The fab five
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.