Kenneth Mourey loves to admire himself in the mirror.
He’s not vain. He’s just astonished by what he sees.
The 75-year-old lost 115.5 pounds in less than two years, after joining the national non-profit weight-loss organization, TOPS — Take off Pounds Sensibly.
He was recently honored for his achievement during the TOPS Missouri Conference in St. Louis.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Cheers erupted for the beaming Blue Springs resident and his wife when they stepped on stage, wearing one of his old belts around both of them, with room to spare.
“The grins on their faces were so cute,” recalled Barbara Cady, president of TOPS, who attended the conference. “It was heartwarming. Ken’s journey is incredibly inspiring.”
Mourey’s road to obesity stemmed from a life-threatening condition.
In 2005, he was diagnosed with critical kidney failure. He spent two to three days per week on dialysis for a few years, until he was approved for a kidney transplant, donated by his wife.
To help his body accept the foreign organ, doctors placed him on medication that resulted in rapid, substantial weight gain. By 2011, he had packed on more than 100 pounds.
When he stepped on the scale one day at his physician’s clinic and saw it read 316, Mourey cringed.
“It made me feel inferior,” he admitted. “It was not pleasant.”
The retired computer consultant and his wife, Marlene, started a low-carb diet to help him along. He lost more than 20 pounds. But it wasn’t enough. The couple wanted to change their entire lifestyle, not just their diet.
So after hearing about TOPS from friends and family, they signed up for the program, which promotes support groups, weigh-ins and nutritional education, instead of diets or supplements.
The two quickly became friends with the other members of their Independence chapter. The support from their peers and the weekly weigh-ins were huge motivation factors, said Marlene, who lost 51 pounds.
“When you go to the weigh-ins, sometimes you’re anxious about what the scale will show,” she said. “But it’s not about pride. It’s about not wanting to let your friends down. That accountability makes it easier for us not to stray.”
The couple achieved their weight loss primarily through better eating habits. One of the main lessons they learned was how to still indulge in the foods they loved, without overdoing it.
The couple loves going online to find delicious low-carb recipes, such as zucchini casserole and cauliflower crust pizza. They also find healthier substitutions to place in their favorite meals.
“There’s a never-ending supply of wonderful recipes and tips out there,” Marlene said. “It’s all about being creative.”
Now, Mourey is healthier and happier at 170 pounds.
At the state recognition, he wore a tux for the very first time. He doesn’t have to shop in the big and tall sections anymore. And his doctor uttered words he never imagined he would hear:
“Don’t lose any more weight.”
“I was so shocked, I asked him to repeat it,” said Mourey.
He believes the program and his own motivation saved his life.
“I thank God every day I was able to do it,” Mourey said. “I can look in the mirror and be proud of what I see now.”
Now that he’s reached his goal weight, however, he has another difficult task at hand, which is maintaining it.
And while he appreciates being called an inspiration by people who hear his story, Mourey doesn’t consider himself a hero at all.
“I’m simply a recovering foodaholic,” Mourey said. “To me, a hero is somebody who never allowed their body to get in such a horrible condition in the first place.”
His modesty hasn’t stopped people from watching his journey with pride, however.
In fact, Cady said the entire state of Missouri should feel elated about its success. Missouri has roughly 3,600 members in 235 TOPS chapters. Last year, the state lost 11 tons.
The real result is health, she emphasized, not pounds.
“People shouldn’t lose their health as they lose weight,” Cady said. “Forget a quick fix, it’s about long-term success.”