Trucking jobs often come with extended sedentary periods and a lot of access to unhealthy food. This lifestyle may contribute to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, and plenty of other problems that can be avoided by making sure that you take the time to address your physical and mental needs.
Common stressors that make these problems worse include dealing with bad drivers on the road and being away from home for a few weeks at a time. Fortunately, truckers can take the following simple steps to improve their nutrition and potentially eliminate the risk factors that lead to complicated health issues.
Make Gradual Changes
Rome was not built in a day. The same idea applies when people want to effect permanent change. If truckers revamp everything in their life at the same time, they're putting way too many balls in the air to juggle for success. A more practical option is to make gradual changes. Here are some examples:
- Drink water, not soda, with just one meal a day (the ultimate aim could be to cut out regular soda altogether)
- Eat green beans or another vegetable of your choice instead of fries once a day (the ultimate aim could be to eat fries three times per week, maximum)
- Eat an apple with lunch (the ultimate aim could be to eat fruit at least three times per day)
Whatever the end goal is, gradual changes have a better chance of helping you get there than big, radical changes unlikely to last long. You won't feel like you are depriving yourself, and you can slowly get used to a "new" normal.
Set Measurable, Realistic Goals
Goals give you something to strive for, but too many people set huge, lofty goals, or they set goals that are too vague. For example, "My goal is to lose weight," is too vague. Likewise, "I want to lose 100 pounds in a year," is too unrealistic and too ambitious for most truckers (and for most people). So is a goal such as, "I want to run 6 miles a day," when you currently walk less than a mile. You also need a plan or process to meet your goals. Hence the need for measurable, realistic goals. Try these:
- Add a shorter time frame for a sense of urgency.
- Start with a small, measurable number.
- Set your expectations on the low side.
Take a trucker who wants to lose weight. An inefficient goal would be, "I want to lose lots of weight this year." A good goal would be, "I will lose 5 pounds in the next five weeks." An immediate deadline forces you into action rather than wait until it is too late. Meanwhile, a small number increases your odds of success and motivates you to keep going.
Focus on Beverages, Too
Sodas, juices and other types of drinks can be high in calories, carbohydrates and sugar. Check juice labels to ensure there's not too much corn syrup or sugar. Add water, tea and milk to the rotation of drinks you consume. If you prefer not to have unsweetened tea, try artificial sweeteners. Keep a reusable, insulated water bottle to fill up at various stops. Not only does this help to make you healthier, it saves you money spent on sugary beverages adding empty calories to your diet, as well.
Plan Ahead with Healthy Snacks
Truckers can make simple changes by planning ahead. Swap out chips and candy bars for healthier snacks such as nuts, bananas, apples and whole-grain crackers. You can bring some of these snacks from home since they last a few weeks. The fruits you can buy every few days at a grocery store or convenience store.
In any case, keep healthful snacks on hand so you are not tempted into an impulse buy. Keeping a mini-fridge in your truck lets you add even more variety to your snacks. Think cold cuts, cheese, yogurt, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Have an Outlet for Stress
Junk food and sugary drinks often serve as a crutch for stress relief for truckers. These foods and drinks also help truckers relieve boredom and monotony. So, any list of wellness tips for truck drivers must include alternatives to these two things.
After all, the issue with a truck driver's diet might not be the foods and drinks the driver consumes per se but why the driver consumes them (to stay awake, to keep entertained, to stay calm, etc.). Drivers who improved their diets turned to alternatives such as these for entertainment and stress relief:
- Breathing exercises
- Online nutrition and exercise forums
- Break times spent on walking, pushups and other exercises rather than on eating
Stress is an inevitable part of a trucker's job. It is not a weakness to feel stressed, but you have control over how you react to it. Accept that stressful things are going to happen, and plan for how you can deal with these stressors.
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF
While different trucking companies have different requirements related to how you do your job, most sincerely care about your health and well being. Taking the time to make sure that you remain in good health will help you to advance your career and find a great deal of success as a professional truck driver.
Construction workers wear safety gear, body builders take precautions in their exercise, why shouldn’t truckers also do what they need to for their health? Planning, smart choices, and seeking help when you need it will help you to avoid stress, stay in better shape, and reduce physical and mental strain. Truck drivers have more options than they may think when it comes to improving their diet. Small goals, gradual changes and a focus on the root causes of "bad" nutrition all go a long way.