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A new year provides opportunities for a fresh start

Less than a year after I started driving for a living, I recognized that my health was on a downward spiral and picking up speed.

Less than a year after I started driving for a living, I recognized that my health was on a downward spiral and picking up speed.

I was sucking back two packs of smokes a day, there was always a munchie of some sort next to my seat and the meal of choice always seemed to be the all-you-can-eat buffet at the truck stop.

Heavy smoker, obesity, little or no exercise, elevated blood pressure, and a family history of cardiac problems; I was a walking time bomb before I had reached my 40th birthday.

There was a good possibility that if I stuck to this track I may not reach my 50th birthday, let alone retirement. I found the motivation to make some changes in my life. I quit the tobacco on my 40th birthday and by my 50th birthday, I’d dropped 75 pounds.

I’ve thought about writing about this a number of times but have always shied away from it.

It’s not for me to say how anyone should eat, exercise, or whether or not they should smoke. Our personal choices are just that -personal.

I’m a truck driver, not a nutritionist, dietician, doctor, personal trainer or life coach.

As a truck driver I know that the cards are stacked against us when it comes to coping with these issues. It’s not impossible but it’s not easy.

For me, success did not come in the first week, the first month or the first year.

There were numerous times in the first couple of years when I would slip back into old habits for a few months.

I started by quitting smoking and decided for the first year I was not going to worry about eating or diet or exercise.

Coping with not smoking was enough. One thing at a time. I ended up putting on some weight that first year but didn’t let it get to me.

The second year when I started to focus on weight loss it was much easier to do because the whole smoking thing was behind me. I also had the confidence that if I could give up a 20-plus year two-pack-a-day smoking habit then I could get a handle on my diet and lose some weight.

There is no doubt about the fact that to drive a truck and lose weight is difficult. I chewed a lot of gum those first couple of years. The best motivator I came across was calorie counting. Sounds boring, anal maybe, I know.

I don’t remember how long I did it for but it was at least four months and no more than six.

I kept track of the caloric value of everything I ate and became an expert at reading food value labels. I was amazed at how many calories are in some of the crap that we eat.

I also learned I was eating portion sizes that were far too large. I learned that all the stuff that is good for us has far fewer calories in it and you can eat a lot more of it. Think fruits and vegetables -this became my new snack food.

We know that we put on weight when we eat more calories in a day than we burn off.

To lose weight we need to burn off more than we eat. So we can eat less, exercise more, or eat the same amount and exercise more. Weight loss isn’t any more complicated than that.

The problem is that it is easy to understand but not so easy to put into practice. It didn’t take me long to realize that I needed to add a daily walk to my regimen to burn off a few extra calories in addition to cutting down on my caloric intake.

This is when I really noticed the weight coming off. I was now three or four years in to this program and had lost about 30 pounds.

I settled into walking every second day for 40-60 minutes as a minimum and I was energized like I had not been for many years.

I still had times, especially in the winter, when I had difficulty sticking to my program. Often in the dead of winter I would end up putting on five or 10 pounds.

This is where the trucking lifestyle really can drag you down. It’s tough to find the motivation to go out for a walk when it’s -30 C in Winnipeg and the wind is blowing and it’s dark to boot. Such is the life we lead.

So if your New Year’s resolution is to get healthy this year it’s well worth the effort. Keep your intention in mind and you’ll always move forward.

-Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his ‘Over the Road’ blog at can also follow him on Twitter at

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