Driver Loses 125 Pounds In An Effort to Uphold the Image of Professional Truck Drivers
Driving trucks has a lot of upsides. Between traveling the country and making good money, drivers have a lot to be thankful for.
However, there are two downsides that many drivers struggle with: gaining weight behind the wheel and not getting enough exercise. James Griffiths, 54, is no exception.
Griffiths joined Transport America about 18 months ago after making a dramatic career change. After serving in the United States Marine Corps for nine years, and then working as a paramedic, and later in construction and landscaping for most of his adult life, Griffiths realized he had to make a change.
“My back and knees couldn’t keep up with the demands of landscaping,” says Griffiths, who calls Edinburg, Ohio, home (located about 20 minutes from Transport America’s North Jackson Support Center). “I always liked trucks, and I’d bring it up every so often with my wife Cindy. Then, one day, she said I should go for it. So I enrolled in truck driving school and got my CDL. And so far, I love it.”
Because of his physically demanding jobs, James stopped watching what he ate. He opted for fast food over home-cooked meals, and sugary snacks over fruit and vegetables. When James became a truck driver in 2017, his poor eating habits began to take a toll on his health and appearance.
“What I didn’t realize was that I faced a different set of health problems by sitting behind the steering wheel all day,” he adds.
While Griffiths loves the freedom and pride that comes with working with Transport America, it didn’t take too long to notice a significant increase in his weight.
“At my highest, I topped the scale at 398 pounds,” says Griffiths, who is 6 feet, 4 inches tall. “When I was in the Marines, right out of high school, I weighed around 170 and was in the best shape of my life. When I started driving, I had trouble getting into my truck, and when I was at home, I couldn’t get down on the floor and play with my grandkids.”
“Because I’m sitting all day, rather than moving around constantly when I was in landscaping, my doctor told me that I faced life-threatening health problems. My insurance costs were going through the roof,” he adds. “I knew I had to make a change.”
Griffiths not only wanted to change his diet for himself, but also for his appearance on the job, and the way truck drivers are perceived by others.
“I’m losing the weight for my own health, but also for Transport America,” Griffiths says. “Transport America does so much for its drivers, and I wanted to do what I could to improve the company’s image.”
“Many people think that truck drivers are heavy and dirty, and that’s just not true,” he adds. “I’m trying to challenge that stereotype by losing weight, and show people that I am fit and a true professional.”
From the day that he made that decision to lose weight, Griffiths has been on a life changing journey, which so far has netted him a loss of 125 pounds.
How did he do it?
By changing his diet to focus on more healthy foods, eating less, and finding little ways to exercise while on the road every day.
Griffiths’ routine begins on Sunday evenings before he heads out for the week. Griffiths is a solo OTR driver who is on a dedicated account that allows him to be home each weekend.
“Cindy and I plan out my meals for the week while I’m out on the road. We go shopping and prepare all of my food, which I keep in the fridge in my truck,” James explains. “With my new diet, I rarely, if ever, buy anything from a truck stop or eat out at a restaurant while I’m on the road. I have everything I need.”
Taking on healthy eating together, Griffiths and his wife, Cindy, who works as a nurse in a long-term care facility, are learning the value of a balanced diet. With James’ help in the kitchen, Cindy assembles plenty of low-carb, high-protein meals to take on the road or eat together at home.
“She’s given me a huge amount of support and encouragement in making this change,”says Griffiths. “She keeps me on the straight and narrow.”
So how does Griffiths approach his meals each day?
For breakfast, he starts with a hearty, low-carb breakfast of scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, yogurt and almond milk. At lunchtime, he eats a chicken breast and a handful of nuts with plenty of water. For supper, James has a burger or leftover chicken with Brussels sprouts or broccoli.
Instead of reaching for a candy bar, Griffiths packs little bags of carrots, cucumbers, celery, almonds and protein bars to snack on throughout the day.
And he drinks lots of water throughout the day, sometimes flavored with a zero calorie lemonade flavor. He’ll treat himself to a soda about once a week, and he’s cut down on his alcohol, too, not only drinking less, but only drinking low-carb beer (“I’ll have one beer a week when I get home”).
“It’s all about controlling the portions, eating foods that will keep you full and getting used to smaller meals,” he says. “Also, I have no more than 30 grams of carbs per meal.”
In addition to eating more healthy and eating less, Griffiths also made small changes to his routine to get more exercise. Like a lot of people, he tried the gym, but he just found that he never went. So instead, he began by parking on the edges of parking lots at truck stops and rest stops and walking a few laps around the perimeter of the parking area.
And for fun, Griffiths pulls out a baseball glove and baseball and throws the ball to himself.
“I forced myself to walk more each day,” says Griffiths, who typically walks an average of about two miles a day now. “Yes, all of these changes were uncomfortable at first, but it’s a huge motivator when you start to see the results.”
Forcing himself to change his diet and his exercise routine has made all the difference – James lost 126 pounds in the past year. Today, he weighs 276 pounds, and hopes to lose another 25 pounds by the end of the year to reach his goal weight of 248 pounds.
“I want you to understand that I hated to look at myself in the mirror,” Griffiths says. “I felt ashamed of how I had treated my body.”
“My back and knees don’t hurt anymore, and I can truly enjoy time with my family,” he adds. “I can keep up with my grandkids, ride four-wheelers and get in and out of our boat again with relative ease.”
James has fourtips for other Transport America drivers looking to form healthy eating habits, change their lifestyles and make sure that they can enjoy everything life has to offer.
- Watch the portions.
It’s one thing to eat unhealthy foods, but it’s another thing to eat too much.To control the portions of each meal, James suggests using small bags and containers.
“Separating snacks and meals into containers keeps you from overeating,” James says. “Even if you’re eating healthy foods, you’ll still gain weight if you’re eating too much.”
“When you eat out of big packages, it’s hard to know when to stop,” he explains. “So, my wife and I put snacks in small plastic bags, and I drink almond milk and juice out of a regular cup.”
- Avoid truck stop food altogether.
Because James keeps healthy food in his truck, he can stay away from the salty, sugary snacks at the rest stops.
“Fight the urge to buy snacks from the help desk,” James says, “Just fuel up, use the restroom and be on your way. The longer you linger, the greater the chance that you’ll find a hot dog and a big glass of soda in your hands.”
- Be realistic.
While Griffiths avoids buying snacks and meals at rest stops, he also stresses the importance of understanding that eating healthy isn’t all-or-nothing.
“You don’t have to give up everythingwith carbs and sugar,” Griffiths says. “The key is limiting how often you splurge, and keeping the treats small.”
For example,a few weeks ago, Griffiths bought a candy bar from a truck stop. Instead of eating it all at once, James broke the bar in half and saved the rest for the following day.
By being careful about treating himself, Griffiths is able to take some pressure off his strict, but still healthy and filling, diet.
- Look at the positives.
Griffiths has found a number of benefits to eating healthy. For him, one of the biggest positives of eating healthy has been the savings.
“There’s a misconception that eating healthy is expensive, but my wife and I save a lot of money by eating this way,” says Griffiths, who noted that a driver could easily spend $75 or more a week on meals at a truck stop or at fast-food restaurants.
“Soda and sugary snacks don’t fill you up, so you actually end up buying more of them,” he adds. “Those snacks seem cheap, but the costs add up over time.”
Despite huge adjustments in his diet and exercise routine, Griffiths has found that these tips have transformed his physical health and his life.
“I can keep up with my grandkids, and go on incredible adventures with my wife,” James says. “My family motivates me to keep going, and continue losing weight.”
“You just have to sit down, and commit to making a change,” he adds. “It’s all worth it.”
“I’m looking forward to continuing this journey, losing weight, breaking stereotypes and being the professional driver that I want to be for Transport America.”