Last month in this space, I said there were three things I did that led me to a healthier lifestyle on the road. They are: intention, commitment, and knowledge.
But it’s not as if I woke up one morning with a brilliant idea that was going to change my life. My lifestyle change came about slowly over the course of a decade. My intention for a healthier more productive life is my spark, my commitment to that intention is the fuel that pushes me down the road to healthier living, and the knowledge I gain through my successes and failures as I travel down that road is the grease that keeps me moving along.
Adopting the intent to change our lifestyle is usually the result of an emotional event that has taken place in our lives – what many of us refer to as an epiphany or a paradigm shift.
For me this was the simple recognition that I was no longer bulletproof. A two-pack-a-day smoking habit, creeping obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, a family history of heart disease, and then a diagnosis of high blood pressure were the combination of factors that tore off the cloak of invincibility in which I had wrapped myself. I woke up to the fact that I felt like crap and wanted to do something about it.
Well, that wake-up call came to me back in the year 2000. At that time my only goal was to stop smoking. I knew that if I tried to change everything in my life at one time that I would be doomed to failure.
After a year of remaining tobacco-free, I tackled the obesity issue. Over the course of the first year, I had managed to replace cigarettes with additional food in my mouth, which consequently went straight to my waistline.
At this point I made another commitment to myself. I intended to be in good physical shape by the fall of 2010, my 50th birthday, still nine years into the future. I figured that it took me 20-plus years to pack all the weight on so a little less than half that time to get it all off was still pretty optimistic. I was right. I knew at that time that I would have to eat a little less, make healthier food choices, and get some regular exercise, but I had no clue what an emotional roller-coaster ride the next nine years would be.
Only drivers understand how truly difficult it is to obtain the levels of exercise and rest prescribed by health professionals. Making healthy food choices is just as difficult for us.
Working the open board for most of the past decade, I, like many of you reading this, spent three to five weeks at a time living in the truck.
A 70-hour work week is a rarity to the great majority of people. As long-haul drivers this is routine for us. Then at the end of your day you go to sleep in your workplace.
Add to that the fact that your workday often lacks routine and your work shifts may shift around the clock at the whim of the people you provide service to.
Finally, cap that off with the fact that running water, showers, and toilets are communal and the concept of a kitchen is non-existent to a truck driver. We adapt to these difficult circumstances because of the passion we share for the trucking lifestyle.
The open road gets into your blood. I am loathe to give up the freedom and independence I find in my work. Many of us pay for that passion for trucking, that freedom, that independence, with our good health. I think you have to live the life to truly understand why we do it. I can’t explain it any better than that.
So the bottom line is that living a healthy lifestyle on the road is difficult; plain and simple. But if you want it badly enough, if it truly is important to you, it can be done. You start by being stubborn and pig-headed about meeting your intention. You recognize it will take time to reverse a lifetime of habits you have grown accustomed to. You recognize that you must practice patience. You recognize that your failures are only lessons in how not to reach your greatest aspirations.
Getting started on a healthier path to living is as simple as reading the food label of every product/food that you consume. At the start you don’t need to change what you eat, but you need to learn what you’re eating and its impact on you. Do that and go for a 20-minute walk every day. That’s where I got started and I’ve dropped over 70 pounds along the way. More next month. Good luck.