190906-neighbors-familyweightloss 01.JPG

Carol Nicholson, left, and daughter, Nicol Ramsey, each hold a pair of pants they used to wear before losing a combined total of 305 pounds through the Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) non-profit program. Nicholson lost 101.5 pounds and Ramsey lost 203.5 pounds.

PASCO — After 35 years of reading other people's success stories, a Pasco mother and daughter finally have one of their own to tell.

Carol Nicholson and her daughter Nicol Ramsey lost a combined 305 pounds in the span of two years. Nicholson lost 101.5 pounds and Ramsey lost 203.5.

Nicholson's journey began in first-grade. She weighed 110 pounds, and she remembers kids in school nicknaming her and another boy Porky and Petunia pig.

She only really started to get serious about weight loss years later, after having three children and gaining 100 pounds. She went to her first Taking Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) meeting in 1973.

TOPS is a nonprofit weight loss support organization with local chapters around the country, including six in the Tri-Cities.

She gained and lost weight for years through TOPS, but she never had any lasting results.

She got her daughter involved with TOPS as a teen.

Like her mom, Ramsey was always a heavier kid. She remembers being put on her first diet by her pediatrician when she was 10.

"I feel like I've lived on diets all my life. I've been on a million. Weight Watchers, Ideal Protein — you name it, I've done it," Ramsey said.

Though the two planned to shed the pounds together, over the years that goal faded.

Getting results

At Ramsey's heaviest, she weighed 385 pounds.

She said her breaking point was in 2016, when her youngest child moved out of the house. She said she wasn't sure what to do next, so she decided it was time to focus on herself.

And there was only one thing she hadn't tried — weight loss surgery.

She underwent bariatric surgery in the spring of 2016. Afterward, her doctor put her on a high-protein, low-carb diet.

The surgery and diet worked very well for her, and her enthusiasm was contagious.

Her mom, newly motivated from watching her daughter lose weight after surgery, adopted the same diet and began to see results herself.

Ramsey hit her TOPS goal weight in the beginning of 2018. By that time, Nicholson was still working toward her goal, but she really wanted to graduate from TOPS with her daughter.

She gave herself until the end of 2018 to lose the last of the weight so they could graduate at the same end-of-the-year ceremony.

"I said it's do or die," Nicholson said. "If I don't, we were never going to be able to graduate together like was our dream."

She said her proudest moment was when she stepped on the scale at the last weigh-in of the year, and saw she reached her goal.

"Oh my god, I screamed," Nicholson said.

Decades of struggle had finally paid off, and they did it as a team.

Ongoing journey

They are still following the same diet, and Ramsey exercises four to seven days a week.

She gives herself more allowances now, but she said she still stays vigilant because she doesn't want to end up back where she started.

"It's funny, because if you told me I was going to exercise like this five years ago I would have said you're crazy," Ramsey said. "I live for it. It's like my drug."

She was recently crowned TOPS Washington Queen, meaning she lost more than any woman in the state in 2018.

After they graduated, they moved on to a sister organization called Keeping Off Pounds Sensibly, for those trying to maintain their new weight.

They said the thing that made the difference was having a group where everyone has been through the exact same situation and has your same struggles.

"No matter what (TOPS) group you belong to," Ramsey said, "there is a camaraderie and a family feeling. I've never found that anywhere else."

In fact, their advice for anyone looking to lose weight is to join a support group. The secret, they said, is accountability.

"Keep trying until you find what works; obviously, it took us 35 years to get there," Nicol said.

___ (c)2019 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.) Visit Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.) at www.tri-cityherald.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.