Gladys Bailey, 52, feels she has cheated death.

Diagnosed with cancer in 2007, her doctors told her she needed to have funeral arrangements made and in writing before they could perform a lifesaving operation.

Her weight was around 300 pounds, her cholesterol was over 600 and her triglycerides were in the thousands.

“I was a walking time bomb,” Bailey said. “I actually died on the operating table and they were able to bring me back.”

Louis Jean’s story doesn’t start so dramatically. He was cruising toward weighing 400 pounds. His blood pressure was high, and he had to have a hip replacement.

Both Bailey and Jean had hit their limits and finally decided to do something. They had tried other plans, and both had been longtime members of the Take off Pounds Sensibly Club.

“I was good at dieting,” said Jean, 70. “But I will never diet again.”

He was good at taking off one to two pounds per week before. After he’d lost some weight, he would walk into a buffet and think he had earned the right to eat to his heart’s content. He would quickly find himself back at square one.

The two, now friends after meeting at a TOPS chapter in Lewiston, decided to make TOPS work for them and they started seriously working on their lifestyles.

“TOPS is teaching me how to do it for life,” Jean said. “It’s simply portion control. Eat a little bit of everything and not a lot of one thing.”

Bailey says she never gave up on TOPS. She’s been a member for 24 years and through it all, her weight has yo-yo’d. She would loose 100 pounds, and gain 60 back. Finally, she took control.

“My whole life has changed,” Bailey said. “Slow and steady is the way to go.”

Because of their achievements in the weight-loss support group, the two were selected to be the TOPS King and Queen for Maine. In their role, they flew to Milwaukee, Wis., and represented the entire state at a countrywide meeting.

“We were treated like royalty,” Jean said with a smile.

They were given crowns, sashes, trophies and achievement pens to keep as mementos of the honor.

“This is the first time I know of that a king and queen are from the same town,” Bailey said, beaming.

The two said their weight loss was not due to dieting or using gimmicks, but because of changing the way they thought about food.

“Think of your body like you would your car,” Bailey recommended. “You wouldn’t mistreat your car, so don’t mistreat your body. Don’t say the word ‘diet,’ but rather think of it as a lifestyle change.”


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