Success Story: the Shrinking Mayor of San Diego

Jerry sanders_rotator

Hometown: San Diego, California
Age: 61
Height: 5’10”
Weight Before: 276 lbs.
Weight After: 182 lbs.

Like many, stress was the driving force behind Jerry Sanders ballooning to 276 pounds, but not the kind of stress most of us face—Sanders has been the mayor of San Diego since 2005. “I was a Chief of Police here, and then was the CEO of the United Way of San Diego for a while, and then I took over the Red Cross,” he says of his storied career before he took office. “Then when I ran for Mayor, [the weight] just kind of snuck up on me,” he admits.

While he says his health was fine, his body was feeling the ill effects of carrying around so much extra weight. “Your knees hurt and your hips hurt,” he says. “My blood pressure was pretty high, my cholesterol was pretty high.”

Still, it wasn’t a profound epiphany that made him take action, “It was just a realization that I was going to be turning 60 pretty soon and I felt that if I didn’t get on top of it right then, I wasn’t going to get on top of it,” he explains. “I just wasn’t willing to not do that.”



“This has been gradual. Weight doesn’t come on all of a sudden, and it doesn’t go off all of a sudden, so there’s no magic way to do it. It’s just hard work and sticking to it.”

He didn’t turn to intense training and cardio to shed 94 pounds and whittle his body down to a 182-pound frame—the same weight he was when he started the Police Academy in 1973—he simply started walking. “I really wasn’t interested in running—I used to run—I just figured it would be pretty hard on my joints, so I started walking.” But we’re not talking casual strolls in the park here. “At first my goal was 50 miles a week, and then pretty soon, I was up to 70 miles a week.”

But the walking meant nothing until he addressed his biggest weakness: Mexican food. “I thought that health food was ice cream and Mexican food,” he laughs. “I don’t eat Mexican food anymore and I don’t eat a lot of carbohydrates, although I’m not really on a diet. I’m just more careful about what I’m eating. I’m not eating nearly as much and I don’t eat any sweets at all.” Like so many others struggling to stick to a fitness plan, he agrees that staying on top of his diet is tough. “That’s probably one of the things that’s been the hardest … especially living in San Diego where you’ve got Mexican food places on every block.”

With all the lifestyle changes, the pounds didn’t really start to come off until his trainer, whom he works with twice a week, started making him take accountability for his progress. “He thought I was working out hard, but I wasn’t losing weight fast enough, so he started weighing me every Friday and that’s what turned the table.”

And he hasn’t lost any momentum. He says, “I’m still maintaining the 70 miles a week walking, and then working out with a trainer twice a week, and then just doing sit-ups and push-ups at night.” It’s a miracle he sticks to this regimen—his weekend 20-mile walks take six hours—considering his schedule is jam packed with mayoral obligations, but he makes use of every minute of his day. “I’m usually out of the house by 5:15, 5:30 in the morning,” he explains. “I’m done by about 7:30, and then I can get in and get to work. And then on weekends, I walk 14 in the morning and then I’ll go back out in the afternoon and finish it off. So I’ve got a good base built in the weekends in between events.”

Beyond the health benefits (his blood pressure and cholesterol dropped with his pants size), he gets constant motivation from how much he loves walking (his rep tells us his music of choice during these epic walks is Pink Floyd) and the response he’s gotten from everyone around him. “It’s been kind of amazing. People are really focused on it. I’ll talk to people all over and they’re just kind of shocked that I’ve been able to lose so much weight,” he says. “Whenever I go on TV or meet with people, it’s one of the first topics that comes up.”

But the biggest reward comes from his wife and two daughters. “They’re all proud and they’re also happy to have me healthy.”

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