Truck drivers live to an average age of 55, and thirty drivers are found dead each day in their trucks, according to Dr. John McElligott.
I listen to the SiriusXM "Road Dog" channel on a regular basis, trying to keep up with ever changing regulations in the trucking industry. One of my favorite shows is the Dave Nemo show. Dave's been doing trucking radio since the early 1970's, and is widely known among generations of truckers. He has a close working relationship with Dr. John McElligott, and has him on the show on a very regular basis. Dr. John continuously talks about driver's health (or the lack of it.) Though his claims of 30 truckers per day found dead is probably either a misquote, or an exaggeration, there is absolutely no doubt that truck drivers are among the most unhealthy people in the US, and likely Canada too. I never used to see myself as one of these "unhealthy" drivers. There were so many who were in worse condition than me. Weren't there?
One day I woke up in the middle of the night and was coughing so badly, I was giving myself a headache. I must be getting sick, is what I thought. This went on for several weeks. No signs of being sick, just the coughing that started so suddenly. It actually took about a month of this for me to realize that it wasn't an illness coming on, it was the 2 packs of cigarettes per day that I was smoking that was causing it! Talk about a "Duh!" moment! That got me thinking about everything I was hearing about truck driver's health, and made me realize that I was one of those "unhealthy" drivers that would likely die at an early age, and possibly in my truck while sleeping out on the road! And the only person in the world who could prevent that was me!
The day my life changed.
There are many days in a person's life where you can look back and say without a doubt, "This was the day that everything changed forever!" The day you married your spouse, the day your child was born, the day your grandchild was born, are all memorable days for most of us. For me, one of the days I will always remember, is November 24, 2009; the day I started to take control of my health. Anyone who has stopped smoking knows how extremely difficult it is. Anyone who ever has smoked knows that one of the times that triggers a cigarette craving is when you get behind the wheel, and start driving. Imagine being a professional driver and quitting! Very difficult indeed. But I had a plan. Two days before Thanksgiving, I was scheduled to be home, and would be off for about a week, after being on the road for about a month. That's the day, I thought. Get the first six or seven days under my belt before I head back out on the road. That's what I did, and it worked. After the struggles of the first week were behind me, I wouldn't pick up a cigarette, because I never wanted to go through that first week ever again. One week became two weeks, then three, then a month. It was a hard thing to do, but so worth it.
Many who have ever tried to quit smoking, or even thought about it, know that one of the downfalls is weight gain. Several reasons are given for it, but the most likely one is that when you crave a cigarette, you will tend to replace that craving with something else, namely, food. I knew I was doing it. I knew I would gain weight, but I decided not to worry about that right now. My goal was to throw off that monkey on my back, and I would deal with the weight later on. Not a great plan, but somewhat reasonable. I just had to remember to tackle the weight issue at some point. I sort of forgot about it for a while.
Another wake up call.Back in 1999, I was working for a trucking company that delivered to a major retail pharmacy, and they asked if I would go to New Jersey to help them out for a week. They would fly me out to Philadelphia, put me up in a motel, and fly me back. Sounds fun, why not? One day, while I was trying to sleep during the day, (so I could drive all night) I saw an interview on TV with this guy who has this diet plan. I was somewhat interested, as I have been overweight all my life. This guy had a plan where you could actually eat real food anytime you were hungry. It wasn't about willpower, it was about making the right choices. It's about eating like our ancestors did, even those of only a hundred years ago. Back then, people simply did not have the heart disease that is so prevalent today. Heart attacks were almost unheard of. What has changed since then? Refined sugar and flour introduced into the mainstream American diet! This guy makes sense. Who is he? As many of you already know, his name was Dr. Robert C. Atkins. I went out that day in search of his book, Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution. So much of that book made perfect sense, but it was all news to me. I have to give this a try.
The first week, I kept thinking, there is no way this is ever going to work! All this fat that I'm eating? Everyone knows that fat makes you fat! That bald-headed chick on TV says it all the time! (Whatever happened to Susan Powter anyway?) But after a week, I stepped on the scale...down 10 pounds! In a week? This is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. I kept it up for a while. Several months of eating low carb soon came to an end. I met the most amazing woman, and she thought I was kind of nice too. All this Atkins stuff was cramping my style. I decided that I would take a short break one day, just one little cheat, and just enjoy a pizza with this wonderful lady, my daughter, and her two sons, all teenagers. That did not knock me out of fat burning mode, (ketosis) though it did slow it down. Well, if it worked once, it will work again, so another cheat day followed, then a whole week, then a month. Fat burning ceased, and weight gain resumed. I thought I would return to Atkins one day. I know it works. One of these days...
January 27, 2011. My company will give me a discount on health insurance if I participate in a "Biometric" screening. Simple blood test, blood pressure check, weight and height. No big deal. I know blood pressure is a problem for me, but it's well controlled with medication, though the dosage had to be raised recently. I was also on medication for high triglycerides. I know I am a bit overweight. (Obese was more like it.) I'll just listen to what they recommend, and move on, because I am so much healthier than I was before. After all, I had quit smoking over a year ago! The results came back instantly and I was shocked. Blood pressure was slightly high. Triglycerides were over 600. Cholesterol was over 200, the machine couldn't even read HDL and LDL for some reason, blood sugar was up to 161 (fasting), and my weight was up to 284. I was given the speech about how to get all these numbers better, and why it was important. I'm sitting there listening to all the "low-fat diet is the key" nonsense, and thinking about what I already knew, "Fat doesn't make you fat, SUGAR makes you fat!" Right then, I decided that I needed to get off my fat butt and do what I have known will work to solve all these problems...ATKINS!!! (Another Duh! moment.)
Stop the Insanity! For Real!
Three weeks later, I had an appointment with my regular doctor. I had real blood work done that day, and the numbers astonished me again. After only three weeks of this Way of Eating (WOE) my blood pressure was normal again, triglycerides were down near 170 (after unwisely stopping the meds on my own,) total cholesterol down to 137, LDL was normal, HDL still a little low, blood sugar down to 106, and weight down to 274. All this after only three weeks on Atkins? That was the day I knew that Atkins would be the way I will eat for the rest of my life. This was proof positive for me that refined sugar and flour were poison to me, and to everyone!I discovered a page on facebook that was an official Atkins page. There were people there that shared questions, thoughts, struggles, ideas, and inspiring stories. Some of the people asking questions were asking basic questions that I already knew the answers to. I jumped in and gave my thoughts and opinions and shared my experiences with them. I threw in a bit of humor every once in a while too, because with a name like mine, people kind of expect it. Now I have a whole new group of friends. I would love to name each one of them, but I am sure I would forget someone. That wonderful woman that I met back in 2000, the one I refer to as, "My Lovely Bride," calls my Atkins friends, my "Fan Club." When my iPhone beeps, signaling a new facebook message, she says, "There's your fan club again!" But the truth is, I am the one who is a fan. So many people inspire me every day, I think that if I ever decided that I might go back to my old way of eating, I would let all of them down. I refuse to do that to my friends. I especially refuse to do it to my dear family. So here I am. Like it or not. Atkins for life!
Written by Tim Conway, AKA Popeye
on the Atkins facebook page.
Tim is my low carb buddy.
I feel so honored to put his story here on my blog.