Marysville Police Officer's commitment to healthy lifestyle inspires others

MARYSVILLE — Three years ago, Dave Vasconi was so morbidly obese that he could hardly get out of bed in the morning.

“It was December of 2007 when I strained my lower back just from getting up,” said Vasconi, the community service officer for the Marysville Police Department. “I couldn’t even get my leg into my vehicle.”

Vasconi knew that he’d packed on the pounds over the years, but a visit to the doctor underscored the scope of his weight gain.

“I found out that I weighed 408 pounds,” said Vasconi, who stands 6 feet, 3 inches tall. “I’d always felt that I carried it well before, but it was such a gradual process that my mind didn’t grasp how big I’d gotten. To my mind, I still saw the same face in the mirror every day.”

Vasconi is a former college athlete with a 20-year career in law enforcement, the past 15 years of which he’s served in the Marysville Police Department. He’d gained and lost weight several times before, often as much as 100 pounds at a time, but he’d managed to stay in relatively good shape before his diet and a number of other health-related lifestyle choices finally caught up with him.

“I took the next week off and just contemplated my life,” Vasconi said. “I wondered, if I’d already gained this much weight after this many years, how much more would I weigh next year, or the year after that?”

Vasconi responded to this dramatic realization with a relatively simple first step, by resolving to eat healthier.

“It wasn’t even about losing weight at first,” Vasconi said. “I just wanted to feel better.”

Vasconi nonetheless dropped 23 pounds in the first month of his new diet, and while his record of yo-yo dieting in the past had discouraged him from setting overly ambitious goals, he was surprised to realize that he’d stuck with his diet after six months, not long after Marysville Police Chief Rick Smith had noticed visible changes in Vasconi’s appearance.

“It wasn’t Slim-Fast or Nutrisystem,” Vasconi said. “I just changed my eating habits and took the time to exercise. I started by walking short distances, and the more weight I lost, the further I felt like walking each time. Like most cops, I’m a realist, so I wasn’t even trying to establish a long-term goal.”

But as Vasconi gradually augmented his regimen with cautiously paced routines of cardio and weightlifting, he made up his mind that he would lose 100 pounds within the first year of his new lifestyle. He met that mark in December of 2008, three weeks early. Vasconi thanked the rest of the Marysville Police Department, including Smith, for supporting his efforts.

“He doesn’t like to talk about it, but he’s an ex-professional baseball player,” Vasconi said, drawing laughter from Smith. “He’s knowledgeable about fitness, so he was able to coach me along.”

In turn, Smith credited Vasconi with helping him lose 30 pounds in 2009 in preparation for the Lake Stevens Ironman Triathlon.

“Dave gives as good as he gets,” Smith said. “There was no change in his temperament as he lost the weight. He was never irritable or frustrated. In fact, he had this glow about him, and it was infectious.”

Today, Vasconi weighs 250 pounds and wears a size 40 waist in his pants, down from his former girth of 58 inches. After losing 158 pounds, he’s hoping to qualify for surgery to trim the excess skin that now hangs loose from parts of his body, which he estimates could drop another 20 pounds from his frame.

“I’ll never forget the day I donated three garbage bags full of my old fat clothes to the Goodwill and bought myself a whole new wardrobe,” Vasconi said. “My doctor told me I’d gained 20 years on my life. Those are years that you can grow old with your spouse.”

Vasconi has written a book detailing his journey toward better health, and only the final chapter and the title remain unwritten.

“When I first got to this police department in 2000, Dave was this mountain of a man,” Smith said. “He was very gregarious and outgoing. Now, he’s not quite a mountain anymore, but he’s still a big guy, because that personality has remained. I am so proud of Dave for serving as an example and a standard-bearer for this whole department.”

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