Driver Lifestyles

Making Healthy Lifestyle Changes on the Road

By Sean M. Lyden - Staff Writer
Posted Apr 30th 2019 11:12AM

When it comes to healthy living as an expediter, the odds are stacked against you.

You’re sitting in a truck for several hours at a time. And when you’re not driving, you’re often too exhausted to plan and cook meals, resorting to eating out at truck stops and restaurants, ordering whatever you’re craving at the moment.

That’s what makes owner-operator Heather Hutchens’ transformation so remarkable.

You know Heather, along with her husband and team driver, Jason, from “The Crafty Trucker” Youtube Channel.

Heather says she has lost about 70-pounds since September 2018, crediting a change in eating habits to a ketogenic diet—a very low-carb, high-fat diet—while continuing to live the expediter lifestyle.

Why did she make the change? How does she maintain discipline while out on the road? And what advice does she have for other expediters?

EO recently spoke with Heather. Here are some the edited highlights from our conversation.

But first, a disclaimer...

The purpose of this article is NOT to promote one diet plan over another. Consult with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet—to help you determine what works best for your body, situation, and lifestyle.

Instead, my objective is to give you a vision for what's possible if you make seemingly small changes in habits each day that accumulate to create significant health improvements over time.

EO: Typically, when people make such a dramatic change in lifestyle habits, there's usually something that triggers a deep-down burning desire to do whatever it takes to create that change. What was that trigger for you?

Heather Hutchens: I was sick of feeling tired all the time. When you gain so much weight—and of course, I was sitting all the time—it just makes you tired. I just got sick of not feeling good, you know—feeling bloated from eating crap food. I have pretty high energy anyway, but now it’s more so since I lost the weight.

How do you maintain self-discipline when you're out on the road for weeks at a time?

Well, the thing that I like about the keto diet is that I can still eat pretty much everything I love. I just have to modify it.

For example, we love to go out and eat Mexican food. Before [keto], I would get enchiladas or tacos or things like that. Now I look for things like fajitas with meat and vegetables. I don't get rice or beans or tortillas.

When we eat hamburgers, I get a hamburger. But I don't get the bun or french fries. I make some modifications, not limiting myself totally, which I think has helped stay me on track.

Do you cook more often on the truck?

I try too, yes. We like to shop at Whole Foods and actual grocery stores because we like that quality of food better. It just tastes better to us, versus going out to eat, where the ingredients aren't always the best.

But truck stop food is getting better. A lot of truck stops now are carrying boiled eggs, cheese, cheese sticks, pepperoni sticks, and pork rinds. And a lot of them now are carrying good salads and not just the fast-food burgers, pizzas, burritos, and things like that.

Do you have some outside accountability, like social media groups or health apps, to help you stay on track?

Not really. I do follow some people on Instagram who aren't even truckers; they just do the keto lifestyle. I'll follow them to get inspiration, meal ideas, and help me keep on track. The same thing with Youtube; I follow people on there. I don't use any health tracking apps. I'm not tracking my carbs in apps like My Fitness Pal, or anything like that.

To me, the key to doing something like [the keto diet] is to make it as easy as possible so that I can stick with it. If I have to do a whole bunch of stuff, I'm not going to keep doing it.

Now, what advice do you have for other expediters who would like to make healthy changes but have struggled to get started?

The biggest thing I would say is, just do it. Get started. And if you fall off the horse one day, get back on it the next day. Don't get discouraged because, one day, you'll decide you want to eat a hamburger and french fries two times that day. But don't beat yourself up about it. Make small changes—maybe eat one low-carb meal in a day, and perhaps the next one is not low carb.

Just make small changes at first, so you're not totally limiting yourself. I think that's where people fail—when they try to do it all at once and instead of easing into it. Make it simple for you.