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300-plus-pound driver resolves to get fit

In July 2011, Richie Nehrings of Hawthorne, N.J., went shopping for a new pair of jeans. His size 44 pants were too tight, and it was time for the 41-year-old, 372-pound truck driver to move up to the next waist size.

“I couldn’t do it,” he says. “I stood there staring at the huge size 46 jeans and something inside just snapped. It started a whole wave of self-loathing and anger.” He thought, “I can’t fit in my clothes, my blood pressure is out of control, my life is not my life anymore.”

He didn’t buy the jeans. Instead, he decided to change his life.

“I had a lot of ‘aha’ moments, but it wasn’t until I walked out of the store without buying the bigger jeans that I realized I had to stop putting off what needed to be done.”

It wasn’t the first time he had tried to make lifestyle changes. One low point came when he went to a sporting goods store to buy rubber waders. An avid fisherman, he wanted the protective gear so he could continue to fish in winter. The sales clerk laughed out loud. “We don’t have anything that big,” he said to Nehrings.

Depressed and feeling hopeless after that and similar past incidents, Nehrings decided to change his diet.

Vital stats

Name: Richard (Richie) Nehrings

Age: 41

Wife: Kim

Location: Hawthorne, N.J.

Company: Acosta Trucking

Starting weight: 372 pounds

Current weight: 318 pounds

Desired weight: 250 pounds

Height: 6 feet

Highest blood pressure: 170/105

Current blood pressure: 120/78

“My wife and I would go out to dinner and declare that, come Monday, we would begin down a new road to healthy eating,” he says. But Monday would come and he would swing by the big-box store and load up on industrial-size bags of M&M’s, chocolate bars and fully loaded soda. “I had a lot of ‘aha’ moments, but it wasn’t until I walked out of the store without buying the bigger jeans that I realized I had to stop putting off what needed to be done.”

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Appearance was not Nehrings’ only worry. “My health was compromised,” he says, “and if things didn’t change, I feared the new FMCSA rules would impact my driving career.” Things had never seemed so bleak. His doctor, who had to order bigger scales to weigh him, had been telling him to lose weight. His highest blood pressure reading was 170/105, and his doctor was extremely worried about his heart health, sleep apnea and potential for developing diabetes. His father died after his seventh heart attack, and still, he balked at taking the first steps.

That’s when Richie Acosta of Acosta Trucking stepped in to help. Acosta’s mission is to help truckers lead a healthier life. The two had been friends and coworkers for years, and now Nehrings was ready for help. “I sat on my back porch and wrote down every morsel of food I ate in a day, I was appalled by the sheer quantity of the list that included bags of candy, crates of soda and huge portions of fast food, and [I was] worried about what Richie Acosta was going to think.”

Acosta was unfazed. He evaluated Nehrings’ diet and made radical changes, including cutting out sweets, soft drinks and starches. Despite the radical changes, the new diet plan was not intended to make Nehrings feel deprived or starved, so he began the program the next day.

Acosta, a trucker and body builder who has been involved with personal training and fitness for 25 years, created a weight loss and fitness program, TruckinFit, www.truckinfit.com, to help drivers like Nehrings make healthier lifestyle choices. He chose Nehrings for his first case study because he represents an over-the-road trucker desperate to lose weight in spite of trucking lifestyle obstacles. Acosta, who has a degree in nutrition, devised a plan and detailed daily diet for Nehrings to follow on and off the road.

The diet included frequent small meals, lean meats and healthy snacks — no junk food. He encouraged Nehrings to park farther from the truck stop and to walk a little more each day. Nehrings’ wife Kim offered support and also lost weight in the process. She helped him pack healthy snacks for the road and, when he was home, prepared low-fat/low-calorie meals Acosta recommended. “I couldn’t have done it without her,” Nehrings says.

Both Acosta and his wife encouraged him, as did other truckers. When he would stop to unload, he would weigh himself on the truck scales. The guys on the dock cheered for him when the scales showed his new, lower weight. Friends didn’t recognize him and acquaintances remarked on his weight loss. The feedback encouraged him to stick with the program. He dug deep, calling on the willpower he had used 10 years ago when he quit smoking cold turkey. “Sure, I quit smoking, but the difference was that the cravings went away when I quit,” he says, then laughing. “It’s way more fun to get fat!”

Three months later, the results are amazing. “I lost 54 pounds and never felt hungry or deprived. My blood pressure has gone down to normal (120/78) and I feel better than I have in years,” he says. His goal is to get down to 300 pounds over the next few months and eventually to his ideal weight of 250 pounds. He also wants to add more exercise to his routine.

Adding exercise -- The key to starting a new fitness program is not to start something too overwhelming or complicated. Sandy Stanard, a physical therapist in Tuscaloosa, Ala., advises clients to set goals by time rather than distance. “Walk briskly for 10 minutes every day until the activity becomes easy. Then, increase by five minutes until you reach a reasonably paced 20 to 30 minutes per day,” she says. Not only will brisk walking improve cardiovascular health but it can help with the back pain that plagues many truckers.

Nehrings is optimistic about the future. In fact, he just bought a pair of size 40 jeans and reports he also needs a belt. “I’m seeing new results every day. I want to live a healthier life, and now I believe it’s possible.”


• Lose 50 more pounds

• Learn to scuba dive

• Fit into size 38 jeans

• Do more fishing and motorcycle riding

• Resume weightlifting

• Walk 30 minutes per day

• Resist chocolate

• Learn to fly fish

• Encourage others to lose weight and get fit

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