Archive for category Obesity

Thinking outside the box when it comes to tracking your weight and body mass (Part 5 of 5)

By Jena Williams


This is part 5 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.

Give yourself grace when you step on the scale. Initially as you begin to exercise, you may gain a few pounds as muscle develops. Some muscular body types appear to have high BMI based on numbers, but in reality aren’t carrying extra fat. Therefore, I’d suggest measuring your body (rather than weighing) to track changes as you tone up or just go by how your clothes fit. You’ll know if it’s making a difference or not.

Try journaling your goals, triumphs and setbacks. Think of something you’d like to be able to do – climb the stairs, wear a certain size, participate in an event. Begin writing down what it is currently like to do that thing (e.g. I’m breathing heavily after 2 flights, I can run a quarter mile before needing to stop, I can do 7 sit-ups before stopping, my waist is 41 inches). Each week, re-check your gauge to see how you are doing. Write down what you think contributed to your success (or is keeping you from your goals).

If general aches and pains are an issue for you, write down your level and type of pain to see if it changes as your body gets used to the exercise. Many people observe that if they generally wake up with low back pain, it’ll subside when they start building core muscle strength. This is a good place to mention that your physician will be the best person to suggest the level of exercise that is right for you.

Over the past month, we’ve discussed the 4 recommendations from the CDC to help truck drivers prevent obesity. They are:

  1. Eat healthy and smaller portion sizes.
  2. Drink more water instead of sugary drinks like soda.
  3. Be more physically active.
  4. Track your weight and body mass.

If you haven’t already started to make changes, then now is the time to pick one change to implement for the upcoming month. Work on that until it becomes the new normal for you, then choose another area to work on. Talk to a friend about your plan to get healthy or make yourself accountable by listing your change in the comments. Ask for support and encouragement from friends and family or if you prefer, ask them to challenge you. You know what will motivate you to not give up so ask for the type of support you need.

Vital Smarts has a book called Change Anything that teaches individuals to recognize the personal, social, and environmental forces of influence currently working against them—and then turn them in their favor. It’s worth the read to help you get from where you are to where you want to be.

Start simple suggestion: Make a health-related goal today, and then measure your current ability or size as a baseline.

If you’ve struggled against obesity and made even small wins, will you share your success story in the comments?

*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.


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.

Let’s talk about how to eat healthy and smaller portion sizes (Part 2 of 5)

by Jena Williams

iStock_000028413270Small (1)

This is part 2 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 our own work, we’ve found that on average, injured truck drivers in Washington State have an average Body Mass Index (BMI) that is obese (30.4 average, >30 is obese).2

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

I’m of the opinion that many of us have forgotten what a healthy and/or smaller portion size is. Well I’m here to tell you, there’s an app for that! In fact, there are many. Here’s an article on the 7 best diet apps for IPhone and Android. They handle a variety of tasks like helping you look up and track calories, give nutrition advice, send text reminders, allow you to develop accountability with others, track water consumption and exercise levels.  Even if you don’t want to use them all the time, it can be helpful to track a few days’ worth of meals to get an idea where your high calorie, low nutrition foods are coming from.

There are also websites to help with choosing healthy portions and serving sizes:

I think one of the best things you can do is to cook and bring your meals instead of eating out. It’s good to keep in mind that it’s not all about the calories either. More and more physicians and nutritionists are saying that it’s more important to eat real food (rather than processed food) than it is to worry so much about calories.

When you choose natural foods like beans and nuts (get unsalted), you’ll feel satisfied sooner and over a short period of time, you will be less likely to overeat. Additionally, by bringing your own healthy meals, you avoid impulsively ordering fried or fatty foods when you finally stop and are too hungry to make a healthy decision.

Extreme calorie restriction is not a healthy goal. Make eating whole, real foods your goal.

Start simple suggestion: Add more whole beans (not refried) to your normal diet.  Increase your water intake as well. Fiber works best when it absorbs water


  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.
  2. Bonauto DK, Lu D, Fan ZJ. Obesity Prevalence by Occupation in Washington State, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:130219. DOI:

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.

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:

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:

Unconventional safety training

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!


By Jena Williams

No truck parkingEveryone has a fundamental need for safety and security. If we don’t feel safe, stress levels rise, affecting many systems of the body, including blood pressure, gastro-intestinal, and emotional health.

Whether it is the economy, apathy, or societal indifference, it appears that theft is on the rise. My parents have lived in the same house for over 25 years without a major incident. However, over the summer, their house was burglarized and now they are fighting identity theft. Last week our cars were prowled and my brother’s sheds were broken into. We all live in different areas of town. Our family has definitely felt the surge in crime and lack of security. We feel violated and stressed even though we never came face-to-face with our perpetrators.

Jason Rivenburg was not so lucky. Many of you know his story, but for those who don’t, Jason was a truck driver delivering a load to a South Carolina delivery site. He was ahead of schedule and not allowed to deliver early so he needed to find a place to park and sleep for the night. Ultimately, he ended up parking his rig at an abandoned gas station. That night he was robbed and murdered for the $7 in his pocket.

Jason’s wife responded by lobbying for the passage of Jason’s Law to promote the use of existing government facilities like weigh stations and inspection sites to offer free and safe parking facilities. Jason’s Law was included and passed in the federal transportation bill. Although, this is an important first step to improve driver safety on the road, it leads to the question, is there anything else we can do to promote safety for drivers? And, most especially, safe places to park and rest.

Drivers, is it safe to park in Washington? Where? Is there a location where safe truck parking needs to be made available? Please let us know in the comments below.

More about Jason’s Law:

Bureau of Justice Statistics:

What does it take to stay in the game for the long-haul?

By Jena Williams

Here’s a sobering fact from a recent New York Times article:

Eighty-six percent of the estimated 3.2 million truck drivers in the United States are overweight or obese, according to a 2007 study in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The NY Times article goes on to report how some long-haul truckers are finding ways to stay or get fit, including a trucker who gave up soda pop and only drinks water and another who does sit ups in his trailer.

Those interviewed shared a common understanding…their livelihoods depend on living a healthy lifestyle. Five truckers share their success stories, including Jill Garcia who was motivated by the concern that if she doesn’t maintain her health that one day she won’t pass her DOT physical.

The challenge, as any trucker knows, is staying fit in a sedentary job with few healthy food choices. Some have taken on the challenge and are willing to share their tips and resources.

You should also check out the audio interviews with the truckers in the story, who describe their efforts to stay fit in their own words.

What tricks have you found to avoid the greasy spoons or to get yourself moving? How have you overcome the challenge to stay healthy in your job?