10,000 Steps to Health

Bison drivers Cynthia and George Sutherland with Skeeter.

By Nickisha Rashid

In January on a trip to Jamaica, Bison driver Cynthia Sutherland went down to the beach to meet her husband George. He had gone deep-sea fishing earlier in the day.

When she was unable to spot him, she thought she had the time wrong. It took her a moment to realize that the guy standing in front of her laughing was in fact her husband of three decades. His own wife didn’t recognize him.

And for good reason. He is literally half the man he was a year earlier. George Sutherland lost a whopping 170 lb.

His achievement, which many in the trucking industry would like to emulate, began back at the Bison Transport yard in Winnipeg. He and Cynthia, who live in Bracebridge, ON., run team for the Winnipeg-based carrier; and George came across a flyer for the first Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA) Trucking Weight Loss Showdown.

The TCA partnered with Lindora Clinic, a weight-loss company based in California that created the Lean for Life On-The-Road program specifically designed to suit the life of a driver.

“The program stresses a low-carbohydrate, moderate protein, low-fat diet; ­exercise; nutrition education; and lifestyle changes,” states Lindora Clinic.

Participants receive a weekly phone call from a Lindora nurse to boost morale, discuss challenges and record weight loss.

The competitors: drivers and other staff from 11 trucking companies — two Canadian and nine American.

The challenge: lose 10 percent of your weight in 10 weeks on the program.

The prize: $15,000 worth of sports equipment to the winning company and $2,500 cash prize to the first-place individual winner. (Or loser, in this case.)

More important are smaller waistlines and better health for the entire lot.

Weighing in at 394 lb, George suffered from dangerously high blood pressure. Even with the three meds he used to keep it under control, he remained at risk of losing his licence. CDL holders have to pass regular physicals.

For the sake of his life and livelihood he knew something had to change. He had already asked about gastric bypass surgery. But that would cost about $15,000. And there’s a two-year waiting list if you apply for financial aid to cover the amount.

“We didn’t think he had two years,” says Cynthia.

So the contest came at a perfect time.

Step one was a change in diet. “We started from scratch. We cleared out all the cookies, chips, crackers, pop from our cupboards,” says Cynthia.

There was no special trick or magic pill. He ate small portions every two hours. He kept a log book of all meals. He weighed himself daily. He stopped eating processed foods. He started eating a lot more protein with vegetables and fruit.

He and Cynthia prepare all their meals for the week on Sundays. This was key in his fight against fast food, which is much too convenient to grab and go when you’re on the road.

The one rule he followed with religious zeal was the daily carb-count, which tracks the amount of carbohydrates eaten in a day. Each food has a carb-value and George’s limit was 60 per day.

Daily trips to the gym were of course out because they’re on the road Sunday to Thursday.

So at fuel stops, he walks their dog Skeeter. George stretches; does a lap or two around the truck; and whenever possible, goes for a quick 15- to 20-minute walk on the treadmill at Bison terminals along their route.

“At first I would run maybe two minutes on the treadmill and be soaking wet. But it was a start. You have to start somewhere,” he says.

Walking is his biggest new activity.

The goal is 10,000 steps a day. A daunting number at first but George’s commitment was unquestionable; he says he even took to chasing Cynthia around the truck at fuel stops. He easily got up to 14,000 steps on these days.

Part of his success must be attributed to Cynthia as his partner. She also competed and when the results were in, of the 132 participants, Cynthia proudly placed ninth, with an Oprah-esque weight loss of her own: Cynthia shed 68 lb.

Funny enough, both of them entered the competition thinking they had nothing to lose.

The hardest part of any weight loss attempt is keeping it off. Instead of ­viewing it as just a competition, they used this opportunity to change their lives. Everything they did during the competition they still do today.

On February 12, the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) announced its 2013-2014 Road Knights Team; Cynthia and George are the second-ever driving team to be knighted. They will spend the next two years, along with the other eight ­drivers on the team, representing the trucking industry.

Garth Pitzel, Director Safety and Driver development at Bison, nominated the Sutherlands thanks to their incredible year. He believes they will be “great ambassadors in promoting a more positive image of the industry.”

The Sutherlands emerged as the leaders of the Bison group throughout the Lindora challenge.

“They’re passionate about promoting healthy living on the road and the Road Knights gives them a bigger voice to spread that message,” says Pitzel.

Healthy Tips — Courtesy of George and Cynthia

1) Make a commitment

2) Walk Walk Walk

3) The buddy system—if possible have a partner for support

4) Prepare meals ahead of time

5) Read food labels when you’re grocery shopping

6) Portion control

7) Frequent meals

8) Drink a lot of water

9) Try and try again until you find what works for you

10) Have fun!

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