Losing weight isn’t easy for anyone, especially when your goal is more than 100 pounds. It took 81-year-old Sarita Cox of Chugiak more than a decade to reach that goal, but she did.

Cox lost 117 pounds between 2006 and 2018 with help from the nonprofit weight loss organization TOPS: Taking Pounds Off Sensibly. Cox has been a member of the organization since 1982, attending weekly meetings for nearly all that time.

Cox weighted 300 pounds in 1989, today she weighs 175

Cox said she struggled with weight loss for most of her life. In fifth grade she surpassed her father’s weight of 150 pounds. By the time she was 50, she weighed 300 pounds. Part of it, she said, may have been due to a stressful relationship with her mother.

“Every time my mother called there was a food binge and after she passed on I didn’t get any more calls and that binging stopped,” said Cox.

After her mother’s death in 2006, Cox got serious about losing weight. Her doctor prescribed medication for high blood sugar that had the side effect of curbing her appetite. Cox said it was the first time she hadn’t felt constantly hungry in years.

Portion control had always been one of her biggest challenges, but Cox said limiting her intake got easier over time. She said keeping her weight loss expectations reasonable also helped.

Cox received the Century Award in 2017 for losing 100 pounds and keeping it off for 52 consecutive weeks

“I try to go between five and ten pounds at a time, that your mind can handle,” Cox said. "But 150, 100 pounds, that’s so far off it doesn’t seem real. So just fight it in small bits and you’ll eventually get there.”

Cox said having the support of her TOPS community may have made the biggest difference of all when it came to her weight loss journey. She said group members, many of whom have become life-long friends, have been nothing but encouraging.

In April, Cox was crowned “TOPS Alaska Queen” for losing more of her goal weight in 2018 than any other TOPS member in Alaska. As she showed off her sash and tiara, Cox said it didn’t seem quite real that more than a decade after she started, she had finally reached her goal.

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