Cop Sheds The Pounds

Three months ago, The Early Show's weatherman Dave Price shared the story of his battle with obesity, and how he is now half the man he used to be.

Thousands of viewers wrote The Early Show afterwards, telling stories about their own struggles with weight.

This week, some of those letters will be shared with the rest of America.

One letter was from Ventura, Calif. It says:

"Dear Dave,

I've been a police officer in southern California for 17 years, and when you're out in the public in uniform you stand out -- especially if you're 321 pounds."

It's the kind of image you always see in the movies or on television -- the portly police officer. But if you're a real-life cop, there's nothing funny about being fat.

Mark Stadler is a sergeant with the Ventura, Calif. police department. He's fought with drug dealers, gang members and one very nasty weight problem.

"I've been a big guy my entire life," says Stadler.

The sergeant was always the size of a football player. But life as a cop can be brutal, and Stadler had more than his share of stress. He was even featured in a 1991 episode of the show "Top Cops," which was about how he was forced to shoot a violent suspect. As Stadler's stress level increased, so did his appetite.

"My eating was a problem," Stadler admits. "It was a distraction. All I was thinking about was 'Where am I going to get my next meal?'"

Last October, Stadler tipped the scales at 321 pounds. And, it made his job even more dangerous. There were days he couldn't fasten the seatbelt in his police cruiser or squeeze into his bulletproof vest.

Stadler notes, "I always dreaded the chance that I might have to chase after somebody."

In all other respects, Stadler was a top officer. But his weight threatened his career and his life.

"Emotionally, I was in a bad place," he says. "I stopped looking toward the future."

Stadler was ready for a new life. His first move was to start moving. Stadler used to patrol from behind the wheel. But these days, he's spending a lot more time on his feet.

"I love getting out and walking on the street now," says Stadler. "Before, it was something that was part of the job. But now, I enjoy getting out and walking around."

Stadler discovered something that Dave Price says he found out years ago: "That exercise really made all the difference. It's a simple equation: calories in, calories burned. When I started walking, the pounds started to come off. And the same thing worked for Mark Stadler."

Besides the exercise, Stadler has taught himself to eat healthier every day.

"The biggest change...in all my meals, is the size of my meals," says Stadler. "They're a lot smaller than they used to be. And I eat more frequently than I used to."

So now, after eight months, Mark Stadler has a new life. The equipment doesn't weigh him down any more. And, he has no problem getting into his bulletproof vest. Currently, he's lost more than 100 pounds.

"In retrospect, it's something I'm not proud of. And I'm glad I finally got to the point where I had enough and I made the changes. This will be the first summer in 17 years when I'll be comfortable going to the beach and taking my shirt off."

And there are some other perks as well. His daughter says she can now wrap her arms around her father for a hug. For Stadler, that could be the biggest benefit of all.

"I've got a lot to look forward to," says Stadler.

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