Chelsea woman named Alabama TOPS queen

Published 1:22 pm Thursday, April 15, 2010

It’s a common story.

Someone who’s struggled with weight all their life sees a picture of his or herself and immediately cringes at the sight.

Betty Rayburn, who moved to Chelsea in 2006, lived this painful moment.

Seeing a picture of herself at her daughter’s wedding motivated her.

“Something clicked and it just took — I never looked back,” Rayburn said.

Rayburn lost 118 pounds and was named the Alabama TOPS queen.

TOPS is a non-profit weight loss organization aimed at supporting individuals through their effort to lose weight. TOPS assist members with developing doctor-approved plans to lose weight.

Rayburn herself connected with the TOPS program in March 2007 after moving to Chelsea. At that point she weighed 288 pounds.

Before she lost the weight, Rayburn’s resting heart rate ran about 84 beats per minute. Her rate now runs around 58 beats per minute.

“I can remember going to the grocery store, needing something on the bottom shelf, and for the first time being able to bend down and get it,” she said.

As the TOPS queen, Rayburn spent the last year encouraging others.

“When you are heavy you are just kind of in the background. So, this is all new to me,” Thomas said of the attention gained from being the Alabama TOPS Queen.

Rayburn said she had always been heavy. At 13, she wore a size 18.

“I don’t know any particular thing I was doing to gain the weight, but when you feel bad about yourself you eat more, and when you eat more, you feel bad about yourself,” Rayburn said. “It just becomes a bad cycle.”

TOPS support groups hold meetings once a week. The meetings include private weigh-ins, programs on weight-loss, yearly walk events and teams competing in Scale Back Alabama.

The changes Rayburn made in her life weren’t necessarily simple, but they were doable she said.

“I used to never exercise — now I do so at least 30 minutes a day.”

“I write down everything that I eat during the day right after I eat it or I’ll forget.”

“And, I don’t do without anything I want, I just keep everything in moderation.”

So, if Rayburn wants a slice of pizza for lunch, she eats it. She just makes a point of consuming less calories at dinner.

Or, if she knows she and her husband are going out to dinner that night, she’ll look up the restaurant’s menu and pick out a healthy option before she gets there.

“It’s not a diet if you want to keep the weight off,” Rayburn said. “You have to live it not diet.”

In 2009, the 170,000 members of TOPS lost a grand total of 861,192 pounds. Costs to participate in TOPS include $26 a year and chapter dues.

To learn more about TOPS visit