Archive for category nutrition

How to be more physically active (Part 4 of 5)

By Jena Williams



This is part 4 of a series to dissect the CDC’s recommendations to prevent obesity in truck drivers. (Click here to see part 1). A recent study* by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that long-haul truck drivers are 2 times more likely than other U.S. adult workers to be obese.

In this series we are tackling one obesity prevention suggestion a week.

If you are not used to physical activity, then this may be the most intimidating part for you. My advice, start small and do something you enjoy. Don’t try to do someone else’s exercise routine if it’s not fun to you. Yes, I’m using the word “fun” liberally, but if you try different activities, you’ll find that there are ones you enjoy more than others. If you’d rather walk outside than walk a treadmill, then walk outside. Give yourself small challenges to beat. Recognize that the first week is the hardest and after that it’ll be much easier.

Speaking of walking – if you find yourself at truck stops with time on your hands for a walk, but no safe place to have a walk, talk to the manager on duty. You are the customer, so they likely will cater to your needs, but they need to know what they are first. The more customers that ask for healthy options and safer places to walk, the more likely they are to accommodate the needs of drivers seeking healthier lifestyles.

You’ll be more likely to stick to an exercise routine if you find an accountability partner. The best one would be someone to exercise with, but if that’s not possible, then at least agree to check in with each other daily.

Exercise on the road may seem to be a challenge, but other truck drivers have done it. Check out the drivers in the links below to see if you are inspired. (I know they inspire me!)

Todd McCann, Healthy Trucker:

Jerry, Healthy Trucker:

Bryan Calestine, TMC driver:


Weight Training Truck Driver Workout Plan:

Healthy Trucker, In Cab Workout:

Florilli Transportation LLC, In Cab, Cold Weather Exercises:

Truck Drivers Money Saving Tips:

The 7 Most Common Workout Mistakes Beginners Make:

Start simple suggestion: Put on your high-visibility vest for safety and walk around your truck at a pace or quantity of times to make you breathe heavy. If that’s too easy, then see how long you can hold the plank position and add 5 seconds a day until you get to 1 minute. Here’s a link to how to do a plank:

* Sieber WK, Robinson CF, Birdsey J, Chen GX, Hitchcock EM, Lincoln JE, Nakata A, Sweeney MH [2014]. Obesity and other risk factors: the National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury. Am J Ind Med (57)615-626.

Are you drinking your calories? (Part 3 of 5)

By Jena Williams

Fresh fruits milk shake on wood

This is part 3 of a series to dissect the CDC’s recommendations to prevent obesity in truck drivers. (Click here to see part 1). A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that long-haul truck drivers are 2 times more likely than other U.S. adult workers to be obese.*

In this series we are tackling one obesity prevention suggestion a week.

Americans drink a ton of calories. Here’s a list of calories in common beverages from WebMD

My favorite coffee treat this time of year is a Salted Caramel Mocha from Starbucks. Can you imagine my horror to discover that a 16 oz. made with 2% milk has 450 calories! That is not a typo, 450 calories. In an 1800 calorie diet… well, you can do the math. It might be worth your time to check into the calories you are drinking and how many you should be consuming in a day. Here is a recommended daily calorie guide by age and gender.

Is Monster Energy what you go to for that mid-afternoon energy burst? Each 16 oz. can contains 220 calories. Dehydration can cause you to feel sleepy, so next time you need an energy boost try a bottle of water.

Start simple suggestion: Check the calories on your favorite beverage and consider replacing with brewed tea (zero calories!) or coffee at just 5 calories. In cold weather, hot water with a squeezed lemon wedge is also very refreshing and allows you to save those calories for foods that will benefit you, not weigh you down.


* Sieber WK, Robinson CF, Birdsey J, Chen GX, Hitchcock EM, Lincoln JE, Nakata A, Sweeney MH [2014]. Obesity and other risk factors: the National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury. Am J Ind Med (57)615-626.

Obesity – should we talk about the dreaded topic? (Part 1 of 5)

By Jena Williams

Belt Last Hole

Just hearing the word obesity can cause anxiety in those who suffer from it. I know from personal experience. But it’s an important topic because it impacts us.

You may have heard of the survey of 1,670 long-haul truck drivers recently conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study found that they are 2 times more likely than other U.S. adult workers to be obese.1

That is not a good statistic, especially since often more than other workers, truck drivers must maintain their health in order to maintain their jobs. The CDC developed an infographic that sums up the costs of obesity in truck drivers. Obesity is linked to a host of health problems including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke.

But what is the solution to the obesity problem? It’s not like we want to carry around extra weight. If it were easy to get rid of it, we would.

Over the next 4 weeks, we will explore the CDC’s recommendations and hopefully discover how to make them applicable to our real lives and hectic schedules. The recommendations are:

  1. Eat healthy and smaller portion sizes. (Do we know what a portion is?)
  2. Drink more water instead of sugary drinks like soda. (Do you mean bye bye Starbucks, too?)
  3. Be more physically active. (But my job requires sitting all day!)
  4. Track your weight and body mass. (Ugh!)

Duh! No surprises here.

Don’t get me wrong as I’m not knocking the tips. They are all good. I just think many of us knew these tips already and what we need is to start the discussion on how to implement them, specifically for truck drivers. To be clear, I’m not a physician or a nutritionist, but hopefully I can share some ideas to help you be successful. In the upcoming weeks we’ll tackle some of the more common obstacles to each of the suggestions above. I hope you’ll check back and share your comments and suggestions each week as we work through them together.

Spoiler alert! At the end of this series, I’m going to suggest that you just pick one topic to address per month. You can decide now, or wait until we tackle the topics together to begin. It takes time to develop a new habit so by making small changes over time you’ll be more likely to be successful than completely upsetting your routine.  After all, these aren’t New Year’s resolutions. This is your new healthy life and we want you to be successful!

Note: If someone forwarded this blog to you, be sure to sign up in the left hand column to receive future topics.

  1. Sieber WK, Robinson CF, Birdsey J, Chen GX, Hitchcock EM, Lincoln JE, Nakata A, Sweeney MH [2014]. Obesity and other risk factors: the National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury. Am J Ind Med (57)615-626.

Finding motivation to exercise

By Jena Williams


Finding time and motivation to exercise is a struggle for most people. For those that sit all day at a computer or driving a truck, finding the motivation can be even more difficult. Newton’s first law of motion confirms this: An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion … This law is sometimes referred to as the “law of inertia.” Explains a lot, huh?

This infographic was recently published in The Washington Post. It shows what happens to a body that sits for too much of the day. Health issues and pains abound. Our bodies need to move. Just 15 minutes a day is all it takes.

Each of us is motivated differently. Below I’ve listed some links that have worked for others. See if any will work for you. Or if you have a success story, please share it with us in the comments.

15 minute exercises from Trucker to Trucker:

The Truckers Workout:

Healthy Trucker (This site has a ton of good info!):

Men’s Health:


Take a different turn this week

By Jena Williams


If you’re a truck driver, you probably shouldn’t go off your route, but you can take a different turn when it comes to your diet. Sorry, I didn’t mean to say the four letter D-word. Diet makes me think of starvation and celery. Even though the dictionary says it means what you eat. You could have a donut-centered diet or a bacon-centered diet and it would still be a diet…but I digress.

Back to the topic, what if you made the choice to improve your diet this week, not by starving or subsisting on celery, but by eating healthier foods? Is this making you think of the dreaded grilled chicken that nobody really wants to order, except when being “good” in front of witnesses? You’ll be glad to know that’s not what I mean either.

I’m thinking more along the lines of tasty, filling foods that you prep in advance but saves you time and cash along the way. Think whole foods, but yummy.

Here’s a recipe. Delicious, filling and good for you! And whether or not you have access to a microwave to heat it, the jalapeños make it warm in the “we’re getting to fall and I want a hot dish for lunch” way.

Chicken, Rice and Beans Goodness (ok, so I made up the name)


3 large chicken breasts or 2-3 cups of cooked chopped chicken

2 cups rice, makes about 4 cups cooked rice (any kind you like, although I prefer brown rice, the healthier option)

Dash salt

½ large onion

2 cans of whole beans, such as pinto, red, black or a combination

1 small can jalapeños

1 small can mild, diced green chilies

Small amount of olive oil

Avocado or guacamole (optional)


Season and bake the chicken. I baked with pepper, garlic salt and some olive oil. Remove from bones and chop it up. (Or start with 2-3 cups chopped, precooked chicken.)

Cook rice per package instructions. I use chicken broth in place of half of the water.

Chop half an onion.

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet on medium. Add a dash of salt, the chopped onion, jalapeños and/or green chilies. Cook and stir until onions are transparent.

Drain and rinse the canned beans. Add to onion mix. Add chopped chicken and rice, mix in and heat until warm, and it’s ready to eat!

This recipe makes about 8 large servings, so you can easily half the recipe and still have plenty. Store in individual serving size microwave-safe containers and freeze. Take one with you each day on your way to work. It’ll be thawed by lunch time to eat cold or you can microwave. You can add sliced avocado or pick up some single serving guacamole dip to add to the top. Yum!

Eating whole, non-processed foods will keep you full longer and you will notice that you have more energy and should feel better in general.

Use the comments to share your favorite, easy recipe.

Note: I used canned ingredients to make it quick and easy, but fresh jalapeños and peppers and fresh cooked beans can be used by the true purists!

Can an obese nation be starving?

By Jena Williams

According to the website EHow, using a high-octane gasoline in an engine will help it run smoother; lower the octane in the gasoline and the vehicle will run rough. The same is true if you use a low-cetane fuel in a diesel engine.

Our bodies, like our trucks, need the right fuel to run smooth.

It’s not news to anyone that according to the Centers for Disease Control, 35.7% of U.S. adults are obese or that the World Health Organization states that worldwide obesity has doubled since 1980.

However, with all this talk of obesity, eating right, calories, and how much is too much, is it possible that we are ignoring one of the main culprits in our nation’s obesity epidemic?

Some studies show, that in an effort to increase the volume and longevity of crops, the nutritional value of our nation’s food supply has decreased. Additionally, we are consuming more processed foods, so eating 2,000 calories today does not make our bodies as healthy as eating 2,000 calories 30 years ago.

It’s easy to point at obese people and say eat right, eat less, exercise more. But instinct takes over when bodies are craving nutrition. Quality and quantity don’t matter when you are overly hungry. Until you are at a point of satiation, it’s difficult to make rational decisions about food. And can you ever be satiated when your belly is full, but your body’s cells are starving for nutrients?

An extreme example of this was demonstrated in Band of Brothers: Why we need to fight, Part 2, (Dir. David Frankel and Mikael Salomon. Home Box Office, 2001). You may remember the scene where the few surviving, starving prisoners of the Nazis were about to be liberated from a concentration camp. Seeing them dying of starvation, we were all longing for them to be handed food (in huge quantities,) but a physician stopped the release from the camp. He stated that in their current state, they would overeat if released and needed to be gradually reintroduced to food. Their nutrition needed to be carefully managed or they would die. Oh how my heart broke for them in that scene.

On a much less drastic scale, if our bodies are starving for nutrition that we aren’t getting, are we also capable of eating ourselves to death* to meet an instinctive need?

In a report titled “Still no free lunch,” by The Organic Center, “Government data from both America and the United Kingdom have shown that the concentration of a range of essential nutrients in the food supply has declined in the last few decades, with double digit percentage declines of iron, zinc, calcium, selenium** and other essential nutrients across a wide range of common foods.”

The authors go on to say “Fewer nutrients per serving translate into less nutrition per calorie consumed.” Less nutrition per calorie equals people over-eating to sustain minimal nutrition. In addition, what happens inside the body when it’s not getting enough nutrition? Doesn’t a starving body behave like a vehicle with not enough fuel or the wrong fuel by breaking down? Is the upswing in chronic diseases and some kinds of cancers linked to reduced nutrition in our food?

I’m not a physician, so you should talk to yours before making changes to your diet, including adding supplements. WebMD also recommends looking for a seal of approval from an organization that tests supplements such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia or NSF International.

Keeping our truck drivers healthy is vital to our nation. Not only because we need you to keep driving (as there is a shrinking labor pool to replace you), but also because driver health is being more tightly regulated (DOT physicals.) Maybe this can be one more tool in your arsenal for good health.

Just some thoughts to chew on. I’d like to hear yours in the comments.


Get The Organic Center’s Full Report Still No Free Lunch:

CDC obesity information:

Link to WebMD

*Wink to those who just thought of Pizza the Hut in Space Balls, (Dir. Mel Brooks. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer [MGM], 1987).

**Linked to prevention of pancreatic cancer:

What would you do to keep an experienced driver for ten more years?

By Jena Williams


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published the results of a study: Occupational Highway Transportation Deaths Among Workers Aged ≥55 Years – United States, 2003-2010. The study found that on-the-job highway transportation death rates increased substantially at age 65, especially in transportation and warehousing industries and in transportation and material moving occupations.

It might seem that the finding of this study is, well, obvious. To be blunt, we tend to expect older workers to die more. But I would caution you to dig a little deeper because I think there is some important information to be gleaned here.

Consider that in the general population, these types of deaths only begin to increase substantially at age 75 years.  Why would deaths increase a decade earlier for workers?

There are many possible reasons and theories for this. I’ll present mine here and hope you’ll add yours in the comments.

The editor recommends interventions to benefit older drivers. (I would argue that these interventions would actually benefit all drivers!) The first is that we need to do a better job of selecting and adapting vehicles to accommodate drivers.

There are many other recommendations as well, such as less driving, less nighttime driving, etc., but I would like to explore the idea of adapting vehicles to accommodate drivers a little more.

Consider that before most people buy a personal vehicle, they sit in it and take it for test drive. Generally, people don’t buy a vehicle that isn’t comfortable to them. Unfortunately, comfort may not be a priority when many companies purchase their vehicles. Instead fuel economy, aerodynamics, and cost take the forefront. Plus, a company’s workforce comes in all shapes and sizes, so initially tailoring vehicles may seem nearly impossible.

One might argue that physical comfort doesn’t really have anything to do with crash-related deaths, but I would disagree. Fatigue is fatigue, whether brought on by long hours or awkward postures. It is still worth considering.

As the article states and we already know, “…older workers bring a wealth of skills and experience to the workplace…” I think we can agree that keeping an experienced worker for an additional ten years is valuable in a market with a declining labor pool.

What kind of investment are you willing to make in a skilled worker to keep them around for another ten years?  Would you improve the stairs into the cab? Would you add or improve handholds? Would you improve adjustability in the seat? Would you improve the location of the steering wheel? All of these can be associated with excess strain and fatigue on the body, potentially increasing crash risk.

And one more question, would you ask them what they need to make their job safer and easier?

These are just some of my thoughts. What are yours?

Link to full report:

And for drivers – always wear your seatbelt. Always.

Is safe lifting an oxymoron?

By Jena Williams

Most ergonomists will probably agree that it is. You see, there is no guaranteed safe weight to lift.

There are so many factors involved in each scenario:

  • Weight of object.
  • Size of object.
  • Shape of object.
  • Starting point of lift (ground, waist, shoulder, over-head etc.)
  • Ending point of lift (ground, waist, shoulder, over-head.)
  • Body positioning.
  • Strength of human.
  • Health of human.
  • Size of human.
  • Stability of ground surface.
  • Repetition of lift.
  • Daily workload strain on body.
  • Previous day’s workload strain on body.

I could go on.

As imperfect as the science in regard to lifting is, there are some tools that can help make lifting safer. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries and Oregon OSHA teamed up to develop this app to guide lift planning and training. It’s a great demonstration of the various elements that impact strain on your body.

Whenever possible, reduce the need to lift and carry by using mechanical devices such as hand trucks to move materials. Items that are moved often should be stored a height that is easy to grab, such as at waist level, and kept as close to the destination as possible.

Also position your body as close to the object as possible. The combination of reaching and lifting adds considerable force to the lift.

Can you see the ground when you are carrying? If not, walk the path without the object to make sure it’s clear of debris or other obstacles.

Have you developed any work-arounds to minimize or eliminate lifts at your company? Please share your insight in the comments below.

Link to app:

Do you love your doc??

By Jena Williams

You may have heard the buzz about changes to DOT physicals, but there are a few topics that you might want to prepare for:

  • Is your favorite or company physician registered? If not, he or she will not be able to certify your drivers. It’s worth the time to make the call or check the registry to make sure. The link to the national registry with information on testing and training site is here:
  • Also, keep in mind that DOT physicals are generally not covered by insurance. So plan to pay at the time of service.
  • And finally, have your drivers all self-certified?  All CDL holders must self-certify in person between January 30, 2012 and January 30, 2014 at your local drivers’ licensing office. This must be done in person.

National registry of certified medical examiners:

Have you certified? Medical certificates and self-certification:

Healthy hearts, trucking and chocolate?!?

By Jena Williams

This week we celebrate Valentine’s Day. This month we pay special attention to heart health. Is it a coincidence that there is an overlap here? I don’t think so. Stick with me and I’ll explain why.

We’ll begin with Valentine’s Day, which, for those of you who need to know, is on the 14th. Ah, Valentine’s Day, although one of the sweetest  days of the year, it is also a day high in stress, devised many years ago presumably in an attempt by the card, candy, jewelry and floral industries to make those not in a relationship feel bad and those in one incredibly broke. Other theories include a lovesick jailbird, secret weddings and fertility rituals (you can read about those here:

Next we’ll consider heart health since February is American Heart Month. Few would disagree that the heart (even a broken one) is a very necessary organ for human survival, so it seems reasonable to consider how best to care for it.  For truck drivers, staying healthy to be safe on the road is vital to the job, so taking care of your heart is actually an important part of your job as well.

This can be tricky when healthy foods are difficult to find on the road and sometimes a challenge to prepare, store and cook in a truck. Some helpful hints here:

There is a good reason to try though, because research shows that the average male truck driver lives 15 years less than the average American male.  Doesn’t seem quite fair or right for those who bring everything the rest of us need. So what can we do as an industry to turn this tide?

Well, we haven’t given up.  April 30-May 2, is the 5th Annual Healthy Trucking Summit of 2013 presented by the Healthy Trucking Association of America. Trucking industry representatives throughout the nation will meet to discuss the needs and concerns of the industry to improve the well-being of their most vital investment – their drivers.

Here’s a tidbit from the 2013 announcement:

Since its inception in 2009, the HTAA HEALTHY TRUCKING SUMMIT has become the undisputed premiere health and wellness event of the trucking industry… the HEALTHY TRUCKING SUMMIT [is] the most successful event of its kind and the trucking industry’s most important annual event for improving the health of our nation’s drivers.

There is still time to register for the event and to get involved in the process of improving the health of the entire trucking industry.

And now back to hearts and chocolate and why truckers should be interested.

At first I was confused as to why as a nation we chose in 1963 to recognize American Heart Month during February with the great deluge of chocolate that comes with that. But apparently someone must have suspected then what has been recently proven. Chocolate is good for your heart!!!! Now keep it in perspective, not all items labeled as “chocolate” truly fit the bill, but as a true chocolate connoisseur would agree, the heart healthy components are in the only chocolate worth human consumption. (Yes, I’m referring to the dark kind!)

Don’t try to argue it any other way! I’ve got this battle down. Dark chocolate = good for you. All other yucky chocolates = not so good for you. Therefore, dark = good. All other = bad. Thus dark chocolate is the only good chocolate. Whew!

Back to our story.

So really, it isn’t a surprise to me that Valentine’s Day, the holiday of the heart and the chocolate connoisseur would be celebrated during American Heart Month. I’m not a physician but I say, February 14th is the day to indulge in some yummy dark chocolate. If your sweetheart doesn’t supply it, just buy your own. 😉 Because, truck drivers, we appreciate you!

NOTE: Commentary on the palatable-ness of various forms of chocolate are the personal views of the author and do not necessary reflect the official views of TIRES. (Even if they should.)

How a trucking company changed to a healthier culture:

CDC’s February is Heart Awareness Month:

Heart healthy properties of chocolate: (Dreams do come true!)

Heart Healthy Trucking Blog:

HTAA Healthy Trucking Summit: