Surgical intervention

Fifteen months ago Mark Cox, from Brooksville, Ky., weighed 530 pounds and wore a size 60 pants.

Fifteen months ago Mark Cox, from Brooksville, Ky., weighed 530 pounds and wore a size 60 pants. The 6-foot, 1-inch trucker’s blood pressure was so high the nurse who took it panicked, and he was put on the highest dose of blood pressure meds the nurse had ever recommended. He couldn’t sleep for more than a few hours at a time, suffered from joint and back pain and had great difficulty getting in and out of his cab. Eating at a truckstop wasn’t an option because he couldn’t fit in a booth.

Shame haunted his days and robbed him of his joy in living. His wife begged him to do something about it. His doctor said that at only 32 years old he’d lose his CDL and his life way before his time. While he knew they were right, he felt he was too out of control to make any changes.

Then his 5-year-old daughter Haley looked at him with tears in her eyes and asked, “Daddy, please get rid of this belly. I don’t want you to die. I want you to be my daddy.” He broke down in tears and promised her he’d try.

The obstacles were overwhelming. “When you are that obese, a diet isn’t going to make the kind of dent you need to succeed,” says Cox. His doctor wanted him to consider gastric bypass surgery, but the $40,000 price tag put the elective procedure out of his reach. Then his mother offered to take out a second mortgage on her house to pay for the surgery and let him pay her back over time. “Suddenly, I had a glimmer of hope that my life could change for the better,” Cox says.

Bypass surgery comes with the potential for complications, but Cox’s surgery went well. Then came the really hard part: its success as a weight-loss method depended largely on Cox’s ability to completely change his eating habits. The post-op dietary restrictions severely limit intake. “I was determined to do everything I could to maximize the outcome,” he says.

Today, he’s down to 279 pounds and just bought a pair of size 40 pants. He exercises, eats small, high-protein meals and says his amazing health gains have changed his life.

Personal: Cox, age 33, has been a trucker for 12 years and drives for FedEx. He’s married to Tara Cox and has a son, Austin, age 11, and daughter, Haley, age 6.

Fitness history: Weighed 240 pounds when he played football in high school.

Biggest weight loss challenge: Taking control of appetite and portion size.

What kept you going during the tough times? The support from my family and from Pam Whitfield and the truckers who called into her [Sirius Satellite Radio Roadcookin’] show to encourage me not to despair.

How has your overall health improved? My blood pressure once measured 220/160, and I was put on high doses of blood pressure meds. Since my weight loss, my meds have been decreased and my blood pressure was 120/77 at the last checkup. My severe sleep apnea is now completely gone. I no longer have joint pain, swollen feet or lower back aches.

How about your overall outlook? I’m a different person, no longer weighed down with shame. I used to think that people were staring at me, laughing and pointing at me. I didn’t want to go on vacations or even go out much in public. Now, I’m planning family vacations and fishing trips with my friends. It’s unbelievable how good I feel.

What tips would you give someone who wants to do what you did? First, I’d say don’t let it get to the point where it’s an emergency. Start making changes today.

What do you do for exercise? I work out with weights and take long walks.

What’s your next goal? I’d like to lose about 15 more pounds.

Do you have a favorite quote? My mother’s words come to mind: “Remember how good it’s going to be!”
–Carolyn Magner

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 [email protected] or send to Truckers News Fit for the Road, 3200 Rice Mine Rd. NE, Tuscaloosa, AL 35406.

Health Question of the Month:
I have just been diagnosed with diabetes. I don’t have to use insulin yet, but I am petrified I’ll eventually lose my CDL. Can you help me with a diet or weight-loss plan?
– Sean from Birmingham, Ala.

Pam Whitfield is a Chicago-based registered dietician.

Good blood sugar control is all about keeping the body in balance. You want to eat regularly, control portion sizes and manage your carbohydrate intake. Do these three things and you may not only avoid going on insulin, but you’re also likely to lose weight, too.

Your body works best when you eat every four to five hours. The goal is to keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range. Drivers who eat one big meal a day see their blood sugars go sky high after eating, then fall dangerously low over the long hours between meals. They tend to gain more belly fat from overeating, which increases their risk of developing diabetes.

Carbohydrates are our main source of energy. Foods high in carbohydrates raise blood sugar and provide energy. You need carbs, but you don’t need too much of a good thing. Reduce portion size and be selective about carb choices. Choose high-fiber carbs in whole grain breads and cereals. Have fruits and dairy products and moderate amounts of starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn. Limit processed sugar carbs like soda pop and candy.

Most people need about four or five carb servings at each meal plus one carb serving as a snack after a meal. What’s a serving? A slice of bread, a small piece of fruit, 1/2 cup cooked rice or 1 cup of milk. The goal is to eat three meals that include a variety of foods, watching portion sizes. Try the 2000-calorie sample menu from the American Diabetes Association (on page 50). It’s a great meal plan for the whole family with or without diabetes.

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

Being diagnosed with diabetes is a great shock to most people. Fortunately, for most adults, when they are first diagnosed with diabetes, they don’t have to use insulin. Most adults are not insulin deficient, they are simply insulin resistant. This means you are producing plenty of insulin on your own, but your body is not reacting to the insulin the way it should.

To decrease this resistance to the insulin, you have only two choices. The first is to use medications. I would definitely recommend you consider doing this while you develop a solid diet and exercise program. This will take the pressure off your pancreas to produce so much insulin and thus conserve your ability to produce insulin in the future.

Second, you need to find a way to do 30 minutes a day of any type of aerobic activity. Daily aerobics will lead to weight loss and, in turn, decrease insulin resistance. You can walk in place, jog or even dance – aerobics are aerobics.

Finally, please schedule regular check-ups with your doctor to monitor the progress of the condition. He will discuss your options and answer your nutrition, medication and health questions.

Linda Dunn is a fitness expert from Tuscaloosa, Ala.

A few years ago I went to a fitness seminar on diabetes management. The physician speaking at the program made a big point of explaining that diabetes was a “muscle disease” and it is so important to exercise when you are a diabetic. It will make a difference if you can work a walk, run, bike or swim into your daily activities. On the road, try swinging your arms while you walk briskly for at least 20 minutes a day. Continue to increase walking until you can build your stamina to 45 to 60 minutes.

This will help you burn calories and lose weight. If possible, get some help with a weight training program, start slowly and build up gradually. Begin with light weights and slowly add more repetitions and heavier weights as you get stronger. You have to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound, and most people will burn about 300-350 calories in a fast 45-minute walk. That is why you must exercise daily, and it will pay off in many ways. The walking will lift your spirits, and as you lose inches and pounds you will lessen your anxiety about being diabetic. Please believe that you have the power to reverse the unhealthy choices of the past. Don’t put off the decision to start a fitness program. You can begin today by taking a brisk walk from your truck to the truckstop. Every little bit helps.

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.