It was the battle of the badge bulge.
That’s how 20 Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies came to spend 2 1/2 months competing to see who could lose the most weight by eating more healthful foods and exercising.
A team of 10 female deputies competed against 10 men in a contest co-sponsored by the Sheriff’s Department and a commercial weight-loss program. In all, 638 pounds had disappeared when the final weigh-in was conducted Wednesday at the sheriff’s headquarters in Monterey Park.
The beefier men lost the most weight: 384 pounds. The women shed 254 pounds.
“I found my neck,” the big winner, Lt. Chris Blasnek, said with a laugh. “My greatest fear now is that I’ll lose my pants.”
Blasnek, who lost 50 pounds, said he signed up for the contest after realizing that his sheriff’s academy class’ 30th anniversary — which he was scheduled to emcee — was approaching. At a hefty 270 pounds, he worried that he would cut quite the figure as he stood at the podium.
After dropping to 220 pounds, “I felt very comfortable standing up there,” he said.
Blasnek explained that his tactic was to eat right and exercise nightly: “I ate small portions six times a day. It changed my life.”
His goal now is to keep the weight off. “I’m happy where I’m at. I want to maintain it. I’ve worked too hard not to keep what I’ve done,” he said.
Leading the females was Deputy Pearl Cruz, who works at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic. She slimmed down from 208 pounds to 165.
“The opportunity to participate was a blessing,” Cruz said. “I’ve changed the way I’m eating.”
Noticing that onlookers at the final weigh-in were eying her heavy Sam Browne utility belt carrying her weapon, extra bullets, handcuffs and other gear, Cruz pointed out that competitors unbuckled them before stepping on the scale.
Cynthia Stamper Graff, president and CEO of the weight-loss company Lindora, presented the male deputies with a Healthy Heroes trophy. Although her firm has helped sponsor weight-loss competitions for police officers in Santa Ana and Anaheim and with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, this contest was the first in Los Angeles County.
She noted that law enforcement officers’ jobs put a lot of stress on them and “it’s common for people to ease their stress by eating.” She said the deputies had lost a combined total of 104 inches from their waistlines, or about 5 inches each.
“I see a lot of pants have been taken in,” she told a crowd watching the brief awards ceremony. “I’d like you to meet the leaner, not meaner, members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.”
Sheriff Lee Baca attended the event and noted afterward that those whose uniforms have suddenly turned baggy will have an opportunity to buy smaller sizes.
“They get our $1,500 annual uniform allowance,” said Baca — who himself is a thin 150 pounds. And the timing of the uniform stipend is perfect: “It comes every December,” he said.