As we all know a career in trucking is not always conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Long hours on the road, lack of sleep/exercise, poor eating habits and increased stress levels can all contribute to...
As we all know a career in trucking is not always conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Long hours on the road, lack of sleep/exercise, poor eating habits and increased stress levels can all contribute to obesity, which can lead to an increased risk of many chronic diseases such as stroke, diabetes cancer, and heart disease as well as many musculoskeletal problems.
Obesity can be defined as an increase in body weight beyond the limitation of skeletal and physical requirement. It is a result of an excessive accumulation of fat stores within the body. Our bodies are made up of millions of tiny cells. These cells are the building blocks of the body. We have many different types of cells, including skin cells, hair cells muscle cells and fat (adipose) cells.
We are all born with a predetermined number of fat cells, which varies from person to person. Changes in the number of cells can occur early on in life, but this number is usually established by late adolescence. Contrary to popular belief, it is not an increase in the number of fat cells that leads to weight gain, but rather an increase in the size of the cells. A skinny person may have more fat cells than an obese person, but the size of their fat cells is much smaller. When we consume more food than we require, our body stores it in our fat cells for later use. The fat cells will increase in size and this is what leads to weight gain.
Recent statistics indicate 47.9 per cent of Canadians are overweight. Canada’s “fattest” province is PEI (59 per cent) and the “fattest” city is St. Catharine’s (57.3 per cent). There is a 80 per cent likelihood that a child will become obese if both parents are obese. An estimated 1.8 billion dollars is spent annually on obesity and obesity-related health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and musculoskeletal problems (back, knee, hip and foot pain). Obesity puts stress on all the systems of the body and contributes to premature mortality.
Although genetics do play a role in obesity, one of the leading preventable causes of obesity is poor lifestyle choices. Lack of exercise, poor diet and eating habits can all contribute to obesity. Food is what provides the body the energy and the necessary nutrients for maintenance, growth and repair. If not enough food is consumed the body will use its fat stores to derive energy to allow the body to function. If we consume more food than we need, the body will store it for a rainy day. If this happens on a regular basis, you will have a lot of stored energy in the form of fat, which over time can lead to obesity.
Imagine you drive a truck with an “extendable fuel tank,” that allows you to put in as much fuel as you want. Now imagine putting in 500 litres of diesel every day for one year. If you only drive 1,000 km per day (250-300 litres of diesel used) each day of the year, at the end of the year you would have thousands of extra litres of diesel in your truck. To be able to drive the 1,000 km a day you only need to put in roughly 300 litres a day. This means that you have put in an extra 200 litres of fuel each day! This extra fuel sits in the truck and increases the size of the “extendable fuel tank.”
It leads to extra wear and tear on your truck causing problems and inevitably decreases the life ofyour truck. Now let’s apply this same analogy to the body. Imagine you consume 3,000 calories of food (your body’s fuel) every day for 1 year. If you only use 2,000 calories of fuel each day, at the end of the year you will have thousands of extra calories in your body.
These extra calories are stored as fat. Therefore we must balance the amount of food (fuel) we eat with the amount of food (fuel) we burn. Too much food leads to weight gain and too little does not provide us with the energy (fuel) we need to do the things we want to do.
The distance you intend to drive your truck determines the amount of fuel you put in. Likewise the amount of fuel (food) you eat each day should be determined by the amount of fuel (food) you plan to use that day.
Basic metabolism such as breathing, digestion and tissue repair requires a certain amount of fuel. Exercise and other activity increases our need for fuel. Exercising burns calories and increases metabolism.
By increasing your metabolism, the body burns more calories even when you are resting. A quick and easy way of losing weight (without exercise!) is by eating smaller portions (no more supersizing). Although eating less overall is important it is still essential to eat often. One or two meals a day is not healthy and it actually promotes weight gain. Your body essentially “starves” between meals. When this occurs your body will store as much energy (fat) as possible to compensate for not knowing when the next meal will be coming. The solution is to eat many small meals a day to provide your body with a constant supply of fuel. Five to six small meals a days is ideal. Larger meals should be consumed earlier in the day so your body has a chance to burn them off.
We all know what foods are good for us, try to eat them as often as possible and avoid the high calorie “fatty” foods.
Exercising can be difficult to do while you are on the road. If you can walk each day for 30 minutes, you will notice a definite change in the way you feel and look.
Obesity is a serious problem that increases the risk of many diseases. But small changes in your daily routine can help you win the battle of the bulge.
In the next couple of issues I will discuss some of the health conditions that I have mentioned in this column in more detail. Until then take care and drive safely.
– Dr. Jerry Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 1 888 252-7327, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.