Those worried about their waistlines now that holiday eating is again upon us might heed what has happened with the Kansas University Public Safety Office.
KU has trimmed its police force - by cutting calories, not the budget.
In the midst of a nine-month regimen, nine police officers have shed a combined 482 pounds. That's an average of more than 53 pounds apiece.
"We look at it in terms of losing an officer," Sgt. James Anguiano said of the collective weight loss equaling "two good-sized officers."
Gone for KU police are the days of multiple trips to fast-food restaurants and huffing and puffing up the campus' many stairs. Even the lunchroom conversation has changed, said Detective Jeff Neavitt, who dropped about 50 pounds.
The officers used to talk about sports and news events. Now they share recipes and expound on the benefits of fajita seasoning.
"I think I found 101 different ways to cook chicken breast," said Anguiano, who lost about 75 pounds.
The officers started in June with the program sponsored by KU's Weight Control Research Project at the Energy Balance Lab.
They have surpassed expectations, said Elizabeth Stewart, a post-doctoral researcher at the Energy Balance Lab.
"They are going gangbusters," she said.
Stewart said police face challenges to a healthy lifestyle: stress, odd hours for some shifts, stretches of boredom along with intense moments.
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway lauded the officers' feats. He's been through the same program, he said, and he knows how difficult it can be.
"We think it's very important to have a police force that's physically fit," Hemenway said.
The program is relatively simple. No starving. No unusual restrictions.
The officers started with a three-month weight-loss phase.
They estimated each of their old selves consumed 3,000 calories a day. The weight-loss phase dropped that to about 1,200 calories. They ate entrees and shakes provided by the lab and added at least five fruits and vegetables a day.
The meal replacements are a simple way to teach portion control, Stewart said.
The weight-loss period was followed by a six-month "maintenance phase" where they learned to control their weight. Many of the officers are continuing to lose weight in this phase.
Neavitt said he'd dieted before but always put the weight back on. He's hoping this plan will stick.
"This has been a lot easier to do than the other diets I've had," he said.
The officers point to several factors for the success: structure, support, ease, information and accountability.
The plan offered structure. And the officers leaned on each other. Sure, they teased one another - sending e-mails with tempting images of food or setting a cup of candy on a dieter's desk. But they also supported one another.
The diet also educated the officers about how to lose the weight and keep it off, they said.
"It was tough, but I knew that I wanted a reward," Anguiano said. "I wanted to look better, feel better, and do things that I hadn't been able to do for years."
The effort has enabled the officers to better do their jobs.
Officer Zeke Cunningham, who lost 104 pounds, had to chase after students who collapsed a goal post at a recent football game.
In the past, he may not have been able to keep up with them, but this time he could.
"I followed right behind them," he said.
Want to participate?
The program that the officers are going through is being offered again in Lawrence this January and in February.
For information, call program assistant Rachel Martin at 331-4681, or send e-mail to: email@example.com.
Participants must be between the ages of 19 and 50, with a Body Mass Index of 30 to 40 and not taking medications that alter metabolism. The lab is especially looking for more men. The lab screens everyone who calls and contacts them when they qualify for any new studies as they take place.