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‘Tough Love’ Turned His Life Around

March 14, 20243 min read

Near the end of his 27-year career as a sheriff’s deputy, Mike knew he was dangerously overweight. The job’s stress, long hours, and a pair of work-related injuries had slowly packed 218 pounds onto his 5’9” frame.

But it took “tough love” from a friend and fellow officer to get him to do anything about it.

“Hey, I’ve got to talk to you,” Steve, above right with Mike, told him. “I’m saying this because I care about you. My gym is starting a six-week course, and I want you to come workout with me. You’re fat.”

Mike, 51, didn’t like hearing it. But the next morning, when he looked in the mirror, he knew Steve was right. After a six-week “boot camp” style course, Mike was down 16 pounds and he hasn’t looked back. Now, he works out four times a week, watches what he eats, and keeps getting leaner and stronger.

His motivation was based on love, too. “If I have a heart attack, who’s going to take care of my kids,” said the father of three youngsters (and three adults). “I’m determined because I want to be healthy. And I love the adrenaline high of working out.”

Job-related Obesity

Being overweight is common among police officers, firefighters and security officers. For example, The FBI has said that 80 percent of law enforcement officers are overweight. The New York Post had a 2018 headline that said, in its typically brash style, “Fat cops are weighing down the NYPD.”

But the leading causes of obesity are common to many in other professions, of course. They include:

  • Inactivity. Despite the action on TV dramas, a lot of police work involves sitting.

  • Bad diet. We all know the “cops and donuts” clichés. Blame poor eating at least partly on challenging work schedules.

  • Stress. Police officers are in danger all the time and constantly exposed to violence, death, and intense situations.

As Mike found, losing weight involves more than a quick decision and a snap solution. “It’s a lifestyle change,” he says.

When the Man in Blue Got Buff

Mike’s friend Steve found a way to deal with all of that long before he gave Mike that “tough love” pep talk. Steve is a longtime triathlete – super-fit and trim.

He took Mike to a gym where Mike was intimidated seeing so many people with ripped muscles. “And I’m not just talking about the guys,” Mike says. “I couldn’t even do a pull-up. That was a slice of humble pie.”

Mike quickly grew to love the combination of strength and cardio training; the variety of the workouts; and the friendly community he found there.

He recently retired from the sheriff’s office and has incorporated his new job into his healthy lifestyle. He dropped to 185 pounds, has participated in competitions, and hopes to become an instructor.

“If you really want something in life, you’ll find a way,” he says. “I was at a breaking point: to keep going and get fatter, or make a change. Tough love is probably the best thing you can give someone.”

 

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