I recently received an email message from a reader.  It started, “I’ve been out of the academy for a few months now, and my eating habits are in the pot.”  Because of my experience as a competitive bodybuilder, the writer hoped I could share a few tips or maybe write an article on the topic.   Here goes.


The guys on your shift are going out for drinks on a regular basis.  You don’t want to miss out.  You want to be part of the crew – especially if you’re a rook.  Your gut tells you that it’s happening a bit too much, but you don’t know what else to do.

You are working a shift (usually nights) that most days keeps you running call – to – call with little or no time for a regular meal break.   You regularly find yourself so hungry that you’ll eat whatever you can find – and all too often, it’s a nutritional disaster.

Your partner (or worse your FTO) has terrible eating habits.   He thinks that the best meals are the ones that are free.   His waistline may tolerate that junk, but yours is growing like the stock market.

In recent foot pursuits, the subject seems to be running faster than in the past.

Your thoughts of going to the gym are met with various excuses.  You are always planning to go to the gym and resume your workouts, “tomorrow.”  You find yourself avoiding old pants, new belts, scales and cameras.

If you’re really worried, you might even be getting to work early so that no one will see what you go through to put on your duty belt.


You’ve gotten the dreaded ‘beer belly.’    Maybe better termed, ‘the cop belly.’  You’ve got the driver’s seat in the car pushed back as far as it will go to accommodate your gut.

It’s an effort to see whether your boots are shined and to make sure that the magazines on your belt are still there.

Leather doesn’t shrink.

It’s not good to be a “growing boy” anymore.

The subject of one of my past articles was how the law enforcement fitness model is broken.  In a lot fewer words: recruits are forced to endure all kinds of tests and demands during the selection and training process.  Those physical demands are far worse, in fact, than the job demands.  Once on the job, too many coppers turn into lumps of lard for the duration of their careers.  What’s up with that?

The writer of the earlier-referenced email lamented:  “I’m on a severely fixed budget right now.  Off-duty side work isn’t an option until my department allows it.  No time for lunch breaks; we’ve got calls to answer.  Taco-Bell is always open.  So, what do I do about maintaining good nutrition?”

Wake up.  This could make the difference between life and death for a cop.   You already know why.  You’ve heard it a hundred times before.


 I believe there is a basic truth about all humans:  we all do what we WANT to do.  No matter what the situation or circumstance, people will do what they want to do.

Now, it’s correct that having a gun to your temple will drastically affect what you want.  But, once the gun is gone, you will revert to pursuing a course of action that fulfills your wants.

Many years ago, I was a motivational speaker for Weight Watchers.   I would frequently see people (most frequently females) join because of their dire need to lose weight in preparation for: a wedding, a class reunion, or the event-of-the-day – you name it.

These folks could lose 50 pounds or more as they fanatically deprived themselves of nourishment.   When I’d see those same folks six months later, all of the weight was back – and more.

At the age of 40 I was obese – seriously overweight to the point where it threatened my life.   Then, I lost nearly 100 pounds.   It’s been gone ever since.  I learned early on that long term behavior modification would occur only when I was getting something that I wanted more than food.

I didn’t want to diet.  I’ve never met anyone who did.   People feel forced into it, but no one truly wants to deprive themselves of food that they like.  I found a way to deal with it.   I decided that I didn’t want to lose weight.  What I really wanted was to be lean.  (Not skinny, but muscular and lean)  And, I could continue to want to be lean no matter what my weight, nor how many years passed.  I still want that today.

Tactic #1 – Decide what you really, truly want regarding fitness.   It’s not a choice for anyone else, just you.   You needn’t tell anyone else.  It’s a private matter just for you.  Telling others what you want may cause you to make a choice based on what you “should” want rather than what would really please you.

I remember deciding early on in my weight loss program that I wanted to go on vacation the next summer and be able to draw an admiring glance from women at the pool when I took off my shirt.   Needless to say, I didn’t share that desire with my wife.  But, it kept me going for many months of tough dieting and workouts in the gym.

Tactic #2 – Think ahead.  At the beginning of most weeks and certainly at the beginning of each day, I try to identify anything that is going to alter my normal eating plan.  It could be Thanksgiving Dinner, a wedding, a beer brawl, going to Police Week in D.C. – whatever.   Consider how you will adjust and compensate for what you will be doing.

Changes shouldn’t be severe or radical.  Simple course adjustments will work wonders.  Example:  Did you realize that ONE donut eaten (or skipped) daily will account for 52 pounds of body fat gained (or lost) at the end of the year?   Just one donut.

Tactic #3 – Never be caught without food close at hand.   When I’m working in patrol, I make sure that I have a couple of energy bars in my duty bag.  If I’m preparing for a bodybuilding contest, I have a cooler in the trunk with a range of food choices and drinks.  I won’t allow myself to be caught at a scene without food.

The reality is that you’re likely to do the most damage to your eating plan when you allow yourself to become too hungry.  Try to eat something every couple of hours – even if it’s just a piece of fruit or small package of peanuts.

Tactic #4 – Be a bastard about getting your food.   When it’s time to eat; it’s time to eat.  Make it clear to those in your life that there are some things in life that do not allow compromise.  For you, food is one of them.  Be as serious as a heart attack about it.

I had a partner once who chided my demands for food.   “Can’t you skip lunch, just this once?” he asked.  I responded in a very direct manner:  “the next time you need to use the rest room, let’s just plan on you waiting for six or eight hours …. How about we do that?”  Point made.

Tactic #5 – Make sure you choose food; don’t let food choose you.   Have you ever been to a wedding where long after the meal, you were given a piece of wedding cake?  You probably ate it.  Why would you do THAT?  Most wedding cake is terrible.   There is nothing worse than gaining weight from food that you didn’t want, didn’t like, or can’t remember.

When you go to the movie theatre right after dinner, you find yourself at the concession stand buying popcorn.  You’re not hungry.  You don’t really want it.  But, you’ve just got to have it.   That’s called situational eating.   Avoid this like the plague.

One of the rules I learned at Weight Watchers:   never eat food that is round, never eat food from a paper bag, and NEVER eat food that is handed to you through a car window.   These are words to live by, indeed.

Tactic #6 – Don’t be bullied into being fat.  I recall working with a senior officer on a midnight shift while I was in the final stages of preparation for a bodybuilding contest.  We went to a restaurant where I ordered grilled chicken breasts, a salad with just vinegar as the dressing, and I provided a container of rice for them to warm and serve as the carbohydrate with the meal.   My partner thought I’d gone goofy for carrying in my own rice.

Now this guy was far from lean.  He had no room to criticize me, I figured.

A short while later, this same guy was leading a meeting that I attended.   He made a point of recounting the story of our meal and my rice.  The entire group laughed.  That is until I announced that I was wearing a pair of Levis with a 29” waist and asked what size his were.

Nuff” said.


 When you go to the bar, remember that regular beer has 160 calories; light beer has only 100.  With Lite Beer, you get 3 for the price of 2.  Drink slowly.   Alternate alcoholic drinks with a diet Coke or water.  Hard liquor is generally very high in calories, i.e. vodka has 180 calories per ounce.

Don’t make yourself nuts over this.  But have a general knowledge of the kinds of foods you want to eat a lot of and those that you should shy away from.

Enjoy the foods you want IN MODERATION.   If you want potato chips, pour some into a bowl.  When the bowl is empty, you’re done.   Never, never, never eat chips from a bag.  Otherwise, how would you ever stay aware of how much you’ve eaten?

Until you get a handle on it, don’t eat in front of the TV.  Pay attention to what you’re eating when you’re eating.  Eat slowly and continue until the hunger subsides.  Don’t eat until you’re full, just to the point where you’re not hungry anymore.  There’s a huge difference.

Is chocolate your thing?  Six Hershey Kisses are an ounce – 160 calories.   Put six into small baggies and throw them into the freezer.  When you’re really needing something sweet take out ONE bag and eat it.

Satisfying your mouth doesn’t require a dump-truck full of food.  Remember that.

If you have any specific questions that I can answer, feel free to email me at:   And, take care of yourself!

 Remember:  At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.


From the CopBlue Vault.