This article ran in Weight Watchers Magazine.
By Betsy Thaggard
Giving the shirt off one's back is considered a sign of true generosity. Royal Canadian Mountie Mike Fletcher decided to shed a bit more: To benefit a camp for handicapped children -- and to better his health -- he lost nearly 150 pounds and raised thousands of dollars in the process.
This unusual form of benevolence was instigated by members of the Blue Knights, a 7,500-member motorcycle club for law enforcement officers, with chapters in Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia. As the organization's highly visible international president, Mike -- all 336 pounds of him -- commanded a lot of attention, but when fellow members voiced their concems about his health, he finally took note.
In order to help the Mountie slim down, 40 Blue Knights chapters placed a bet with Mike: For every pound he shed, each group would donate one dollar to the charity of his choice. To meet the challenge, Mike joined Weight Watchers in March 1986. Determination -- to stay on his food plan, win the bet and raise money -- paid off. With a twinkle in his blue eyes, Mike concludes, "After six months, we ended the challenge at 125 pounds. We shocked everyone!"
The take, $5,000 Canadian (equivalent to $4,300 U.S.), went to the McKay Center, a camp for handicapped children near Montreal, and to a fund for the families of disabled and deceased Blue Knights. Needless to say, Weight Watchers was equally proud of Mike's feat, and in April 1988, they named him the 1987-88 Canadian Member of the Year.
"Eating on the run, bad eating habits, really built up over the years," he admits with a grimace. "Although the RCMP have strict weight regulations, they turned a blind eye to my growing problem because I could infiltrate so many groups they had never been able to touch before. Because of my appearance, I didn't have to work as hard to convince people I wasn't a cop."
As extra pounds piled on, Mike devoted less free time to his favorite sports, hockey and baseball, and limited his social activities to Blue Knights functions. "I'd shy away from any situation where I'd have to meet new people, especially if I'd be identified with the RCMP, because I didn't fit the Hollywood image," says Mike. Still, he always found time for his favorite cause, the children at the McKay Center.
"Most nights I was the only man weighing in and staying for the meeting. Plus, I was the heaviest one there." The women encouraged Mike, however, and he learned a valuable lesson: "I think the problem with men is that we're so stupid in regard to that 'macho' image. We wait too long to admit we have a problem."
Mike forgot the "macho" and formed a game plan, aided by friends and family. Younger sister Lynn, who lives with Mike, joined the spirit of the challenge by agreeing to eat the same meals her brother fixed for himself. Friends stocked up with diet soda and low-calorie snacks when Mike was due to visit. On the job, when long hours of surveillance prevented a healthy, sit-down meal, Mike turned the nearest grocery store into his own fast-food haven, stocking up on apples, celery and other fresh, crunchy snacks.
The motorcycle club also cheered him on in the form of good-natured ribbing. "The guys would say, 'Come on, eat some more, have a beer. We've gotta put some weight on you, or you're gonna break us!' They were really very supportive. A couple of people even showed up when I weighed in in Oklahoma and Arizona during my 1986 vacation!" says Mike. And when the Mountie found his resolution waning, he simply had to remember the reason for the wager. "When I felt bored or fed up with the bet, I'd think,'l can't quit, the kids are counting on me,' because they knew about it, too."
Fortunately, all the hard work and coaxing paid off. Just six months after he joined Weight Watchers, Mike reached his goal of 190 pounds. The following summer, the Blue Knights' local chapter rode their motorcycles to the McKay Center to present the ecstatic campers with beach equipment, life jackets, canoes, tents, cooking utensils and a stereo. But Mike's fun didn't end there. Two months later, he was named Quebec's Weight Watchers Member of the Year and was sent to represent the province in a three-day national competition in Vancouver.
"There were 10 contestants from across Canada participating," Mike recalls. "When they announced the other man in the group the runner-up, I thought, 'There's no way two men are going to win, but at least I'm having a good time.' When they announced I had won, it took a while to sink in!"
Mike was awarded a trip to New York City, a cruise on the luxury oceanliner QE2 and a trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, to attend the United States Weight Watchers competition. There, he met another Weight Watchers member, Cindy Roche, from South Portland, Maine, and they recently announced their engagement.
Despite all the hoopla, Mike is managing to take success in stride. Since the competition, he has maintained his weight by eating right, playing hockey and baseball and "walking everywhere." According to sister Lynn, "He's more active and more confident about himself now, and he's always in a good mood."
As the world sees less of Mike Fletcher, they also see more of him. "I've become more involved in giving drug information lectures, campaigning for the United Way and the Telethon of the Stars. I even volunteer for special assignments where I have to wear my uniform," he exclaims. And when asked for advice about Weight Watchers, he's quick to say, "Where else can you go and be the only man among 60 or 70 women who are looking better every week?"
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