Rep. Greg Davids strolled into the House research area Thursday morning and there they sat: cinnamon rolls.
“They looked beautiful,” said Davids.
But the Republican rep from Preston turned his big back on those beauties and walked away.
That act of raw willpower is precisely why Davids is the spiritual leader of the House weight loss squad.
“He’s working out instead of going to Old Country Buffet,” said House Majority Leader Matt Dean, his voice filled with admiration and appreciation.
Caught up in the national effort to shape up the country, a team of 30 House members and staffers are in a weight-loss competition with a like number of their Senate counterparts.
This is the most bipartisan effort of this contentious session. DFLers and Republicans from the House versus DFLers and Republicans from the Senate battling to knock off the most pounds by April 15.
“This is truly about shrinking government,” said Dean, who looks to be in pretty good shape but is shooting to shed 10 pounds.
Dean is convinced the House will win the contest.
“House members like to get it done,” Dean said. “The Senate? They like to talk.”
Dean admits his team isn’t without problems. For example, Rep. Dean Urdahl, a pretty fit Republican from Grove City, is supposed to be the “nutritional leader” of the House team.
But it’s a job that he doesn’t seem to take too seriously.
“He’s taught members that when you go to Old Country Buffet, they should take a salad bowl to the ice cream machine,” Dean fumed. “The salad bowls are a lot bigger than the little ice cream dishes they have.”
Old Country Buffet comes up often when Dean talks about the contest. As majority leader, Dean said he likes to see rural members of his caucus get to know the suburban members better by going out to dinner. Invariably, it seems, the rural members push for Old Country Buffet, where quantity is a virtue, for the meetings.
“I don’t understand it,” said Dean. “But I know when Old Country Buffet sees us coming, they put up the ‘closed’ sign as fast as they can. Our rural guys can really put it away.”
No one was more fond of food, from Old Country Buffet or any other place, than Davids.
When the session ended last year, he tipped the scales at 354 pounds.
But now, he’s 280 and pushing to drop more.
“My Barbie Doll weight is 209 to 220,” Davids said. “Maybe I should say my Ken Doll weight. I’m not going to get there, but I’d like to hit about 245.”
“Quadruple bypass surgery [in August],” he said. “You go through something like that and it changes the way you look at things. Now, instead of lifting forks full of food, I lift dumbbells instead.”
He can resist temptation with a little mind control.
“I saw those cinnamon rolls and I flashed back to surgery,” he said.
Davids, who heads the tax committee, now works out at least three times a week, and a sub sandwich has replaced those platefuls of food he once enjoyed.
For all the good intentions and bipartisanship in this, it should be noted that these weight-loss contests don’t always go according to plan.
Decades ago, for example, the sports staff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press included three hefty scribes, including Patrick Reusse, now a sports columnist at the Star Trib as well as a radio personality. The three — Reusse, Charley Hallman and Gary Olson – decided to have a contest to see who could lose the most weight.
The “winner” gained three pounds.