Half the man he used to be

| April 02, 2008

April Health Hero
Jack Kelsh

When Jack Kelsh, a trucker from Billings, Mont., was 37 years old, he tipped the scales at 365 pounds. Although he’d always been overweight, the trucking lifestyle he’d been living since 1986 contributed to the unhealthy eating habits he’d adopted over the years. One day, he was in a diet support group and broke the scales in front of the whole class. They had to weigh in at a warehouse loading dock, and that was the first major humiliation. Next, he had to switch to slip-on shoes because he couldn’t bend over far enough to tie his own shoes. Finally, he had to replace his tractor’s steering wheel with a smaller-size wheel in order to fit behind it. “That was the last straw,” Kelsh says. “I knew I had to do something.”

He decided to take charge of his health – to change his diet and start a fitness routine. “I had to start at the beginning. I had to learn how to make better food choices and how to fit exercise into a trucking schedule.”

He cut out sweets and carbs and began developing his own in-cab exercise routine. He lost an amazing 175 pounds in 18 months and dramatically altered his appearance – so much so that his own mother didn’t recognize him at a trim 190 pounds.

Not only did he look and feel better, his health problems (high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar) were solved. Even more incredible, he’s kept the weight off for seven years. Now 44 years old, the company driver says he’s never going back to the way he was. “I’m half the man I was,” he says.

Because he knows firsthand the heartbreak of being obese, Kelsh has dedicated himself to helping obese truckers make the lifestyle change they need to lose weight. He wrote a book with his diet and fitness tips called Nineteen Wheels and began marketing exercise routines and equipment from his website: www.safetythruwellness.com.

Personal: Kelsh, age 44, drives for Diversified Transfer & Storage in Billings, Mont. He has four children ranging in age from 15 to 24. Dog: Kadee

Fitness history: At age 39, I was 6’1″, weighed 365 pounds and wore a size 46 pants. Today, I weigh between 185 and 190 pounds.

What was the biggest challenge? To stop eating when I got full. I used to eat to get my money’s worth. I had to change everything, including how I looked at food. I was a true food addict.

How has your health improved? I have much less fatigue and am a safer driver since I’m more alert. My blood pressure is normal, last time 127/72 compared to when I was obese and it ran 190/100. I also sleep better and never get sick. My mental health also improved, especially my self esteem. I can look people in the eye and be accepted for who I am.

Favorite quote: Ever noticed that the first four letters in health are heal? Disease cannot live in a healthy body.

What do you say to the person who feels hopeless about their health? There is always something you can do to start improving your health. It takes effort and internal motivation. But if I can do it, so can even the most obese trucker. Get started and as soon as you see results, keep on going!

What kind of diet tips do you give? I like to carry bags of dry-pop popcorn and mixed nuts for snacks. I flavor the popcorn with a blend of olive oil and canola oil and use a small dash of sea salt. I don’t order anything fried or processed. Try six small meals a day instead of one or two giant ones. I choose broiled or grilled meat from the buffet.

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