By Jena Williams

I love looking at old photos, particularly the ones of my parents when they were young. Not long ago I was looking at a photo of my mom at my age. We are similar in height and build, but it struck me that she was much thinner than me at the same age.

This shouldn’t matter except that I’ve recently been concerned about my mom’s health and how it’s been impacted by the fact that she is not at an optimum weight for her height. (Darn BMI!)

It struck me that if I am heavier now than she was at my age, how heavy would I be at her age? WWWAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

It was time to make a change. No more denial, no more just accepting my poor eating habits and lack of exercise. No more excuses. Yeah, I’m a busy mom. But if I wanted to be healthy, I needed to make a major change.

Only I didn’t make a major change, I made a series of little changes – little changes that over a year’s time resulted in a 30-pound weight loss. The changes I made were things I could live with long term, because I knew a “diet” wouldn’t work for me. I also made the changes one at a time. Once I got used to one change, I would add another. For example, I started ordering the 12 oz. mocha instead of the 16 oz. Then I started uttering the words “just a little chocolate, please. “ Then I replaced some, not all, of my mochas with hot tea.

Then I replaced my afternoon Cheetos.  (Okay so this was a big change for me, but necessary since I can’t be trusted with just one snack-sized bag.) Instead I made myself eat carrots (they’re orange too, right?) or apples for an afternoon pick me up. I also found that once I started exercising, I began to crave healthier foods. One cannot work out on Cheetos alone! Apples and peanut butter or a protein drink make workouts much better!

There are definite obstacles to overcome, especially when your workplace is in a semi-truck. Healthy eating takes planning, making time to work out takes planning. But it is doable. And once you get used to it, it becomes much easier. Drivers will have the added challenge of finding ways to store and heat healthy foods and safe places to park and exercise. The links below show how fellow drivers have done it.

Why am I sharing all this? According to numerous reports, the younger generation is by and large (no pun intended!) much heavier than previous generations. Does the younger generation look at the physical limitations of the older generation and think “that could be me someday, only worse because I’m heavier now?”

So what’s my point? Stay with me, I’m almost there… The American Journal of Industrial Medicine recently released an article called “Risk Factors, Health Behaviors, and Injury Among Adults Employed in the Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities Super Sector.” Not surprisingly they reported that TWU workers ages 65 and older had the highest prevalence of hypertension of all industries and the TWU workers in general had the highest prevalence of obesity.  They concluded that companies should emphasize health and wellness goals including “treatment of hypertension … by encouragement of healthier behaviors and more physical activity.” “For younger TWU workers…wellness efforts should be directed at promoting exercise and improved lifestyle, with the goal that they will be in a state of better health as they become older workers.” But how?

So how can we change the culture of an entire industry to embrace a healthier lifestyle? Consider this – maybe it’s not a conventional training tool, and maybe it might offend some people, but what if as a sort of safety training, you asked older workers to bring in pictures of themselves in their early 20s? You could make a competition out of guessing who is who. Then the older drivers could share the “wish I’d known then what I know now” stories with the younger drivers.

If people get into it, maybe they can share how they have overcome their own obstacles to health on the road. Maybe a breakthrough might occur. Maybe it might inspire change.

Employers, what can you do to encourage health in the workplace? How about offering a portable bike as incentive to exercise? Or maybe offer a portable fridge or insulated lunch sack filled with healthy on-the-road snacks for participation in a health-related activity.

Yeah, I know. Lots of maybes, lots of what-ifs, but I’d love to know if you decide to try this approach with your company, how it was received. Share your ideas in the comments section below.

Healthy living tips for truckers:

Rig your bike:

Bring your bike:


The long haul:

Cab friendly snacks:

Happy New Year!