Neosho is the home of the nation’s biggest loser, and she’s a winner for that, and helped make big losers – and winners – of her daughters, also. Let’s rewind.

Leatta Workman said she joined one of the two local chapters of TOPS (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly) early last year on her 40th birthday.

“I was determined this is not how a 40-year-old woman needs to live,” she explained. “I need to be healthier. And I had no idea I was going to be so successful in one year.”

After weighing in at 319 pounds on Jan. 8, 2013, Workman said she lost 131 pounds in one year, and has trimmed more than an additional 20 pounds so far this year, dropping 156 pounds from that 319-pound frame of last January.

 “I had so much to lose, I didn’t dare hope for a goal.” Workman explained, “And so instead I set goals, like I wanted to be able to wear my wedding rings again, I hadn’t been able to wear them in several years. I wanted to be able to shop, and not in the plus size section eventually. And so I set about seven different goals, some were easier than others. I wanted to be able to use my crutches again, I had not been able to use them for long distances, I had to always use the wheelchair. Things like that, I set lifestyle goals that I wanted to see for myself as far as self-improvement, and I didn’t dare hope on what that scale might lower to for me.”

Workman said TOPS International collects data from all of its chapters annually, and then recognizes all the top losers from all the chapters. Not only was Workman the top loser in her chapter, but was also recognized as the top loser in Missouri.

The losing — and the winning — doesn’t end there.

“And then they gather up not only the states, but the provinces in Canada and there’s a couple of countries that have their own chapters, they gather all that up, and then they recognize at their international weight loss conference, they recognize their biggest losers for the organization,” she said. “I got first place in my weight division, and my weight division was people with over 300 pounds.”

Workman said TOPS is sectioned into nine total age and weight divisions, and her two daughters also won both the state and international awards in their divisions. She said 18-year old Grace Workman lost 48 pounds in 2013, and Corrine Workman, 14, became more 20 pounds lighter during the year. She noted, “Together, we lost over 200 pounds.”

The trio was formally recognized two weeks ago at the International TOPS conference in Milwaukee, Wis. Workman has also become a cover girl.

“We’re on the front cover of this month’s issue of TOPS News magazine” she said.

She said the magazine is distributed to the millions of TOPS members across the globe.

Workman said her local TOPS chapter deserves much of the credit for her success. Meeting every Tuesday morning, she said, “That was my time and it got me refocused, and it held me accountable. Each week we do roll call, and I had to say, ‘Was I up or was I down’ on weight, and was I actually doing what I was saying I wanted to do?

“And they gave me lots of tools at the meetings on nutritional information, and good diet choices, and recipes, and just all that support, and even through the week a lot of times if I had a bad weigh-in, people would call me and say, ‘You’re going to do it this week, it’s going to be better,’ and I’d be like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do it this week,’ when in fact I might have been thinking all week, ‘Ugh!’ It really can change your perspective. It gives me a great deal of motivation knowing that others know I can do it.”

Workman said losing over 150 pounds has gained her much more energy.

“It’s a bit like finding the fountain of youth. I can do things easier and with less fatigue than I have been able to in years,” she noted. “It’s really a life changing thing.”

She said the pounds crept on slowly, and she didn’t realize what she was losing as she was gaining.

“To lose it so quickly, it’s kind of shocking to realize all the stuff I had been giving up, as far as energy and flexibility and being able to do things, it’s just very freeing.”

Workman isn’t done taking off pounds sensibly, as her doctor has advised that she still needs to shed an additional 28 pounds. She invites others who want to achieve weight liberty to join the chapter, which meets on Tuesday mornings at 8:30 in Neosho’s First Lutheran Church.

You might just get your picture on the cover of a magazine.