By AdriAnna Newberry
Some queens are born to the position. Others win it through battles and wars. For Jackie Mouser, of Soldotna, her enemy was herself. In a battle for health and happiness Mouser conquered her old habits and freed herself from excess weight of over 200 pounds.
It had been a vacillating battle all her life.
Mouser spent her childhood in Anchorage and moved to Soldotna when she was 10 years old.
“My earliest memories of dieting began in junior high. By the time I started my freshman year I was on a popular vitamin diet, skied, swam and hiked. I was always busy and was a slender 135 when I graduated,” she said.
Over the next 29 years, Mouser stayed in Alaska and, for a time, worked alternating shifts on the North Slope. The food there was abundant and always available, as her increasing weight could attest. She later got a job as a fast-food restaurant manager and added more pounds. In a third strike, her doctor discovered Mouser had a medical condition that complicated her weight gain.
She met her husband, Roger, when she weighed 225 pounds, and gained another 25 in the year before their marriage. After the wedding she gained another 100 pounds and wore size 5X. Her medical condition prevented them from having children, so the Mousers turned to adoption. One week before they were to receive a child the adoption fell through and Mouser fell into a deep depression.
“Thinking that my weight had something to do with it I applied for gastric bypass surgery and was turned down. It seemed my sense of failure was being compounded daily,” she said.
Mouser now weighed over 357 pounds.
She decided she’d had enough. It was time to turn the tide. She started seeing a dietician and slowly lost 30 pounds. The dietician recommended a support group and Mouser remembered that her friends, Don and Peggy Edwards, were members of such a group and had lost a lot of weight. In September 2007, Mouser joined the weight-management support group Taking Off Pounds Sensibly, choosing her friends’ chapter AK No. 164 of Soldotna.
The Edwards got right to work. They told Mouser she had to start exercising. They run Edwards’ Boot Camp for their TOPS chapter, and told Mouser that if she missed a single day she would have to make up the workout.
Considering her soreness after the first day, there was no way Mouser wanted to do double sets. She went faithfully to exercise class six days a week.
“Boot bamp was torture,” said Lauri Bourdo-Winter, a fellow member of the chapter and exercise class. The same class that helped Mouser lose more than 100 pounds helped Winter lose around 30 pounds.
“I was her incentive. I was the Best Loser at the time and she was out to beat me,” Winter said. “… I liked her immediately. She’s just awesome. She’s the awesomest person I’ve ever met. She set her mind to lose weight and didn’t give up. She fought.”
Three months after joining TOPS Mouser had lost 48 pounds. To the added thrill of her many friends at the chapter, her weight loss earned her Division I First Place at the annual TOPS State Recognition Days in April 2008.
Mouser continued exer-cising and added hiking, biking and wallyball games. With the added exercising and watching what she ate, Mouser had lost 99.25 pounds by the end of 2008. In May 2009 she celebrated one full year of successfully keeping off more than 100 pounds.
Her friends and supporters were not finished with her, though. In the summer of 2009 the Edwards had her running five-kilometer races and participating in a marathon. Her doctor was so impressed with Mouser’s success at losing weight that her weight goal was lowered before she reached the original goal. She never did have the gastric bypass surgery.
Mouser achieved her medically approved goal weight of 150 pounds on Dec. 3, 2009, and greatly enjoys her newfound energy and strength, she said. By losing the most weight to get to her goal in the chapter for that year, Mouser was crowned the 2009 TOPS AK No. 164 Soldotna Chapter Queen, and was in store for a further promotion. Having lost 177 pounds as a TOPS member to her goal weight, Mouser had lost the most of any goal-achieved Alaska TOPS member that year. At the 2010 TOPS State Recognition Days, Mouser was crowned as the 2009 Alaska State Queen.
TOPS chapters from across Alaska watched and listened as runner-ups were called forward and crowned. Everyone had a story of their struggle and success to read to inspire the audience. The highlight of the ceremony was when Mouser was introduced. More than one person had teary eyes as Mouser’s story was read, and hundreds of people cheered as she was crowned with one of the highest honors the organization can bestow. Her crown was a handmade tiara of gold and jade worth $5,000. It had been made by the husband of a previous state queen and is brought out of safekeeping for the sole purpose of crowning the yearly state queen.
“Today I have so much energy and strength! It’s funny being called the ‘little girl’ at work. I always look over my shoulder to see who they are talking about,” Mouser said. “… My weight-loss journey has been full of surprises and I’ve learned much about myself. My husband, Roger, has learned a lot, too. You see, he has never seen me this small!”
There is an annual gathering for TOPS International Recognition Days to celebrate the men and women contending for the titles of International King and Queen. Mouser will be a guest at this year’s gathering in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
TOPS chapters can be found all over the world, primarily in the United States and Canada. There are numerous chapters on the Kenai Peninsula, which meet on different days and times according to the schedules of their members. Each chapter meets weekly with a weigh-in and an hour-long program focused on improving eating habits, exercise or celebrating the weight loss of individual members. Weight goals are determined by a member’s individual doctor and, with the current weight, are kept confidential between the member and the weight recorder.
For more information on TOPS and to find a chapter, visit http://www.tops.org.