DULUTH, Minn. --Duluth's Thin Blue Line has gotten a lot thinner.
Forty officers and support staff assigned to the Duluth Police Department challenged themselves to lose weight and get healthier.
They started exercising more and thinking about what they should be eating. Some of them replaced potatoes, rice and bread with fruits, vegetables and lean meats.
But what about those stereotypical cop doughnuts? Lincoln Park Community Police Officer Jim Hansen wouldn't even eat a hamburger bun, let alone a sweetened one.
Some officers exercised twice a day.
The results were dramatic for some.
Those who took part in the 3 1/2 -month Thinner Blue Line competition, monitored by the Duluth Family Practice Center, lost a total of 544.8 pounds and more than 60 inches from their waists.
Eastern Duluth Patrol Officer Michelle Rafferty slimly won the contest by lowering her weight from 178.4 pounds to 137.2, a23.09 percent loss in her weight. Her waist dropped from 37 to 29 inches.
Hansen finished close behind. He lost57 pounds and six inches from his waist, a 23.01 percent total loss from his previous weight of 246 pounds.
Rafferty, 39, said her goal was to drop15 pounds, but "then it got a little competitive," she said.
What did she quit eating? "Just about everything I ate before," she said.
She removed starchy foods from her diet and ate mainly meat and eggs. No sweets, no sugar. "No naughty food," she said.
She worked out five or six times a week on an elliptical trainer, a stationary exercise machine used to simulate walking or running. She also lifted free weights.
The 17-year police officer, who still plays goalie in women's amateur hockey, said this is the best she has felt since her high school and college days when she played several sports. She hasn't weighed this little since junior high.
"I pushed harder than I intended on pushing, but I have a lot more energy, a lot less aches and pains," Rafferty said.
Hansen, a 22-year police officer, worked out seven days a week and played with the local law enforcement hockey team during the weight-loss program. He cut back on his pizza eating and he gave up ice cream, two of his favorites. He drank a couple protein shakes a day and really went to work on an exercise program. He spent 45 minutes twice a day on the elliptical machine and lifted free weights.
"It's like night and day, a 100 percent difference" Hansen said. "I have a lot more energy, a lot more focus. You don't feel nearly as lethargic. My energy level has been through the roof."
Hansen lost 16 pounds in just the last two weeks. "I went as hard as I could to see if I could win it," he said. "It was kind of like making weight for wrestling."
Hansen said the program created camaraderie among his fellow officers and staff. "There were 40 some people in the department who were doing it at the same time as you, so you were always bumping into other people who were working out and they were making gains, too," he said.
Police Chief Gordon Ramsay lost 7 pounds while taking part in the program.
The weight-loss project was the brain-child of Investigators Chad Nagorski and Nick Lukovsky, both of whom are Duluth police officers assigned to the Lake Superior Drug and Gang Task Force, and Investigator Tony Radloff of the Family Crimes Unit.
"The thing that makes me the happiest is all the cops that completed the program and said, 'Thanks, you've probably added years to my life for starting this program,'" Nagorski said. "They are the ones that put in the effort. They should be proud of themselves."
Patti Urbanski, nutrition and diabetes specialist with the Duluth Family Practice Center, agrees.
"I was very impressed, especially when you consider these are people who work long hours, different work shifts and a number travel out of town a lot to attend special training meetings, and they were still able to work on making diet and activity changes," she said.
Urbanski put together the program the police department followed. She monitored the participants' weight, blood fat and blood glucose levels throughout the 16-week program. She said the people who completed the program significantly improved their health.
Canal Park and Park Point Community Police Officer Mike Tinsley, 31, called his weight-loss "a life-changing experience." He dropped 46 1/2 pounds.
"I haven't weighed this since I was under 18 years old," he said. "I feel healthier and the way it was set up makes you feel better about yourself. I've been worried about my cholesterol and I was able to lower that."
How did Rafferty, Hansen and Tinsley celebrate their weight-loss accomplishments?
They went to the Dairy Queen for blizzards.
"I did make it small," Tinsley said.
MARK STODGHILL covers public safety and courts. He can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5333 or by e-mail at email@example.com.