that her time gardening is her form of physical activity. Downs said that being part of TOPS all these years has been enjoyable and she did not expect to be crowned as the Queen of Washington.

“I love TOPS because they don’t force you to do an exercise program or restrict you from eating certain foods,” she explained. “We have programs that teach you how to eat and live healthy - and we play games, like Bingo, where the squares are weight-related words. It’s really fun and you can win money! I’ve won a lot before, but I never expected to be queen.” Besides winning the crown and some cash from games, Downs enjoys other member benefits. “They give you charms when you reach goals,” she said, “This pendant I’m wearing is a Century gift from when I lost my first 100 pounds.”

Downs is also a TOPS’ “KOPS”, which is an honor for “Keeping Off the Pounds Sensibly” that is bestowed on members who have achieved their weight loss goal and maintain it. As Queen, she’ll be a guest of honor traveling to different TOPS chapters in the state. “The best part about losing weight is the different sized clothes!,” Downs joked, “And my blood pressure pills are down 75% - not to mention how good it feels to sit in an airplane and not feel (the arms of the chair) from side to side!”

Overall, Downs is feeling healthier and better. After knee surgery, she surprised her physician by walking into hisoffice without a walker with less pain than expected. “I was stuck for such a long time (being heavy),” Downs said of her former self, “so for others, I say, ‘Find something that you enjoy and can do for yourself. And eat anything (you want) as long as it is in moderation.” You can join Elvina and other members of TOPS on Monday nights at 6:30 PM at the Highline Christian Church at 14859 1st Ave S. in Burien, or visit www.TOPS.org to learn more about weight loss or to find a chapter in your town. The TOPS King of Washington State is Jay Bonner from Monroe.

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