Bev Sullivan of Dracut poses with the sash and crown she was awarded by the international TOPS Club (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) which declared her
Bev Sullivan of Dracut poses with the sash and crown she was awarded by the international TOPS Club (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) which declared her "State Queen" of Massachusetts for 2013 for shedding 150 pounds over 20 months from her peak weight of 310. Sun/John Collins

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LOWELL -- Well-wishers typically tell actors or musicians to "break a leg" before they go on stage to perform.

For Beverly Sullivan, it was an actual broken leg suffered in January of 2012 that marked the low point in her battle with obesity and launched her two-year journey to the bright lights and stage of the Milwaukee Theater in Wisconsin. That's where Sullivan was awarded a tiara, sash and gold medallion on July 10 by the international Take Pounds Off Sensibly (TOPS) Club, recognizing her as the state queen of weight loss for Massachusetts.

The 43-year-old Sullivan is a Lowell native and Dracut resident plus a mother of three teen-age daughters. She works as a nurse at Lowell Pediatric.

Bev Sullivan at her peak weight of 310 pounds. Courtesy photoSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
Bev Sullivan at her peak weight of 310 pounds. Courtesy photo

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
Over a 20-month period, from March 2012 to November 2013, she shed 150 pounds from a peak weight of 310, and has kept it off.

Q: How did you do it?

A: Mainly by counting calories and exercise. I have a phone app that calculates the calories in any food you plug in. I usually count 1,200 calories a day. I exercise by walking. I started off slow at the gym on the treadmill, and now do at least two miles a day, four or five times a week. When its warm I walk outside. I do a little bit of free weights here and there, but nothing extensive. My next big goal is doing the Jimmy Fund Walk in October, which is the Boston Marathon route, 26.2 miles. I am going to walk it.

Q: How long have you struggled with weight?

A: From age 15 on I remember being heavy.


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I have one brother and one sister, and they're both skinny. I got the fat gene in my house. I did play volleyball and tennis in high school, and that kept me a bit thinner, but then I met my husband (Mark). You get comfortable. You go out to eat. You don't take care of yourself as well. I used to work two, sometimes three jobs at a time, including a 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift, which didn't help with my weight either. I'd eat dinner at 9 or 10 o'clock at night in the middle of a busy schedule.
Lowell native and Dracut resident Beverly Sullivan of Dracut poses with her "before" and "after" photos along with the sash and crown
Lowell native and Dracut resident Beverly Sullivan of Dracut poses with her "before" and "after" photos along with the sash and crown she was awarded by the Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) Club, which declared her the Massachusetts queen of weight loss for 2013 after she dropped 150 pounds over 20 months. Sun/John Collins

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

Q: What was life like then?

A: I definitely felt invisible before. Now I notice people will stop and hold a door for me, say "Hi," and make eye contact with me, whereas before (the weight loss) there was none of that. Some of it could have been my doing, too, trying to make myself invisible, blend in.

Q: How did the broken leg factor in your weight-loss?

A: In January 2012, I fractured my tibia in multiple places. I was horsing around with my kids, didn't have shoes on, and my foot slipped. The knee just snapped. I spent 12 weeks hobbling around on crutches, bored out of my mind, not being able to work, or move very easily. I had plenty of time to think: Was my injury really bad luck, or was I just so heavy my bones couldn't support my weight? On Jan. 1, 2012 I'd decided I was going to join TOPS with my mom. Jan. 2 is when I broke it, so that put TOPS on hold until March.

Q: Is that when your weight was highest?

A: Actually, I didn't know my weight until I first got on the scale for my first weigh-in on March 29, 2012. Oh, my God, 310 pounds! As advised by my TOPS leader, I met with my doctor and we discussed my weight, recent injury, and how I was living on taking 800 milligrams of Motrin four times a day just to function, and get through the hip, knee, feet, back pain, to the point I had ulcers all the way through my intestinal tract, and my vitamin D and iron counts were dangerously low.

Q: Did you decide then to lose half your bodyweight?

A: My doctor and I discussed a reasonable weight loss goal: 120 pounds, a goal I truly never thought I would reach. I lost 100 pounds by December 2012. Then upped my goal by 20 more pounds. I never expected the weight to come off the way it did, and I know it was from everyone in our chapter being so positive and supportive -- and from weighing in every week, which makes me responsible.

Q: Why hadn't I heard of TOPS before?

A: TOPS doesn't do any advertising. It's a non-commercial support group that was started by a Milwaukee mom, Esther Manz, in 1948. Now it's international, even in China. It's word-of-mouth. You might see a flyer at your doctor's office, but you won't see a TV commercial on it. Each chapter does their own fees. We only charge $2 a week, and that covers the maintenance for our meeting hall.

Q: Did you try other methods?

A: I tried Weight Watchers, and did the Atkins Diet. I could diet and lose weight, 50, 60 even 85 pounds, but I was a typical yo-yo dieter, as soon as I stopped it always returned within a few months. My mom had been asking me to join TOPS for years. Every once in a while I'd go with her to a meeting when they had a special guest, but I'd never really made a commitment until two years ago.

Q: Did you have to give up your favorite guilty-pleasure food item?

A: My guilty treat is pizza, and I can still have a slice or two with a salad, and then just make up the calories during the week. The key thing is, if you have a bad day nutritionally, don't make into a bad week. You go to bed that night, forgive yourself, wake up, and it's over. You start fresh the next day.

Q: Some people didn't recognize you after the weight loss?

A: That includes me! We went to Mohegan Sun, and coming out of the ladies room I walked past a woman who caused me to do a double-take. I took a step back and looked again. It took me a few seconds to realize I'd walked past a mirror, and this "other" person I had just seen was me. In my head I was still seeing a fat person. That was a year ago. That was a really nice moment.

Follow John Collins on Twitter and Tout at johncolowellsun.