Madison woman named CT’s 2021 Queen by weight-loss program, Take Off Pounds Sensibly

MADISON – Margaret Grillo (75), who is sitting in the foyer outside her gym, looks neat and sporty in her workout clothes.

There is no outward sign that Grillo would have hidden a whole bag of Cheetos in bed with a few chocolates every night, or around midnight would have been polishing a whole “box of macaroni” with butter.

In April, Grillo was crowned as 2021 Queen by Connecticut TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) because she lost more weight than any other female member for the year – 46.25 pounds – and reached her weight goal.

She went from 195 pounds to 153. The TOPS king, Raymond Williams of Norwich, lost 116.2 pounds.

Grillo is not alone with her weight struggle. According to TOPS officials, 1 in 3 American adults is obese and Connecticut has an obesity rate of nearly one-third – 29.2 percent.

It’s been a long journey for Grillo, a member of TOPS since 2002, which perhaps makes her performance all the sweeter. And at the time, she was also a smoker.

“It took me 20 years to get to this state here,” Grillo said with a smile. “And it was a trip and it may not be a huge amount, but 45 pounds is pretty good.”

She remarked, “My king was probably 23 and he lost it all in a year.”

The TOPS king and queen are not only chosen based on the number of pounds shed, but whether they have reached their weight loss goal, which is recorded at meetings.

“I hardly took it – I felt guilty,” Grillo said of her title, as she “only” lost 46 pounds, while the king shook off more than 100 pounds. 150 pounds, she remarked.

“And then I said, ‘No, I think I should be an example to people,'” Grillo said.

“I actually said, ‘I deserve it, I have to do it.’ “Because I’m the symbol of people who may not have lost tons of weight – 45 is a good number,” Grillo said. “The fact that it has made significant changes in my life and I can now be a role model for my chapter.”

Grillo served for two decades as an officer for TOPS, most recently as a chapter leader.

“There were many people in TOPS who were overweight the whole time they were in TOPS. We say if we were not in TOPS, we would probably be 20, 30 pounds – or more – heavier, ”she said.

“I’m proud to have made it and physically I feel better,” she said with a smile.

Linda Maynard, the TOPS state coordinator for Connecticut, agreed, saying no matter how many pounds a member loses, it’s an achievement. Even small losses can have a major impact on one’s health, she explained.

“I have bad knees – so every 5 pounds I lose, it takes tremendous pressure off my knees,” Maynard said. “So even a minus amount of weight will help you in terms of health, whether it’s with your joints or whatever, maybe you’re a borderline diabetic.”

“For the group, it doesn’t matter if you lose 200 pounds or 20 pounds,” Maynard added. “Everyone has their reason for losing the amount of weight they need to lose,” she said.

“Maybe they want to fit in a specific dress for someone’s wedding. And you just want to lose that 10 pounds. To be honest, the less weight you have to lose, the harder it is, ”Maynard said.

“If someone has to lose 100 pounds and they go in and their first week and they lose 6 or 7 pounds – yahoo! But if you only have to lose 20, you come back and lose 2 pounds – yahoo! – because it is difficult, ”Maynard added.

With TOPS, to become a member, there is a nominal annual fee of $ 49 and weekly fees in the range of $ 1 per week to $ 5 per month. Members must have their target weight verified by their primary care physician and it must be in writing.

The journey

Grillo noted that more than 20 years ago “I actually started at 192” when she was 5 feet-7. “I lost 2 inches” due to aging, she said.

In the early hours of the morning, Grillo actually came closer to her goal at 165 pounds, but health problems thwarted her weight management efforts. She discovered she had colon cancer; when six weeks after her cancer surgery she developed a heart condition.

Before the health scare, she was also not perfect: “I behaved, but smoked my brain.”

The cancer indirectly affected her weight.

“I stopped smoking the day I had the surgery,” she said. “It was a wake-up call. It was more like a ‘Shark!’ “

Then she said, “I was ready to go back to work, and had a heart attack.”

These health events derailed her weight loss goals – especially to quit smoking: “Because I quit smoking, I kind of let hell break loose,” she admitted. “I was 165 when I was 190.”

But it’s the last five years that she’s really gotten back on track, but without feeling like she’s giving up too many things she’s enjoyed.

“I have realized over the years that weight is a lifelong thing – it’s how you live,” she said. And it was important, she added, “to adopt something that would make me live comfortably – I give up nothing.”

But she admitted: “It’s a struggle to eat the right kinds of food.”

She has undergone a 20-year learning curve when it comes to eating: “I understand what I should eat and what I should not eat,” she said.

Now she can enjoy her favorite night snack. “At the end of the day I can have some Hershey kisses, cheese and five pretzels.”

Before I cut back on snacks, “I sat down with a bag of Cheetos or something and then it was gone,” she recalls. “It was nothing to take it to bed with chocolate, because I have to have the Cheetos with chocolate.”

There were other temptations as well.

“I love spaghetti – I can eat a pound of spaghetti,” Grillo said. When she went out with her husband in the 1990s, “we went out for drinks, he went home and I came home at 12 o’clock in the evening and ate; I would make a pot of spaghetti and eat it. ”

Grillo hates diet and does not follow a diet. “I know if I stick to 1,800 to 2,000 calories with my lifestyle, I’ll do OK.”

She emphasized that she was “honest” about her calorie count and did not hesitate to share her story.

“If I’m good, I record every day. … I count the calories, ”she said about her method.

While Grillo said she was “always active. I drove through England, “she emphasized,” I never considered myself really active – to get to the gym. “

Now she goes to Joint Effort in Guilford five times a week and her attitude towards exercise has changed over the past few months.

“These guys here will laugh. … For the first two years I would say ‘I’m not lifting any more weight and I came and did what they told me to do,’ she said.

“And now I tell them to pick up my weight because I feel good and I like to do it,” she said.

It was very difficult the first six months of COVID when the gym closed. However, she was determined to reduce her calories.

“I have been slowly reducing my portions,” she said, but admits, “over the past three years … it has been a very slow progress.”

Now that she’s at the goal, “I also feel a lot more comfortable and enjoy it,” she said. Grillo discovered an eating plan that works for her: “It’s not a diet, it’s really just a lifestyle. That’s what I’m talking about in my chapter. ”

She also discovered that a weight loss program alone was not enough for her health.

She also has type 2 diabetes and is not on insulin. However, she is on medication, and her doctor has reduced the dose due to her more healthy eating habits.

“I walk further. “When I go to the casino, I walk everywhere,” she said. “Not quite ready to do a marathon, but I feel much more comfortable with my walk.”

Grillo said it was not scary to face the scale at the weekly TOPS meeting: “I am responsible for keeping track of my weight.”

TOPS helped her become more skilled at controlling her food intake.

“I was probably never a good diet man,” she said. “I keep saying I’m not dieting: I eat to keep myself healthy and full.”

Maynard agreed that many in TOPS do not enjoy diet per se. She noted that TOPS is mostly a support group, although the organization does suggest three diets to try.

“Anyone who has struggled with their weight – ‘diet’ is like an evil word. “It’s a lifestyle change,” Maynard said. “You will find that the majority of TOPS people are stress eaters and that is why we need the support.”

Members who have gained weight are encouraged to come to the meetings and not feel ashamed, Maynard said.

“We make you feel welcome because we are all in the same boat,” she said.

For more information, visit

Related Posts