Early Members

The TOPS® Story

As a nonprofit, noncommercial wellness organization, TOPS has helped millions to Take Off Pounds Sensibly since 1948. Here’s how we did it, with small steps leading to big achievements.

Esther Manz and three homemakers start TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly).
First Tops MemberTOPS boasts its first KOPS (a member who has reached weight goal and can Keep Off Pounds Sensibly).

LIFE magazine features Esther Manz. The year ends with members in every state—6,000 members total!
Esther Manz turns down a $1 million offer to “buy” TOPS, vowing to forever put people before profits.
US and Canadian FlagsTOPS goes international with the first Canadian chapter.
TOPS contributes $250,000 ($1.8 million in today’s dollars) to begin the Obesity and Metabolic Research Program.
The first retreat for TOPS members takes place in Tacoma, Washington.
Tops Center for Obesity and Metabolic Research The TOPS Center for Obesity and Metabolic Research is dedicated at The Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. To date, TOPS has donated more than $8.5 million for obesity research.
An independent study published in the journal Obesity followed 42,500 members over three years and found TOPS works as well as commercial weight-loss programs—but costs less.
Before and After Photo of TOPS Member who lost 300lbs.A TOPS member loses 300 lbs.—a first!

TOPS and the Medical College of Wisconsin announce the discovery of two new genes that may influence obesity.

The TOPSGenome Project is launched at Texas Biomedical Institute in San Antonio, Texas.  This new project aims to build on the many years of scientific advances through study of DNA samples provided by TOPS members who volunteered to participate. Anyone–not just TOPS members may participate in this groundbreaking study.  Learn more.

TOPS announces its Million Pounds Mission, an initiative by TOPS president Barbara Cady, encouraging members to take off and keep off a collective one million pounds in 2017.

In all, TOPS members lost 538,003.83 lb. and KOPS members maintained losses totaling 472,132.91 lb. to reach the Million Pounds Mission goal with a grand total of 1,010,136.74 lb.!

TOPS celebrates its 70th birthday!

Rick Danforth becomes the first male president of TOPS March 1.

The TOPS Genome project moves with Dr. Michael Olivier to Wake Forest University.


Although TOPS had been expanding its online presence for years prior to this point, the growth of the organization in the virtual world was especially seen and felt in 2020, considering the rise of COVID-19 and the "hold" the pandemic had on the globe. In-person meetings were temporarily halted, but members held strong and embraced our supportive online community.


TOPS Club Headquarters added to the National Register of Historic Places.

TOPS 75th Anniversary 1948-2023

TOPS was excited to celebrate its 75th anniversary. Chapters across North America marked the major milestone in all sorts of ways, and we celebrated at Headquarters on Oct. 21 with a community-wide event.

For more detailed history of TOPS, please read more about TOPS.