When trucker Bettina Cameron traveled to Jamaica for vacation, she planned to climb Dunn’s River Falls, a 180-foot water fall near Ocho Rios. She was overweight, but she did not allow her weight to affect her life.
She never made it to the top.
“That was the first time it really hit me that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do,” she says. She now looks back at this experience as a turning point in her weight-loss journey.
Cameron, who has driven truck for 17 years, decided to make a lifestyle change in January 2013 with her team-driving husband, Brian. They’d tried dieting in the past but had little success. “I would lose 30 lbs. and gain back 40,” she says. The pair decided to start eating right, cutting out junk food and overly processed foods.
THE DIET | Bettina Cameron’s “dieting” over the past year amounts to a wholesale change in her approach to food, she says. “My whole life revolved around food. I lived to eat. Now, I eat to live. Food is just my fuel.”
Because of the amount of time she spends on the road, she still occasionally eats at fast food restaurants. She says Hardee’s offers low-carb versions of their sandwiches, wrapping them in lettuce instead of using a bun. She orders salads at McDonald’s, but substitutes the chicken, which she says is too processed for her taste, with meat from their 100 percent Angus beef burger. She also recommends being smart about their salads. “Once you add dressing and croutons and cheese, you can do better eating a pint of chocolate ice cream,” she says.
She also brings food from home on the road. When she doesn’t have access to a refrigerator, she stocks up on items like apples and oranges that don’t need to be refrigerated. She’s traded in soft drinks for water. While not a big fan of water, she adds lemon juice or lime juice to boost the flavor with few calories.
Cravings, she says, were “hell,” especially during the first month of her diet change. Now, when she wants something sweet, she craves strawberries. When she sees a donut, she reminds herself that it will cost her 175 sit-ups.
Before the change, she would routinely buy a Diet Coke and a Snickers bar from the truck stop. She’s now traded these sugary snacks for lean meats, vegetables and fruits. Thinking about the ingredients that go into overly processed foods has helped her to make more natural choices, she says.
A little over a year later, Cameron, 40, has lost 70 pounds. She hopes to lose 75 more this year. In addition to eating right, she exercises at least an hour every day. When she’s on the road, she exercises in her truck, lifting weights or using a yoga mat. When she’s home, she hits the gym, putting in three-hour workouts twice a week.
About three to four months into her journey, Cameron’s friends encouraged her to start a Facebook page: “Losing it.” now documents her lifestyle change.
“I thought it was boring,” she says of her long-term weight-loss goal. “I hope that [the Facebook page] helps somebody,” she adds. “It helps me. It holds me accountable.”
Cameron says the key to making a lifestyle change is to stop making excuses. The cover photo on the “Losing it.” Facebook page reads, “If you have time for Facebook, you have time to work out.” Before she started her weight-loss quest, she commonly made excuses for herself, thinking it was impossible to eat right and work out while on the road.
“They were just lies I told myself. You can do it out here,” she says. And now? “When it’s -35 degrees in Montana, and I just want to drive, I’m looking for an excuse to not go to the gym. I remember that there are 253 people [now 258, those who like her Facebook page] who are looking for an excuse.”
She also strives to remain genuine to her followers throughout the journey. When she experienced her first weight gain in 13 months, she thought about not sharing it with her Facebook community. She was immediately afraid she would gain 100 lbs. again and lose all she had worked for.
“I think it’s important to be real. That’s part of it,” she says. She decided to share her experience because she knew some of her followers would have the same experience.
“Today, for the first time in 13 months, I step on the scale, and gained weight!” she posted Feb. 6. “Talk about a trigger and a throwback to all those old feelings of failure! Now I could have simply tucked this away and never told a soul. Or I could say its muscle built, or water retention, or hormones. Instead, I’m posting it for the world to see!! I’m doing that because I am not my failures!”
Cameron uses cost as an incentive to lose weight, too. The three dollars she would normally spend on a sweet snack is tucked away in her tummy-tuck fund. After she loses her weight, she plans to have surgery to take in her excess skin.
She doesn’t hope to become a size 2, with her goal weight being around 160 lbs. Instead, she wants to be healthier and stronger. When she reaches her goal, she has set up another mission.
“I’m going back [to Jamaica], and I’m climbing that waterfall.”