Jan. 1: Five overweight drivers began the Truckers News Fit for the Road program. Each trucker received a healthy weight-loss and fitness program designed by a dietician and medical doctor to fit their individual health needs. Truckers News will follow their journeys and shed light on the comprehensive issues facing overweight truckers. The stories will explore how the trucking lifestyle contributes to the problem as well as look at solutions posed by medical experts and positive examples of truckers who have adopted a healthier regimen on the road.
The process began last summer when the application form was posted on eTrucker.com. The response was overwhelming, with more than 350 truckers asking to be considered for the Fit for the Road program. Choosing among the qualified applicants was difficult. The essays they wrote were heartfelt and told touching stories about long years of struggling with diet and exercise. Many spoke of the fear of leaving behind loved ones. Almost all said they were afraid of losing their CDL because of high blood pressure or insulin-requiring diabetes. Some worried they were following the footsteps of parents who died of heart attacks or strokes.
The five chosen truckers displayed a strong sense of purpose and a desire to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
After the selection process, they gathered in Knoxville, Tenn., at the Professional Drivers Medical Depot clinic of Dr. John McElligott. A photographer, an editor and dietician Pam Whitfield met the participants and began the long day of medical tests, weighing in, interviews and the dreaded “before” photographs. McElligott conducted thorough medical exams at no cost to the participants. He also counseled them on their various medical issues. He advised beginning the exercise program slowly – no more than five minutes of walking per day. “You can gradually increase your exercise time until you get to 30 minutes per day,” he said.
Whitfield instructed the truckers to keep track of their daily food consumption in a “food diary.” She then gave them a detailed computer analysis of their average daily calorie consumption, as well as their sodium, fat, carbohydrate, sugar and protein intake. She also measured their body fat. Everyone was surprised by how many calories they were consuming and how high in sodium and fat their diets were.
After the medical test results came in, Whitfield designed individual meal plans for each participant. She was careful to include smaller doses of their favorite foods. “It’s important to not feel deprived when first starting on a diet,” she said. She cut back on everyone’s calories, sugar and sodium. The biggest change was in the number of meals allowed.
“All the participants are required to eat three good meals a day along with a mid-morning snack and a late-afternoon snack,” Whitfield says. Most of the truckers were surprised to learn they’d be eating more meals instead of less.
“It’s a common problem in a truckers’ lifestyle,” Whitfield says. “They have their main meal late in the day when they are already famished. Then they load up on carbohydrates and heavy, fried foods because they are so hungry. By having three meals a day and two snacks, their blood sugar stays constant.”
She also eliminated sodas and whole milk and replaced them with water and low-fat dairy products. Chips, fried food and cheese were reduced or eliminated. Snacks included fresh vegetables like celery and carrot sticks, unsalted nuts and nonfat yogurt. Everyone received a “heart healthy” diet and all were instructed to reduce their portions.
“I didn’t take away anyone’s favorite foods, but I did cut way back on the amount they could have,” Whitfield says.
So far, the results have been remarkable. Nancy Younger, from Kathleen, Fla., lost 22 pounds in the month of January alone. She dropped from pants size 26 to almost a size 22. Younger exceeded the recommended 30 minutes of walking per day and walked for an hour every day, no matter what the weather conditions were. She says her energy level is amazing, and she’s never felt better in her life.
“I feel like this program has saved my life,” Younger says. “I have a tremendous amount of energy, and I don’t get tired in the middle of the day. I’m not tired when I’m driving, I sleep better and I can really see a difference in how I look.”
She’s overflowing with enthusiasm and updates her blog at this site with tips, recipes and encouragement.
“I feel like for the first time in my life I’ve taken control of my life,” she says. “This job no longer controls me. I stop to eat. I exercise no matter what. I’m a new person.”
She has her “before” picture taped to her dashboard. “I’m going to keep on losing in a healthy, steady way,” she says. “You will be proud you picked me for this program.”
Everyone has made progress, and all the participants say they feel better, have more energy and are motivated to do better. The biggest gain has been on the health front, where blood pressures have dropped, sugar levels are down and energy levels are high. It’s a great beginning!
You can follow the five participants and read updates on their blogs at this site
Name: Nancy Younger
Company: WRY Enterprises
Location: Kathleen, Fla.
Weight: 292 pounds
Goal: Lose 165 pounds
So far she’s lost 22 pounds!
Nancy has been driving for 10 years. She wants to lose weight and become healthier for both herself and her husband Bill Younger, who is also a truck driver.
Highlight from her application: “I promise, if you choose me, no one will try harder at being a success than I will!”
Food Diary: She was averaging about 3,000 calories per day, with twice the recommended sodium and fat and about four times the saturated fat in her diet.
Health: Her blood sugar was dangerously high.
Diet: A food plan of about 2,000 calories per day includes three meals a day with a mid-morning and late-afternoon snack.
Fitness: Vigorous walks 60 minutes a day, six days a week.
Progress: “Nancy’s an absolute inspiration!” says dietician Pam Whitfield. “She’s very motivated and eager to share her story. She’s even developed recipes to add low-calorie/high-fiber snacks into her diet. She really didn’t want to give up her favorite food, a 19-oz. steak. But she’s now down to about 8 oz. of lean meat and says she doesn’t feel deprived.”
Tip from Nancy: “Make yourself get out of the truck and walk!”
Name: Albert Morales
Company: Marten Transport
Location: Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Weight: 261 pounds
Goal: Lose 100 pounds
So far he’s lost 12 pounds!
Albert has been a truck driver for 25 years. He wants to lose 100 pounds and says his motivation is his wife Gigi and their four daughters.
Application highlight: “I don’t want to put them through the pain and suffering of losing me like I lost my dad, mom, brother and sister. Please help me take control of my health so I can stay healthy enough to continue driving and providing for my family.”
Food Diary: Albert was consuming more than 4,200 calories per day and more than six times the daily recommended amount of sodium. His sugar, carbohydrate and protein intake exceeded the daily recommendations.
Diet: Whitfield put Albert on a 2,000-calorie – plus one can of soda pop – per day diet. She let him continue to enjoy sandwiches, only now he uses whole wheat bread and lean meat like turkey. He’s had to cut way back on cheese.
Fitness: Albert is adding short walks to his daily routine.
Progress: He is motivated by how much better he feels. The support of his family has been a great source of encouragement.
Tip from Albert: “Educate yourself about food labels. Read the calorie, sodium and fat contents of everything. And don’t use the salt shaker!”
Name: Terry and Carey Hill
Company: Swift Transportation
Location: San Antonio, Texas
The married team has been driving together for more than a year. They want to support each other as they strive to lose weight and become more fit.
Application highlight: “We know that to really be successful at losing weight we’ll have to change our lifestyle, not just our diet.”
Name: Terry Hill
Height: 5’7 1/2″
Weight: 289 pounds
Goal: Lose 100 pounds
So far he’s lost 10 pounds!
Food Diary: Terry was consuming more than 3,000 calories a day, two times the recommended sodium and saturated fat and way too much protein.
Diet: He’s eating 2,200 calories and was required to drop from whole milk to 2-percent. Instead, he’s now drinking only nonfat milk.
Fitness: Terry is adding short walks to his regular routine.
Progress: Terry grew up on a farm and really liked to drink whole milk. Once he got into the program, he decided to go all the way to the least fatty milk.
Tip from Terry: “You can change things you didn’t think possible!”
Name: Carey Hill
Weight: 248 pounds
Goal: Lose 75 pounds
So far she’s lost 5 pounds!
Food diary: Carey was eating around 2,500 calories per day, not much fiber and twice the recommended sodium.
Diet: She’s on an 1,800-calorie diet with less fatty foods, no chips and added fruits and vegetables.
Fitness: Short, brisk walks.
Progress: “Carey really loves ice cream and didn’t want to give it up,” Whitfield says. “The secret to the success of any diet is to avoid feeling deprived. I allowed her to have a half cup of lower-fat ice cream per day. It cuts back on the larger amount she was eating and gives her something to look forward to.” Both Carey and Terry have made eating a more pleasurable, planned event instead of eating on the go.
Tip from Carey: “The ‘Calorie King’ pocket guide has been a great help to keep up with calories, fats and carbohydrates.”
Name: John Shook
Location: Mount Vernon, Ill.
Weight: 255 pounds
Goal: Lose 55 pounds
So far he’s lost 6 pounds!
John is an owner-operator who has been driving OTR since 1993. He wants to lose the almost 55 pounds he’s gained since he started driving. He’s the father of a 2-year-old son he wants to see grow up.
Application highlight: “This opportunity will allow me to regain so many things I’ve lost, like my self image and my love and passion for outdoor sports. I want to be the best father, husband and trucker that I can be.”
Food Diary: John was eating around 2,500 calories a day with high salt and fat content.
Diet: Whitfield designed a low-sodium diet with only 2,000 calories per day. John loves cereal and sandwiches but has switched to 2-percent milk and lean meats like turkey and whole grain bread. He can have some medium-fat meats like roast beef, but not as much as before.
Fitness: Short walks around the truckstop.
Progress: The biggest health result was that his blood pressure went from high 140/98 to normal: 117/74! He feels better and is thrilled about the lower blood pressure. He needs to add more fruits and vegetables to his diet and increase his physical activity.
Tip from John: “Cut back on salty foods and fatty foods like butter and chips.”
Tips from Dietician Pam Whitfield
Choose a “heart healthy” diet.
Reduce your calories by cutting back on sugary soft drinks.
Add more water to your diet.
Reduce portion sizes of unhealthy foods you enjoy.
Don’t even pick up the salt shaker!
Add a mid-morning snack and a late-afternoon snack to your diet.
Eat three healthy meals a day.
Order grilled lean meat like chicken breast instead of fried chicken.
Snack on a handful of unsalted nuts.
Pack carrot and celery sticks in Ziploc bags.