The Gift of Health

| May 07, 2008

A pair of pants motivated trucker Pete Mycek to change his life and lose weight.

When Pete Mycek, from Spencer, Ohio, was in the Marines from 1984-1988, he was one of the fastest, strongest men in his division. When he left the Marines and started trucking in 1994, he weighed 140 pounds and was in good shape. Nine years later, the company driver for Green Circle Growers out of Oberlin, Ohio, weighed 245 pounds and was so obese he couldn’t walk around the block without getting winded.

On Christmas morning, 2006, he opened a present from his wife Lisa and couldn’t believe his eyes. It was a pair of size 44 waist pants. “That was like a punch to the gut. I knew my weight was out of control, but to actually fit into that pant size was hard to take,” Mycek says.

Also, he’d been diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. “It was so bad my wife couldn’t sleep through the snoring,” he says. Other concerns haunted him. “I was afraid my kids would be ashamed to be seen with me. I also couldn’t keep up with them while they were running around. Something had to be done.”

The first steps came that Christmas morning. Mycek walked around the block, the first exercise he’d had in years. He began walking a little further every day and began to radically change his diet. Instead of cheeseburgers and fries for lunch, he brought his own fruit and lean meats with him. He substituted water for soda and salads for extra trips to the buffet.

As the pounds began to melt off, he started running. One year later, on Christmas Day, more than 100 pounds lighter, he opened another present from his wife. This time, it was a pair of size 29 waist pants!

Today, Mycek weighs 153 pounds and works out or runs every day.

How long have you been driving? Almost 14 years.

What was the biggest challenge in your weight-loss quest? Pushing away from the kitchen table and cutting down on portions. I had to completely change my eating habits.

What motivated you to take control of your life? I wanted to have the energy to play with my kids and to stay healthy for the sake of my family.

How do you fit exercise into your day? When I’m home, I run or lift weights at the local Gold’s Gym. When I’m on the road, I bring my shoes, and when I can, I go to a Gold’s Gym in the area. Sometimes I can park there or park close by and run to the gym. It can be done; you just have to plan it out.

How has your overall health improved? I feel less tired and more alert. I sleep better, and my sleep apnea has completely cleared up.

What tips would you give someone who wants to do what you did? You have to want to do it more than anything else in your life, because it’s a complete lifestyle change. It’s also a commitment to your family.

What accomplishments are you most proud of? I recently ran a 5k in 20 minutes, 13 seconds, and placed second in my age group.

What’s your next goal? My next big goal is to complete a half-marathon in Loran, Ohio. After that, I plan to run the Washington, D.C., Marine Corp Marathon in October 2008 in under four hours.

Do you have a favorite quote? I’ve always felt that you shouldn’t say you don’t have time to do something if you have slept the night before.

Personal: Wife: Lisa; Children: Jacob, 10, and Amanda, 4


Nominate Health Heroes
Do you know any truckers who have worked hard to become more healthy? Maybe they’ve quit smoking, started an exercise program, controlled their sleep apnea or changed their eating habits. E-mail cmagner@rrpub.com or send to Truckers News Fit for the Road, 3200 Rice Mine Rd. NE, Tuscaloosa, AL 35406.


Ask the Experts: Health Question of the Month:
I have been a truck driver for 25 years and am struggling with weight gain and feelings of anxiety and depression. Please help me. I’m in my 50s and am willing to do anything to feel better. - Toby

Pam Whitfield is a Chicago-based registered dietician.

Our emotions can impact our food choices, and our food choices can impact our emotions! Once you’ve found yourself a mental health professional, step two is to become aware of what you’re eating and why you choose the foods you do. One way to do this is to keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat and drink for two days. At the same time, write down why you chose to eat what you ate. Were you hungry, bored, lonely or worried? How did you feel after you ate? Satisfied or still hungry?

Next, take some time to analyze the diary. If you’re eating in response to what you’re feeling rather than what your body clock says you need, you may be an emotional eater. And that could be adding to both physical and mental weight.

Diet changes can help make attitude changes.

  • Eat regular meals, every four to five hours. Our bodies need food to stay in balance both mentally and physically. Include lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains.

  • Limit foods with lots of processed sugars.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Keep healthy snacks handy, like yogurt, a handful of nuts or a couple of peanut butter crackers.
  • Know the difference between real hunger and cravings. Recognize your triggers, and find ways to break those negative patterns.
  • Finally, work on getting more physical activity and enough sleep.

Life on the road can be heavy sometimes. But you cannot eat your way to happiness.

Ronald Rush, M.D., is a family care physician with Highway Health Care and clinical director of Med- Xpress Health Care in Texarkana, Texas.

Anxiety and depression are very common in the general population. In occupations, such as trucking, where a person may spend a lot of time alone, the incidence of these symptoms can be quite a bit higher.

Fortunately, our understanding of anxiety and depression has come a long way in the past 25 years. Anxiety and depression may be caused by common medical conditions such as thyroid disease, diabetes, sleep apnea or a host of other problems. It can be dangerous to assume you are simply “stressed” and having a “mind” issue. It is also not a good idea to ignore the problem and try to think your way clear.

Your first step is to speak with your family doctor. Have some simple lab tests run to rule out common medical problems. Your doctor can ask some simple questions to focus on the real cause of your symptoms. If your symptoms are caused by a general medical condition, treating this condition will solve your problem. If simple testing and questioning seems to rule out a general medical condition, you and your doctor can then focus on treating this as a mood disorder. Today, we have several excellent medications to treat both anxiety and depression. These can be combined with changes in diet, exercise and counseling to bring a very satisfactory resolution to your symptoms. I commend you for recognizing the symptoms; now I encourage you to contact your doctor today. Good luck!

Linda Dunn is a fitness expert from Tuscaloosa, Ala.

If you are in your 50s, you may be struggling with anxiety and depression related to aging. As we get older we are more susceptible to becoming depressed. Our hormones that help elevate our mood are changing, but the more you move, the more chemicals are released into your body that can make you feel better psychologically and physically. That is the mind-body cycle, which nurtures itself.

The bottom line – the more you move, the better you may feel. Try to walk at least six days a week, 20 minutes a day, outside (if possible), and make it a priority. The daily practice of this simple activity combined with a healthy choice for food intake will help you start feeling better very quickly. This is a lifestyle that is accessible to anyone, and it really is doable.

Check with your doctor to make sure there are no other factors that may be causing those feelings of anxiety and depression. Be patient with yourself, and if necessary start with five to 10 minutes of walking and build up to at least 20 minutes. You can walk longer if you like. In 40 days you will have a new habit that will help you for life. Start your 40 days of fitness right now.

The advice and opinions expressed herein are only general suggestions. Before you undertake any course of action, you should consult your doctor to determine what steps are right for you. Randall-Reilly Publishing, Truckers News and the experts consulted for these articles do not endorse, warrant or promote in any way the products of any of our sponsors.


Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Source: mayoclinic.com

  • Loss of interest in normal daily activities

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Problems sleeping
  • Trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Unintentional weight gain or loss
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Being easily annoyed
  • Feeling fatigued or weak
  • Feeling worthless
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicidal behavior
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

Depression symptoms can vary greatly because different people experience depression in different ways. Discuss these symptoms with your doctor.


Eating Healthy
Registered dietician Pam Whitfield, who contributes her expert advice for the Fit for the Road series, and her husband and cookbook author, Don Jacobson, conducted a healthy-eating seminar at the Truckers News booth at the Mid-America Trucking Show. The duo, who host the “Roadcookin’” show on Sirius Satellite Radio, will present another seminar at the Great West Truck Show in Las Vegas, June 26-28.


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