I'm a firm believer in practicing what I preach. However, I'm in danger of being a hypocrite when it comes to truck stops. As I said in a previous column, I think we should all spend a little more time in them, do some visiting with our fellow...
I’m a firm believer in practicing what I preach. However, I’m in danger of being a hypocrite when it comes to truck stops. As I said in a previous column, I think we should all spend a little more time in them, do some visiting with our fellow truckers, share some of our knowledge and experiences – that kind of thing. My thoughts on that haven’t changed, but my reasons for visiting a truck stop have. I now only stop for fuel or to use the facilities.
In most cases, being in my mid-forties would make me a middle-aged man, but in the trucking world we can expect to live, if statistics are to be believed, up to 15 years less than Joe Public. So while I’m not on the first page of The Grim Reaper’s appointment schedule, I’m closer to the front than I would like to be and the main reason for this is my diet. So far I’ve been one of the lucky ones; I’m not overweight (by much), but as I said, that’s down to luck, not judgment.
For far too long I’ve been eating the wrong stuff at the wrong time. Although I enjoy good food, often the job dictates that convenience takes priority over quality and this is where the truck stops come in.
They research their customer profile and for the most part they did a good job, we want a big plate of something yummy and we want it now, so that’s what we get. Unfortunately, fine dining takes a little time to prepare, so we get stuff from a can or a box. It does the job though and we walk away with a full belly for a reasonable price, the truck stop makes a bit of profit, everyone’s a winner – or not.
As well as a decrease in life expectancy, we can also look forward to a higher than normal chance of being diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The thing that has the most impact on any of these is our diet, but it’s a two-way street. If we can shorten our lives and increase the risks of disease, then surely we can do the opposite by eating a little better? The researchers say that we can, but saying it is one thing, it’s the doing it that’s not easy. We’ve made sure of that with our appetite for quick and easy foods that don’t hurt the wallet.
Most truck stops do offer a healthier option on their menus, but I’ve been looking into things and healthier and healthy are two completely different things. If your starting point is full of bad things then you don’t have to reduce them by much to make it healthier.
The biggest problem we face is that a lot of the stuff we eat is not fresh; preservatives in our food are among the worst things we can put into our bodies.
So how do we keep an eye on things? Our food arrives on a plate – not in a packet with a label – so we have no idea what goes into the meal. It may taste good, but for all we know it could be a dietician’s worst nightmare.
There’s only one answer: cook it yourself. Not only can you control what goes into your meal, you can expand your menu considerably compared to the same old stuff on offer in the truck stops.
There are a number of Web sites on the subject and people have even written cookbooks for in-cab cooking. You can get 12-volt slow cookers, grills and mini ovens – the possibilities are endless and you know exactly what’s on your plate.
Or if you get home regularly, you can knock up some culinary delights in your own kitchen, stick them in your fridge/cooler and microwave them when you’re on the road – it’s a lot easier to do than you think. You just have to start, that is the hard part. Once you’ve started you’ll notice another benefit from healthy eating, it’s much less expensive than eating out, especially if you make stuff at home to take with you. You only need to add a little extra when you make a family meal to have enough left to take with you. Sometimes you don’t need to make any more at all, you just give less to the dog.
Now as I said in an earlier column, we need to spend a bit more time talking to each other. My newfound healthy eating plan makes that even harder to do, but I do have a plan for that too.
As well as healthier eating, we need to get more exercise. Cooking in the cab means we don’t even walk to the truck stop anymore. Walking around a truck stop is not a particularly safe thing to do, as losing weight and getting fit won’t make you live any longer if you get 18 wheels running over you.
It’s not so good with our weather either – a foot of snow or a swarm of Mozzies – it doesn’t matter what time of year it is, there’s always something that will get in the way. So my plan needed to be a year-round thing.
So I’ve started walking around in a grocery store, up and down every aisle a few times – it’s amazing the distance you cover in 30 minutes. It’s also heated in winter and air-conditioned in the summer.
To make it a little more beneficial, I also load up a shopping cart with jugs of water or car batteries and push that around. So if you see a slightly overweight middle-aged man pushing a cart full of batteries around your local grocery store, come over and say hi, we can talk trucking as we walk around!