After a few years on the road, driver Jeannie Lennox realized her health was headed downhill.
The former caterer had always enjoyed cooking but she found it challenging in her new life as a trucker.
She had been shocked when her husband of six months decided he wanted to make a career change into trucking. She was even more shocked that he wanted her to come along.
“I said, ‘Just ride in a truck all the time?’ He said, ‘No, you drive, too.’”
So, she decided to join him.
After making contacts with Fed Ex at the Mid America Truck Show (MATS) in 2007, they hit the road and never looked back.
She soon noticed, however, that it took a heavy toll on her health.
Jeannie and her husband were eating and cooking whatever came along with no thought of health. She said she knew about health and knew better but didn’t think that it would make a big difference since she had never had a weight problem and was physically fit.
At under 5 feet tall, she weighed 118 pounds when they started. After two years, she weighed 130 pounds. The number on the scale jumped to 148 by the next year.
Along with gaining weight, she noticed she would get out of breath just walking to a truck stop and back.
“This out of breath worried me so bad that in 2010 I went to the doctor to get a stress test and check out my heart,” she remembers.
Thankfully, her heart checked out fine.
Still, she was plagued with nagging brain fog and painful arthritis in her hands and fingers, among other complaints.
“Since I was sitting in the truck all the time, when I would get home, in about half a day the bottoms of my feet would hurt so bad that I would just have to go sit down for the rest of the day,” she said. “I just couldn’t take one more step and couldn’t get up. I would take ibuprofen if I had to keep going.”
That was the wake-up call she needed.
“I knew then that this was it. I had to do something about it.”
Jeannie started researching about healthy foods and processed foods and made changes in what she was eating.
“When I started eating right, in just one week I felt better. My fingers didn’t hurt as bad, very soon I started losing weight, and the shortness of breath was gone. I can now go jogging. I can keep up with the grandkids now.”
The rewards of good health far outweighed any obstacles she faced by living on the road. She says making it fun and sticking to a routine is key to success in eating healthy.
“I love to be creative with cooking, and I just went crazy making up new healthy yummy dishes. I use no recipe books. I would make a meal plan and go shopping every two weeks to the grocery store, and we got into a great routine. I stay off the grocery aisles that have the food that I don’t need,” she said. “It was easy to eat right by having an eating routine in the truck that hardly ever changed.”
They started saying yes to healthy choices and no to everything else. They discovered that eating grains had a negative effect on the way they felt.
“I had to recreate my routine and tell myself no on the bad foods. At first we went off all bread. This made a big difference. When we eat bread now we can tell a big difference.”
Ironically, she soon found that having such a healthy routine made it more difficult to eat well at home than on the road.
“I did find that when we would get home, we would go out with friends and family and find that I would slide back in the bad habits that I was in before. Almost immediately my hands would start hurting bad,” she said.
Sharing what she has learned about nutrition and health eventually led to Heart Smart Highway, where truck drivers share ideas for healthy living on the road.
“When we were in the truck I would talk to other drivers about eating right. I talked to Les Willis (the other Heart Smart Highway administrator) and his wife about it and they started eating better. I have found that some people are interested and some are just not. Some will encourage you and some will be a discouragement. But keep on track. If you mess up, realize it and start over to do even better. Be true to yourself.”
Making healthy choices can mean life or death, she said.
“We were parked in a truck stop four or five trucks down from a lady who died in her truck. I hear of this all the time. How many of you have seen or heard the ambulance coming for someone at the truck stop?”
Encouragement and help are just a click away at Heart Smart Highway, where there is a community offering support as well as practical solutions for drivers.
“So many drivers are overweight, on tons of medications, poor health in general, losing their driving jobs because of bad health, even death — all because of fast processed foods. I have posted tons of great meals that I have made and I have even made some how-to videos about how to cook it in the truck.”