What health-related message do you have for officers on the job?
You give your life to law enforcement until you retire. It is not only what you do, it becomes who you are. You give it your mind and your heart: Keep your health. Enjoy your retirement. Live to become a burden on the retirement system, not a gift to it.
How did you get so involved with health and fitness issues?
I’ve been an athlete as long as I can remember. I’m 5’10” and only weighed 165 pounds when I was hired. Wrestling drunks and hotheads was difficult, to say the least. I began lifting weights and running when I was 29. I was competing by age 34, at 212 with a 33-inch waist. I actually felt better and was in better medical health at age 45 than 25, with less body fat. Remember, muscle weighs ten times as much as fat! Scales lie, clothes do not.
Why is this such an important issue to you as it pertains to police officers?
As I approached retirement age, I watched the guys I was hired with age much faster than I did. Most were overweight and limited in their activities. That bothered me. Several of them looked much better two years after they retired than five years before! The public expects you to put your life on the line, not slowly kill yourself. Two of the cops I worked with committed suicide and three others had heart attacks before they were 50!
How are the small daily decisions made about diet important?
Those small daily decisions not only have a cumulative effect, they become habit. That can be good or bad. No one has to torture themselves to eat healthy. Besides, if you eat a sensible diet all week, you can eat as much of anything you want one day per week without consequences to your health. Grilled instead of fried is not much of a sacrifice. Even a salad loaded with unhealthy choices can be bad, though. Do not try to fool yourself. Remember what I said before. Scales lie, clothes do not. They neither shrink nor stretch out in the closet!
Are there any foods or beverages that you recommend officers forego completely or limit to occasionally?
Leave the fast food burgers alone. They start at about 500 calories and 30 grams of saturated fat. Deli sandwiches are a much better choice. Read the labels! Also, non-diet fountain drinks are full of sugar. A Big Mac and a large order of fries are not mitigated by a diet Coke, though. You can fool anyone but yourself about your eating habits. And guys, the doughnut shop is not your friend. Even if you only drink the coffee, you’re perpetuating the stereotype by just being there!
What recommendations do you have for those with limited dining options while on shift?
Read the nutrition information. Grilled chicken without the bun is an excellent choice. Even a plain burger with half the bun cuts the damage in half. Perfection is not the goal. Improvement is.
What would you say if someone told you it’s too hard to follow these recommendations?
I would say you need to try on last year’s uniform. Even better, one from three years ago. Can you button it? If you can, great! If not, make that your simple goal. And remember, you burn the same number of calories walking a mile as running it. It just takes less time. If you have trouble talking, you’re going too fast. Consistency is the key.
Do you have any recommendations for FOP members to educate themselves on this topic?
Check out this practical information at Helpguide.org for sensible, easy-to-follow assistance for fast food restaurant eating. This How to Eat Healthy at a Fast Food Restaurant article has some very useful information also. There is a ton of information out there if you simply use a search engine to find it. You guys and ladies know credibility when you see it. You know who you can trust!
Read the full Summer 2014 FOP Journal issue.