BENWOOD - Benwood Police Chief Frank Longwell has "walked" the beat during nearly 30 years in law enforcement, but now he also runs the treadmill most days as he seeks to shed pounds accumulated during his career.
Longwell - who turned 50 on Dec. 27 - has lost 67 pounds in the past three years. He reports his current weight at about 340 pounds, and his goal is to lose another 40 pounds this year to make his target weight of 300.
Longwell stands 6-feet, 1-inch tall.
Benwood Police Chief Frank Longwell works out at the Ryan Ferns Healthplex in Benwood.
"I feel great," he said. "I can get on the treadmill and run 3 miles. Before I started, it was a chore to even walk on the treadmill."
Longwell said he was inspired to start losing weight three years ago during treatment for a heart rhythm disorder. At the time, he weighed 407 pounds. Longwell said doctors told him then he needed to get his weight under control, or that he would face "serious health trouble down the road."
Longwell said he works out at least four nights a week. He said his vital signs have improved 50 percent since he started his diet and exercise routine, and his waist size has dropped from 54 inches to 44 inches.
He said he does plan to eat more green vegetables in the coming months, but added food portion size has actually been a more contributing factor to his weight gain than "eating junk."
"I've eaten healthy, but I've always eaten too much," Longwell said. "I've always said if I could eat one Domino's pizza, I could eat two. But two Domino's pizzas (at a time) is a problem. You can't do that."
Longwell described himself as someone who has always "been active." He grew up on a farm, and as a student at John Marshall High School in the early 1980s he played football and was a state wrestling champion in the 210-pound weight class.
"I've always had great strength," he said. "I bench pressed 425 pounds when I was in high school. It's just the overeating and the lack of cardio (exercise) caught up with me."
Longwell said he grew up in an Italian family where his grandparents encouraged him to eat everything on his plate, and he consequently developed a ravenous appetite. They would tell the rest of the family to "eat all of your food, and if you can't give it to Frankie Joe - he'll eat it."
"Bad eating habits are formed in youth, and obesity starts when you are young," Longwell said. "Then the heavier you get, the harder it is to get rid of what accumulates."
And Longwell has realized today's officers need to be both meaner and leaner.
"When I was a younger cop, I noticed many of my colleagues didn't make it over age 70," Longwell said. "They did a lot of smoking and drinking, and they didn't get much exercise. Sometimes this can be a pretty sedentary job. Overall, they had bad health."
But law enforcement agents now often look past the doughnuts and opt for more healthy fare, he continued.
"Younger officers are smarter today," Longwell said. "They rarely smoke or drink alcohol, and they stay away from the sweets. They exercise more. It's turned around the industry. Police officers today are much more health-minded, and they will live longer."
He added he really doesn't eat sweets, but has a passion for food rich in carbohydrates - such as pasta and bread.
"I really haven't eaten any food I didn't like," Longwell said. "I like Italian dishes ... Chinese food .... I really like steaks. It's all good."