TIRED OF THE DONUT JOKES, EH …
I recently received an email message from a reader. It started, “I’ve been out of the academy for about a year, and my eating habits are in the tank.” 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. OK, I’ll take a shot at it. Hang on tight, ’cause this won’t be boring.
THIS MAY SOUND FAMILIAR …
The guys on your crew are going out for a few Barley Pops after the shift on a regular basis. You don’t want to miss out. You want to be part of the group – especially if you’re a rook. Your gut tells you that it’s happening a bit too much, but you don’t know what to do.
You are working a shift (usually nights) that most times keep 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 nightmare that you will regret, later.
Your partner (or worse, your FTO) has terrible eating habits. He thinks that the best meals are the ones which are free. His waistline may tolerate that junk, but yours is growing faster than the stock market.
In recent foot pursuits, you’ve noticed 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. You might even be getting to work early so that no one will see what you go through to put on your gun belt.
WHAT’S GOING ON???
You have acquired the dreaded ‘beer belly:’
- The seat in your patrol car is pushed back as far as it will go to accommodate your new gut.
- It’s an effort to see if your boots need to be shined.
- You have to feel for the magazines on your duty belt to make certain they 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.
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IS THERE A SHORTCUT TO GETTING IN SHAPE?
I believe there is a basic truth about all humans: we 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 doing what you want to do.
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 du jour.
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, or 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” desire 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 some 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 take a piss, let’s just plan on you waiting for six hours, or so. How about we do that?” Point made.
Now, I’m going to boil this down to a short list so it’s easy to remember. You can put a printed copy of the list inside your CLIPBOARD. They are simple, very direct and straight to the point.
Think about each one and if you want to be lean, you will want to use them.
- Eat when you are hungry.
- Don’t eat when you are not hungry.
- Put your food in a bowl, or on a plate. That is so you can see exactly how much food you will be eating.
- When you eat, sit at a table. Do nothing else but eat. Avoid: TV, newspaper or other distractions.
- Never eat food from a bag.
- Never eat food that is round.
- Never eat a portion of food that was started by someone else.
- Never eat food that was handed to you through a car window.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are eating something which you know should be avoided, don’t beat yourself up over it. Savor each mouthful. Enjoy it. Smile as it goes to your stomach. Mark it up as a treat.
When you are finished, put it behind you and move on.
Remember: every time your hand comes to your mouth with food, it is a decision. If your lunch consisted of potato chips and a cupcake, mark it down in your journal.
Then, decide you will do better at dinner.
If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. And, take care of yourself!
Remember: At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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Thank you for taking the time to read this message and allowing me to share this touching story with you. I can be contacted with questions or input: EMAIL ME.