It All Began With a Single Step: Derrick Sinclair’s Journey to Better Health
About four years ago, Police Lt. Derrick Sinclair got a wakeup call that most likely saved his life. Suffering from high blood pressure and prediabetes and weighing 340 pounds at the time, Sinclair landed in the hospital and received dire news from his physician that he either needed to “lose weight or [he] was going to die.” Sinclair knew he had to do something right then and there for the sake of his family and his future.
Initially, he signed up for the Team Lean program through the local YMCA. While Sinclair lost a bit of weight — 20 or 30 pounds each time he did the program — he would find himself slipping up and gaining those pounds back. Strangely enough, it was the coronavirus pandemic that truly gave Sinclair that “extra something” he needed to finally get serious about losing the weight and keeping it off for good.
“This past year, with COVID-19 and not being in the office, I told myself either I was going to sit around all day, eat potato chips and get up to 400 pounds, or I was going to do something about it,” he recalled.
Most of us need an inspirational boost when creating real change, and for Sinclair, one such boost came from someone in his own profession: a cop in New York named Chris Rowan who hosts an accountability group known as “Team Rowan Fitness.” After discovering Rowan through a comment he posted on the Police 1 website, Sinclair found himself fully immersed in the group, which he referred to as “very supportive.”
“He offers health, diet and workout advice; it’s a group with participants from all over the country and even Canada,” he shared.
“While my goal is to help anyone interested in living a healthier lifestyle … as a police officer, I especially want to see my fellow officers take better care of themselves,” Chris Rowan commented. “There’s no secret that it’s a very stressful career … and while better nutrition and physical fitness are not the only answers, they are …. the areas [where] we truly do have the most control. I couldn’t be more grateful to be able to help my fellows officers like Derrick and so many others.”
Besides chatting with other like-minded individuals, Sinclair found that a variety of workouts suited him best and kept him engaged with his fitness journey. At the peak of the pandemic, he enjoyed working out at home — lots of pushups and sit-ups — as well as getting outdoors and walking the community. Once it became safe, Sinclair soon enrolled in boxing classes at the Fit Fighter Fitness and began spending ample time at the YMCA.
“The Y is where I get my workout in, like aerobic exercise on the elliptical and weights. Once you start seeing results, you get excited, and you want to get better at it,” he said. “You just have to find something that you enjoy doing. I found that I enjoy going to the YMCA — I go five times a week — and I enjoy boxing at Fit Fighter Fitness. I had never boxed before.”
For Sinclair, who was active as a water polo player in his younger years, being accompanied to his workouts by his 12-year-old daughter, Leah, and his 13-year-old son, Derrick, was the ultimate validation. It became quite the family affair to go to the YMCA.
“My son has definitely been supportive — he loves to work out with me. He’ll say, are we going to the gym today? He loves going to the gym. He has his own preferences; he’ll try different things and different machines. My daughter comes sometimes too, and she’ll walk on the elliptical machine. They both love the YMCA. We even had one of my daughter’s birthday parties there,” he said.
At home, while the kids weren’t always as interested in dad’s strict diet — he joked how he has often “cooked them Totino’s Pizza Rolls while he has grilled chicken” — Sinclair can depend on his wife, Katy, to stock their fridge with plenty of healthy options for meals such as fresh vegetables, fruits and lean proteins. Sometimes the family eats a modified meal together, with cheese and bacon added for the younger members. But deprivation is not the name of the game for Sinclair — he is still known to have his occasional bite of something sweet.
“I try to be cautious about what I eat and throw in a salad once in a while,” he said of his ongoing diet. “I still eat a lot of greens. I love candy though, so every once in a while I’ll have a small Snickers bar on a Saturday, something like that.”
At the time of my conversation with Sinclair, he was clocking in right around 260 pounds with a goal weight of 250 pounds, give or take. Given his height of 6 feet, two inches and being a self-proclaimed “big guy,” Sinclair confessed that during the days of weighing 360 pounds, folks could not usually tell that he was overweight — and if they found out, they would say he carried it well.
“But my health did not carry it well,” he countered. “I was determined not to be prediabetic, and my doctor told me that if I could get under 300 pounds, he could take me off some medications. Then, once I got under 300, I decided 250 was a good goal. I’d like to stay in that range.”
Sinclair wants to reassure those who are contemplating a major change regarding diet and exercise that losing 100 pounds did not happen overnight and was not “a speedy process.” He said that just getting off the couch and out of the house is more than half the battle.
“The hardest part is walking into the gym. Sometimes you don’t want to leave your house,” he said, chuckling. “But just getting up and going for a walk is good. Being active is good. And the thing about the Valdosta YMCA is that they are there to help you — they can kick-start your journey with their trainers and staff. They are incredible.”
Written by: Denise K. James
Photography by: Brandon Pham