By Mark H. Reddig
Brian Calhoun was facing a classic trucker dilemma.
He was on the road, behind the wheel, in a seat and eating truck stop food. Put it all together, and he was gaining weight.
So with the help of his wife and team driver, Christin, Brian decided to do something about it. Now, just a short time into his program of diet and exercise, the 24-year-old has shown that despite the barriers they face, truckers can change their habits and get fit.
Brian had been in top shape a few years ago; he played college-level baseball for a year and a half at College of Lake County north of Chicago.
However, when he started trucking – and gaining weight – he was not happy, Christin said. At one point, the Grayslake, IL, resident said he was carrying 310 pounds on his 6-foot-3-inch frame. When an uncle developed diabetes, Brian’s concern increased.
“It’s kind of scary,” Christin said. “He’s only 24 right now, but 10 years from now, if he’s still going the way he’s going, he’ll end up doing the same thing.”
“It just wasn’t healthy; diabetes runs in my family. I was figuring, lose the weight and not get diabetes, and that way I can still enjoy eating but not have to worry about my sugar level,” he said.
Brian’s concerns were health and heredity; Christin had her own reasons.
“My wife obviously didn’t want to get in the truck and gain weight,” he said.
What you eat
When the couple started team driving for Schneider, they decided to take action. At first, Brian just watched what he ate and cut back on portions.
Instead of having two snack pies, it became one pie, he said, and now it’s down to none. “I’ve cut back a lot on my carbs,” he said.
That was important, especially when Brian switched to the Atkins Diet.
“I’m still in what’s called the induction stage; I’m down to 20 net carbs a day,” he said.
After a rough first week, he’s doing well on the plan. Anyone considering the famed diet should buy the book, he said; if you don’t strictly follow the diet, you can suffer serious side effects.
Christin, 21, described her role in Brian’s diet very simply: “Hand slapper … the mom.” Her motivation is simple.
“I want him to be healthy – as much as he does,” she said.
Dieting was easier for Christin in many ways – she thinks because she is naturally slim and tends to have a higher metabolism.
An important factor for her was small portions. Christin recalled a recent stop where she ordered a barbecue pork sandwich and fries. She ate only half the sandwich and 10 fries.
“If you’re going to eat like that, you can’t eat a plate and a half of food,” she said. “I think that’s another reason why I can kind of eat some things that aren’t good for me, because I don’t eat large portions.
“The key is to do everything in moderation,” she said. “You can’t binge on candy and caffeine and junk food and coffee and cigarettes and expect to be a healthy individual. It just doesn’t happen that way.”
What you do
The next step for the Calhouns: Exercise. Not easy for a trucker on the road.
Brian said he tried jumping rope or jogging on breaks at truck stops, but heavy parking lot traffic can make that hazardous.
“Plus, when it’s a hundred degrees out, I’d rather be in the truck with the air conditioning,” he said with a laugh.
A discussion with another driver led the pair to the ideal exercise equipment.
“His doctor told him that he needs to lose some weight,” Brian said. “He found that the stair-stepper fits perfectly between the cubbyhole for the refrigerator and where you hang your clothes.”
The stair-stepper provided a quick and effective workout. Its built-in, 6-inch raise allows Brian and Christin to increase their workout as desired. Now, they use it daily.
Brian also adds an element of fun to his exercise routine. He’s gone back to baseball, playing weekends on a semi-pro team, using his love of the game for motivation.
However, Brian offered a warning to anyone considering a similar path: Call your doctor before you start a diet and exercise plan.
“Especially if they’re heavier, I wouldn’t want them in their trucks doing stair-steppers and having a heart attack,” he said. “It gets pretty tiring, even for me, after five or six minutes.”
The secret to their success
The combination of diet and exercise has paid off. In the first six weeks, Brian lost 18 pounds; overall, he is down 30 to 35 pounds from his peak weight, most of it in the past six months. And Christin maintains a slim and trim figure.
The secret to their success: A spouse’s support.
“I’m not saying we have a perfect relationship, but when it comes down to it, we’re there for each other in any situation,” she said.
That goes for everything from emotional support to helping with diet-specific grocery shopping.
However, Christin said a diet and exercise program works only “if you have the personal drive to want to do it, and you want to be healthy.”
“If you don’t have the … personal desire to do it, you’re not going to do it.”