In today’s Healthy Trucker Spotlight, we feature driver Jason Couture, who has an incredible story. Jason’s dropped close to 250 pounds with the help of bariatric surgery and a new truck driver diet. In two years, Jason’s completely turned his health around. Keep reading to learn more about Jason’s journey and read about his successes on the road.
When and how did you get started in the trucking industry?
About 13 years ago, I was living in Ohio and I hurt my back at work. I had always wanted to drive a truck, so I just did it. I was off work and went to truck driving school, and that was it. It was only supposed to be for a couple years, then I was going to become a chef, and it just stuck. I found my thing. There’s nothing I’d rather do.
How did you begin your health journey? Did you start with small changes or just completely change your way of life?
Actually, I had gotten really big – almost 500 pounds. I was driving for a company and I had edema in my left leg. I would get sick from it with a fever and need a shot. They told me I’d lose my leg one day, so I started taking it more seriously.
A Wake Up Call
I ended up in the hospital in Nashville and it ended my driving career. The doctors said “No more, you’re going to lose your leg.” They said I could drive home, but only could drive four hours a day and would have to elevate my leg. I had to quit my job. I had nowhere to go, nothing to fall back on… I had to take it seriously. I had nothing. I was going through my savings, I was a truck driver and didn’t even have an apartment because I was gone all the time, so I was staying with my parents. I was married but we were going through a divorce so I couldn’t even stay with her. I got serious when I realized this could kill me. At 478 pounds there wasn’t a lot else I could do. Luckily my ex-wife and I made up and her insurance covered a bariatric surgery and that’s how I managed to lose it.
I had to lose 50 pounds first, and I did that with diet and exercise. Now I’m down to about 230 pounds. If I had surgery to lose the excess skin, I’d probably be right about 200.
I had to go through classes and see a psychologist before the surgery. My surgeon wanted me to lose about 30 pounds but I ended up losing 50. They want to make sure you’ll be dedicated because they see so many people do it then fail to keep the weight off. That was two years ago. Since then I’ve rededicated my life. I was glad I found Mike’s page, he’s been a wealth of information.
What does your “truck driver health” routine consist of now? What’s your truck driver diet like?
I have to follow a high protein diet. I need a minimum of 120 grams of protein a day. I drink 9 bottles of water a day so I know I have enough. I take pills and vitamin supplements every day. I need a high protein, low-fat diet because I can’t process fat.
Maintaining A High Protein Truck Driver Diet
It’s more of a challenge for me at truck stops because it’s hard to find high protein, and a typical truck driver diet is designed to be quick. I have to take a half hour to eat. They recommend you chew your food to a mush (this is advice for everyone) and drink a glass of water half an hour before you eat and nothing during your meal or two hours after your meal. What happens if you drink during is you get the slosh effect, which causes people to overeat. You’ll take these big bites and drink water. Well, your stomach is kind of shaped like a U, and when you drink, the water comes in the top of your stomach and pushes the food down into the intestines so you don’t get full. It’s one of the causes of overeating – people drinking and pushing food out of the stomach so they’re not feeling full.
I have to eat 5-6 times a day. I don’t process fats but I need a lot of complex carbs and nuts because I’m hypoglycemic. My blood sugar will drop so I need to make sure I don’t pass out behind the wheel.
I do use an app when I buy my food called Fooducate. When I found that I was so excited and immediately scanned everything I had in the truck. I thought, “YAY, all A’s and B’s!” I did have something that was a C and thought, well crap, guess I should eat this. 🙂
As far as exercise, I have resistance bands that I do different trucker workouts with. I look online for routines to adapt for the truck. I haul a reefer, so off the back doors I can hang my resistance bands and do lateral pulldowns. It’s not proper form, but it’s better than nothing.
It’s a gloomy day today, I could find a million reasons to not go do it. it might rain next January, I don’t know! That was the biggest thing – getting up to do it. No one’s gonna do it for me. I do bodyweight exercises and use different apps that help, like Runtastic for pushups. It pushes you – at the beginning level you’ll do 2 pushups then take a minute break, then 3 pushups then a minute break, etc. It builds you up slowly. Runtastic has squats, pushups, situps, pull-ups (but you can’t really do those in a truck).
What are the biggest successes/measurements of success you’ve seen since getting healthier?
I was 478 before the surgery, and I’m at 230 now. So I’ve lost about 248 pounds. We’ll round up to 250.
What tips do you have for people who want to get healthy on the road but aren’t sure where to begin?
My biggest thing is change what you drink. Go to water. Have a cup of coffee in the morning and that’s it – don’t drink it all day. It dehydrates you and makes you hungry. Have your one cup then switch to water. Get out and start exercising. Just start walking. Start somewhere, even if it’s shutting the curtains and doing resistance bands inside because you don’t want people to see you working out. Mike and I talked about that. We get people looking at us weird walking through rest areas. People will be like, “What do you want to do that for?” Uh, because I don’t want to die? I don’t want to have a heart attack in the truck.
Make fun of me all you want. I don’t know anyone who’s never been made fun of ever. We’ve all had it done, get used to it. Some people are a-holes. They’ll try to bring you down. Just do something. Get a set of dumbbells. I have a yoga mat so I can do situps outside. When you take your half hour break, walk.
I’m not trying to get real big, I’m just trying to get my strength back up. I have 45-pound bands so I’ll get up and do 10-20 bicep curls, squats, things like that. Then as I’m doing my pre-trip inspection, I’ll walk around the truck a few times in the morning to get everything going. Then I’ll get in and drive, and when I stop for a bathroom break, park farther away, walk around the truck, etc.
On my mandatory break, I’ll workout with bands or do pushups. It’s just a little bit at a time, but it adds up over the day. When you shut down you have a little more time.
You absolutely have to make time. Nobody’s going to do it for you. If I can inspire one person, or get one person thinking, then that’s great. I see so many guys out there who are big like I was. It breaks my heart. I see them struggling – they’re parking real close and eating at the buffet. You can’t eat at the buffet! Truck stops are so bad. I wish they would be healthier and put in weight rooms.