Man Named 'International King of Weight Loss' After Shedding 172 Pounds

A 68-year-old retiree who shed 172 pounds in 20 months has been honored by TOPS Club Inc. as its "International King of Weight Loss."

Joel Marsh walked on stage this month in Chicago to be recognized by the 180,000-member nonprofit organization whose name stands for Take Off Pounds Sensibly.

Marsh tipped the scales at more than 350 pounds just over two years ago and was on 11 medications for diabetes, high cholesterol and other health problems. He said he is now down to just three drugs and expects to be off those soon.

"After all the doctor warnings, something finally kicked in and I knew I had to do something if I wanted to live any longer," said Marsh, who heeded the suggestion of friends that he attend a meeting of the local TOPS chapter.

"The whole thing is portion control," said Marsh, now a slim 178 pounds. "And exercise. I'm on the [Kennebec River] Rail Trail at 5 a.m. every day. I can eat what I want, as long as I get in my three to five miles every day."

He began by forcing himself to walk 150 feet, a task that left him gasping for breath, and then added another 150 feet each day.

Marsh tells his weight-loss story at TOPS chapters across the state, and the organization occasionally flies him to other states to speak. He does so, he said, to provide incentive for others trying to lose weight.

He usually brings a pair of his old pants with a 58-inch waist that are big enough for him and another person to fit into.

Marsh said his weight was "reasonable" until he retired from his job as a drug and alcohol counselor at Togus in 1994.

"I didn't keep active or do much of anything except watch television and eat everything in sight," he said.

Marsh's wife, Dorothy, also joined the TOPS chapter and has lost about 45 pounds. In addition, she gained a healthier, more active husband.

"I used to have to do all the yardwork and things like that, because he just couldn't do it," Dorothy Marsh said. "It's hard to keep up with him now."