...there is a whole lot of leading by example that needs to be done when we decide to accept a position of leadership.
I was in denial. After attending workshops, sitting in discussions, and hearing the stories of wellness from others, I thought I could preach about and fully support officer wellness concepts without being well myself.
As it turns out, there is a whole lot of leading by example that needs to be done when we decide to accept a position of leadership. I know, I know. This is a shocking concept and one with which I am still coming to grips. My life needed to change and that change had to be a personal decision. There is no such thing as “forced” wellness. No one can buy into that. I will explain.
When I started my career in 1997, I was 19-years-old and weighed 190 lbs. Not long after completing the academy, I began packing on the pounds. My facility had a full-service, staff-dining hall that was an all-you-can-eat at a very reasonable cost. The dining ticket included a full hot meal, soup of the day, salad bar, dessert counter, full soda fountain—and did I mention dessert counter? I took full advantage of that benefit, and it was not long for me to balloon to more than 300 lbs.
In fact, in 2008, I recall participating in our agency’s mandatory physical assessment test (PAT) where I weighed in at 302 lbs.
I personally never took the PAT seriously. I know many co-workers felt the same. That year I was a new sergeant leading a squad where some of my officers outweighed me. I guess I thought I was doing pretty well comparatively. No, I was suffering from early on-set denial and excuses.
In June 2010, I was hired at my current agency, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, as a lieutenant. Although I had lost some weight, I was still in bad shape at 282 lbs. This is where the yo-yo factor came into play for me. By November of 2010, I had lost nearly 50 lbs, getting down to 236 lbs. Over the next decade, I bounced between the 230s and 270s constantly struggling, getting angrier and angrier with myself—and feeling worse each time the weight came back on.
For Father’s Day in 2018, my wife and daughter arranged for me to attend a training event in Texas. I lost 30 lbs over 3 months (down to 238 lbs) to attend that training, swearing to myself that I would never put the weight back on. By the time I was sworn in as the newest AJA Board member in early 2021, I was back to 258 lbs.
Currently, a push for wellness is in full effect at my agency. In September 2021, Sheriff Nienhuis issued a voluntary weight loss challenge to all members of the sheriff’s office. Officially kicked off on October 1, 2021, the weight loss challenge is scheduled to end July 1, 2022. I admit I had no intentions on participating in this challenge. As a member of the command staff, I knew that I should lead by example and participate.
However, I was nervous about participating, knowing how poorly I was feeling. During the summer of 2021, I was told by a neurosurgeon that I needed major back surgery due to multiple herniated discs. I was miserable and in constant pain. I had not stood on a scale in a long time. When I saw that I was back up to 266 lbs, I was disgusted. I knew it was time to join the weight loss challenge.
I decided to change my habits. On September 20, 2021, I removed bread, pasta, and sugar from diet. I limited my daily caloric intake to 1,700 calories. I also started to drink one gallon of water per day. As a challenge to myself, I participated in the weight loss competition.
By the time the agency-wide competition began, I had already lost 12 lbs. As of this writing, I weigh 226 lbs, officially down 40 lbs. I have not been in the 220 weight range since the very early 2000s. My back pain is gone, as well as the knee pain I was trying to ignore. My weight loss has also eliminated my snoring, so my wife and I are both sleeping much better.
I hope to reach my goal weight of 199 lbs by the time we are in Long Beach, California for AJA’s 41st Conference & Jail Expo. It may be a long shot, so you need to attend the conference to see if I make it!
Personal wellness is a choice that really cannot be forced on an individual. However, I can tell you this: My improved physical health has greatly improved my mental well-being. With that said, if you are looking for a challenge to improve upon your physical health…catch me if you can!
Shaun Klucznik, CJM, is the Jail Administrator at the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office in Hernando County, Florida. He currently holds the rank of major and has 25 years of experience in the field. He is a member of the AJA Board of Directors. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.