Up until January, the kitchen had always played a more important role than the small, dilapidated weight room for Daly City firefighters.
Firefighter Nick Gracia said the environment of the firehouse is circled around food. Firefighters cook dinner every day, but the meals often lead to overeating. The habit led to firefighter Pat Svoboda gaining 42 pounds since he started working in the department 10 years ago.
“We have a lot of good cooks, and we make too much,” said Svoboda, 39. “We usually eat fast because you never know when something can come up, so before you even realize it, you are over-full.”
But the unhealthy habits may be a thing of the past after 20 firefighters recently shed about 250 pounds collectively after starting a weight-loss competition to fight off the pounds accumulated on the job.
Gracia, who exercises regularly and follows the latest fitness trends, started the 12-week competition in January in order to promote healthy habits at the firehouse.
“I wanted to help the guys who were needy in that region,” said Gracia, 31. “When you’re busy in life, you lose sight of the priority of health. Our job can put stresses on the body, so staying fit is something that’s important.”
Svoboda is the department’s biggest loser of weight: He went from weighing 242 pounds in January down to 192 pounds this week. Second place in the competition went to John Corbit, who lost 35 pounds.
“I thought the competition was a good idea,” said Svoboda, who has three children. “I wanted to do it for a while, but I didn’t have enough motivation — this was a perfect opportunity for me to get motivated.”
In order to shed 50 pounds, Svoboda stayed away from carbohydrates, ate lots of vegetables and exercised three to four times during his 24-hour shift, jogging or using the department’s old Stairmaster.
“Guys couldn’t believe how much weight I lost in such a short amount of time,” he said. “My goal now is to keep it off.”
Gracia said he plans to continue encouraging his colleagues to exercise and eat healthy, and although he may repeat the contest in a couple of years, his goal is that he wouldn’t have to.