Preventing and Controlling Diabetes

Diabetes continues to be on the rise and the number one risk factor for the development of the disease is obesity. The significance of this for the trucking industry is statistics from the National Institute of Health indicate that more than 50 percent of truck drivers are obese, compared to the national rate of 26.7 percent. Compared to the general population, the prevalence of diabetes is 50 percent (JOEM 2009) in the trucking industry, and there are 7 million drivers on the road.

How does a truck driver prevent or control diabetes?

  1. The MOST important thing is weight loss. Losing as little as 5% to 10% of your total body weight can help improve health by lowering blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
  2. Keep waist circumference under control. A woman should aim for a waist circumference of less than 35 inches and a man should aim for less than 40 inches. Calories from high sugar foods such as soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, coffee drinks, cookies, candy, doughnuts, and muffins will contribute to increased weight around your waist. Consider having high-protein, low-carb snacks handy in your truck for when hunger hits.
  3. What you eat will have the biggest impact on weight loss and controlling diabetes. Exercise is important but nutrition plays a bigger role in controlling your weight and ultimately preventing diabetes. If you already have been diagnosed with diabetes changing your eating habits will help you control and even possibly reverse your condition especially if coupled with weight loss. Consider packing a cooler with healthy food to prevent having to stop for fast food.
  4. Reduce consumption of simple carbohydrates to improve weight loss and blood sugar control. Significantly cut back on foods like white bread, pasta, rice, candy, pre-packaged meals, and snack foods. When/if you do choose to eat these foods pay special attention to serving size to control calorie and carbohydrate consumption.
  5. Say no to sweets 90% of the time. As you begin to slowly cut back on the amount of sugar you are eating, the cravings will decrease. If you must eat dessert consider having it with your meal rather than a stand-alone snack. The other nutrients in the other foods will help slow the digestion of the sugar. Also, pay careful attention to the serving size of the dessert and make your indulgent count by eating slowly and savoring every bite.
  6. Don’t drink calories and carbohydrates. Each 12 ounce sugar-containing beverage consumed increases diabetes risk by 15%. Calorie-containing beverages contribute to weight gain by providing calories and no nutrition. We call these “empty calories” and they come from soda, energy drinks, fancy coffees, sweetened tea and lemonades, and juices. Consumption of 2 – 12 ounce sodas per day is enough calories to gain 2.4 pounds in one month. Choose water or diet drinks as an alternative. This will save thousands of calories!!!
  7. Track Your Food Intake. It is so easy to overeat without realizing it. 90% of people UNDERestimate how much they eat and OVERestimate how much they exercise. Studies indicate that people that track their food intake lose an average of twice as much weight as those who do not. It makes you more aware of what you are eating, serving sizes and the amount of calories and carbs you are consuming.
  8. Exercise. Any movement is great but to get best results you want to focus on moving at maximum intensity for about 4 minutes several times per day. Maximum intensity means you should be out of breath and not able to carry on a casual conversation during the activity. This is great news for a truck driver as it is hard to find a long period of time to dedicate to exercise. Recent research has shown that intense exercise for as little as 1-2 minutes is beneficial in changing your metabolism and helping with weight loss. You can achieve this with body weight exercises right outside your truck. Examples would include high knees, squats and shadowboxing.