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Todd Dills

Owner-op Dean Carnahan: Poor health is often a ‘preventable accident’

| May 26, 2017

There is no more prescient business topic than personal health, as CargoMax-leased owner-operator Dean Carnahan would have it. Without your life, your business can’t even be an afterthought. Trouble is, as Carnahan well knows, taking control of diet isn’t always a simple thing to do out on the road. Truck stop options are too often limited to high-calorie, high-sugar junk or fast food these days. He’s hopeful getting more drivers taking a proactive role in healthy eating can spur a movement to change the status quo in that regard.

Owner-operator Dean Carnahan

“As you see more truck-stop chains go to the smaller parking lots, quick food, get-in-get-out-type attitude,” Carnahan says, “everybody starts getting plumper because of all the stupid stuff we’re eating.” Bad diet leads to more weight leads to sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease and all sorts of other health issues, Carnahan notes.

As he tells the story of his own health change beginning a couple years ago in the podcast above and below, he started shopping at Trader Joe’s following the advice of his wife, who’s something of a natural-diet guru to hear him describe her, replaced soda with Gerolsteiner sparkling mineral water and fast food with trail mixes, protein powders and the like and lost 40 pounds, got his blood pressure in line and is feeling great. “I’m not trying to lose weight,” he adds. “I’m just trying to live longer. The best way to live longer is to eat stuff that feeds your body.”

Two of Carnahan’s go-to powdered super-foods: “The Green stuff I put in apple juice, and the protein powder I put in milk,” he says. “That and a little trail mix” — Carnahan’s go-to is the Omega-3-fatty-acid-rich Omega Trek Mix from Trader Joe’s — “and I can go all day.”

As you’ll hear in the part of our conversation that follows – we talked over coffee near my home base in Nashville (apologies for the background noise) – Carnahan, who lives in Winchester, Tenn., believes more drivers need to treat bad health outcomes as something other than nonpreventable accidents.

On his way to Illinois to meet his codriver when we sat down to chat, he’d just been by the Trader Joe’s grocery store for a car’s backseat-full of provisions for the long road ahead. Dean urges drivers young and middle age to shift their eating habits now, before it’s too late. A good rule of thumb: “Don’t eat anything with a patent on it,” he says, something his wife has said frequently.

And with doctors, too, strive to work collaboratively on personal health. Bring a healthy amount of skepticism to those who are too quick to prescribe medication without considering lifestyle effects on health. When Carnahan speculated with one that he was developing a blood-sugar issue in recent years, the first reflex was to slap him with a prescription, for instance, though there are dietary ways to deal with that — as with blood pressure — as well.

One more thing about Dean and his codriver — she’s not only that, but his daughter, Amy, about whom he offers this evidence she was born to truck:

In the podcast, the conversation starts with a bit about their team efforts of late — Carnahan trained Amy himself in CRST’s program a few years back.

Before joining him in his current 2009 780 Volvo, Amy got plenty of experience out on her own, too, as shown here hauling grain.

And as I note in the podcast, I’d like to do more of these one-on-one talks with those running the road as owner-operators today, an idea spurred on by something owner-operator James Woods told me a month or two ago, lamenting his view that too many just don’t share best practices with each other out there on the road anymore. Got a biz topic you’d like to talk about — something you do that works that others might well benefit from? Hit me with a note at tdills [at] and let’s talk.

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