The first thing Roger Duncan said when he attended his first TOPS (Taking Pounds Off Sensibly) meeting in 2009 was, "I don't want to be here."
Duncan said he attended the meeting with his wife, Kathi, out of necessity. Duncan at the time was 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighed 261.5 pounds. He said he had been having trouble breathing and getting off the Ninilchik River that he had been fishing for the last 30 years. When Roger and Kathi returned to Clam Gulch for the summer, he saw a flier at the post office for TOPS.
"I knew I had to do something about it," he said. "I came home and told my wife about it, I said, 'We're going to a meeting.'"
When Kathi asked what for, he had a simple answer.
"I don't really know," he said. "It's something about losing weight."
TOPS is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support its members as they take and keep pounds off sensibly. There are 10,000 chapters in the United States and Canada, with at least 10 of those chapters located on the central Kenai Peninsula. Meetings are held weekly where members weigh in and encourage each other throughout the program.
After the initial meeting, Roger was hooked by the camaraderie and the atmosphere.
"Everyone was so nice there that I hung around," he said. "With TOPS, it's all about helping other people."
In May of 2010 TOPS named Roger the Alaska King because he lost 66.5 pounds, the most weight in 2010 in the state for his category. He said it was a 9-month process.
"Awards and recognition: that pretty much says what TOPS is about," Duncan said. "I do believe in it because it works for me -- it may not work for everybody."
Duncan said the key was being in the program with his wife.
"Being in TOPS together is just a fantastic way to make it happen," he said. "If my wife didn't do it, I don't think I could have stuck through it."
Duncan's goal is to get more men involved with the program.
"Ninety-five percent of TOPS members are women," he said. "Men need it too, we're just too macho to say so."
Although he saw being named king as the payoff for his hard work, Duncan was not after awards.
"It's an incentive program -- personally, I was not after that at all," he said. "I'm a shy person in general, but in doing this, it has opened me up to other avenues.
"I just feel like a new person."
Roger and Kathi travel to Texas for the winters, and since TOPS is a national organization, travelers don't have to skip a beat.
"Whenever you travel they give you a piece of paper and you can look up chapters on the internet," Roger said. "You can stop anywhere and weigh in."
Duncan believes weight loss is possible for anyone. It starts with a choice.
"We do have the choice to do whatever we want in life," he said. "We should make the right choice."