You Gotta Eat
Extreme diets can be especially harmful for truck drivers
By Nancy Henderson
Nobody actually likes the idea of going on a diet, but sometimes the need to shed some pounds becomes glaringly obvious. Lugging around an extra 15 — or 50 — pounds starts to wear on a person. So, the reasoning often goes, why not get that weight off fast by buckling down and suffering through an all-liquid diet or eating just one meal a day for a while?
“People who go on extreme diets forget that it took a long time to gain that extra weight. They’re much better off losing it slowly too,” says nutritionist Pam Whitfield, who advises truckers about healthy eating through the website roadcookin.com. “Losing a pound or two a week is so much healthier. And in a year that adds up to 50-100 pounds.”
Whether cutting out entire food groups or focusing on a handful of “allowed” foods, extreme dieting is really a way to severely restrict daily calorie consumption. That will almost certainly lead to dramatic weight loss at first, but it’s unlikely the pounds will stay off once the diet ends, and the method could actually cause more harm than good. In a demanding job like trucking, that’s especially true. Fatigue is a common side effect of extreme dieting.
“Eating regularly is important to staying alert. When we skip meals, our blood sugar gets very low,” says Whitfield. “If blood sugar falls too low because you aren’t eating, you can literally pass out. Now think how dangerous it could be for a trucker to pass out behind the wheel.”
According to an article on WebMD, staying on a very restrictive diet for too long can actually lead to kidney problems, promote gallstones and cause muscle loss. Regaining that muscle mass becomes difficult once a person is older than 40. Minor issues like bad breath, dry mouth and constipation also crop up with extreme dieting.
Adjusting to a new way of eating
Some people like the simplicity of these diets. All it takes is mustering up the discipline to stick with the rules, since food choices are so limited. Healthy weight loss does require thinking about food. A good mix of protein, carbohydrates and (yes) fat, keeps the body fueled properly. Still, there are ways to ease into a new way of eating that will take pounds off.
Whitfield and her husband, Don Jacobson are devoted to helping truckers learn how to eat well without giving up favorite foods, through their radio appearances, website and book, Road Cookin’. The first thing they do is find out how the driver eats normally.
“One driver we spoke to drank three liters of pop a day,” Whitfield recalls. “That adds up to 11,000 calories a week, just from pop,” she explains. “And there is no nutritional value.”
Rather than telling him to cut out the sweet fizzy stuff he loved and switch to nothing but water, Whitfield suggested that the driver reduce the amount of pop he was drinking each day.
“To build success it’s best not to make wholesale changes immediately,” she says. “Make small changes you can live with. You don’t go cold turkey on pop; you just have one liter a day instead of three. You say, ‘I don’t love vegetables, but today I will try to have one vegetable with my meal.’ And if there’s some food that you really love, you have got to find a way to work it into your meal plan. Moderation is key.”
Stop and enjoy the slimmer you
Even those who take a smart approach and lose one to two pounds a week by eating better will eventually hit a plateau. The weight stops coming off. That’s a normal part of the process, not a sign to eliminate meals or certain foods.
“Let’s say you weighed 300 pounds, started a healthy eating plan, and lost 30 pounds, so you are at 270,” Whitfield says. “Your body is not going to let go of more weight for a while because it thinks it’s starving. After each 10 percent weight loss, let your body get used to your new weight. In that time you’ll also get comfortable with a new way of eating, so it will be easy to stick with it over time.”