Local | Mind, Body & Spirit

Local woman treated as royalty for record weight loss

Ilene Rosenheim after losing 110 pounds (TOPS)

Not only does Ilene Rosenheim feel like royalty, she was also selected the Arizona State Queen for 2018 by the international weight loss support group Take Off Pounds Sensibly. TOPS founder Esther Manz felt members who achieved weight goals should be treated like royalty. Each year the biggest losers in each state are crowned king and queen, with a pair of runners-up.

Ilene Rosenheim before losing weight with TOPS.

Rosenheim, who credits the 300,000-strong non-profit membership program for a huge part of her success, was selected for losing 100 pounds. In this role, she becomes a motivational spokesperson, attending area recognition days this autumn and speaking at various chapter meetings. She will speak at the TOPS annual state convention in May.

“I’ve struggled my whole life,” Rosenheim recounts. “Four years back my doctor recommended TOPS, and I joined. Everyone was very welcoming and kind. I did well when I first joined, then life got in the way and I gained back everything I’d lost.” A new doctor suggested a new diet. “Finding the low carb diet was a great fit and a big help. You have to find something you can live with.” 

She says that in the past, she would come home from work tired and did not want to cook, so she would grab something on the way, eat and go to sleep. Then something snapped. It wasn’t a particular event or that the doctor added high blood pressure medication. “That never phased me,” she recalls.

She started back at TOPS seriously in January 2017, reaching her first goal by September. She lowered that goal twice and by November, had lost 110 pounds total.

Suddenly she was more involved in TOPS, becoming a chapter co-leader and weight recorder. “I was always a member but needed to get more involved, to represent the group in a different way because it motivated me too.”

Hour-long weekly TOPS meetings include a weigh-in; members sharing challenges, successes or goals; a health and wellness program; and awards to weekly or monthly best weight losers. Online chatroom meetings and resources are available. “It gives me accountability in facing the scales every week, which is essential to success. The more weight I lost, the more active I became,” says Rosenheim.

At the coronation in May, she told peers, “If I can do it, anyone can. But you have to be ready and in the right place” and frame of mind. The support is there, medically, from family, friends, and groups like TOPS, she notes, “but I had to be mentally ready.”

There are 15 TOPS chapters in the greater Tucson area. “The members are not just at weekly meetings, they’re there whenever we need each other,” she says. Their support and fun contests keep everyone interested.

Rosenheim always loved walking and hiking for short distances. She continues to walk, but now up to 3 miles when weather allows or else she’ll head for the gym three or four times a week. “It changed me. I have tons more energy and can participate in things I couldn’t do before.

“I feel more confident. Simply going shopping, I can pick up something quickly, instead of searching for and finding something to make do.” This led to a couple of new wardrobes along the way, the first last summer when she “wiped everything out” of her closet. This summer, she did it again.

Buying new clothes and eating healthy can be expensive, she notes, but it balances out in the end. What she saves from binging on fast food now goes to buying healthy grocery choices. In addition, the physical and medical benefits of her weight loss have eliminated five daily medications. Rosenheim has biannual monitoring check-ups. “Those numbers also keep me accountable.” Her latest physician calls her the poster child for weight loss. “That feels good,” she admits.

Born in Chicago, she was active in choir and Sunday school and was confirmed at Congregation Beth Shalom in Northbrook, Illinois. She moved with her family to California’s San Fernando Valley at age 14. The family vacationed in Tucson and she attended the University of Arizona. After completing her degree in child development at California State University Northridge, she moved to Phoenix. Transferring to Tucson 25 years ago, she completed her teaching, family, and consumer science certifications. She is currently the store manager for Build-A-Bear Workshop at the Tucson Mall.

Rosenheim has shifted from TOPS to KOPS, Keep Off Pounds Sensibly, which she says she’ll have to follow forever to keep herself accountable. And she is happy with that. As the weather cools, she looks forward to replacing gym days with walking outdoors, which she prefers. “There are lots of hills I
can climb.”