Diet and exercise challenges when living on the road

By Cyneca Latest Reply 2011-12-14 18:00:27 -0600
Started 2011-12-14 06:45:01 -0600

A bit over 2 years ago I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. I half expected it at some point as my grandmother had it, as well as the same weight problems I suffer. It presented in the strangest way. It was early summer when I developed what I thought was a heat rash that absolutely refused to go away. I did not notice being more thirsty then normal, nor did I notice an increase in frequency of urination. No shaking, excessive sleepiness, mood swings, cravings or any of the things that I would have expected to experience, just this darn rash. I knew many of the usual symptoms of diabetes. I had spent 8 years as a veterinary technician working with canine and feline diebetics, really we are NOT that different, not to mention having worked for a veterinarian who had been an insulin dependant diabetic since childhood. A rash was not a symptom I had been made aware of. I thought it strange that the first thing the doctor did when I showed her this rash was to test my blood sugar. I tested at a BG level of 158, and she informed me that I was what she termed as a "pre- type 2 diabetic" and said the rash was a yeast infection due to the elevated blood glucose level. She gave me a cream, and a glucometer, and told me to watch my sugar.

Well ok that's nice, so tell me doc, what can I eat, and what cant I eat. Now this diagnosis came during a time when I was living in an 18 wheeler with my husband who was an over the road truck driver. He still is but currently we are off the road due to a major accident in which both he and I were injured, however there is a good chance that once we are recovered we will be back on the road as before. Anyone who has worked in the trucking industry, or spent any long length of time in a large vehicle living on the road will tell you that about the only place you can get these vehicles into are Truck Stops. They will also tell you that in truck stops, healthy choices are a little hard to come by on the menues. They have gotten better but basically in truck stops there are 4 or 5 different ways to get steak and potatoes, a fried chicken of some sort, a grilled (rubber) chicken, some sort of fried fish, and a breaded or cajun spiced grilled fish that has been known to show up basically raw. Sorry I dont do sushi. There tend to be salad bars, if you can call them that, usually with a couple of soups, usually chicken noodle, and then something else. In other words it is REALLY hard to find food you can eat that is not going to cause your blood sugar to spike. I learned to drink tea unsweetened, its not that bad although I occasionally have to just add a teaspoon or so of sugar because the tea is strong enough to pass as coffee or .. well I just crave it. That leads me to the next issue, my allergy to artificial sweetners.

Yes, you read right, Im allergic to artificial sweetners. I've tried them all, even trying the newer versions although I have heard of another new one that I intend to try that is supposedly even closer to natural sugar. I've had people try to sneak it on me in baked goods thinking it was a mental thing. I got sick as a dog. Every brand and type I have tried, even when I dont know it is there, I have reacted to. What that does honestly is limit me to water, unsweet tea, and maybe milk if I drink the skim version… I think. The only one of these that is easy to keep in the cab of an 18 wheeler is water. Trust me, water gets old after awhile, even the expensive stuff.

I'd cook my own food, it I had the storage and the equiptment to do so. We had a small refrigerator, one of those like you see in college dorm rooms and get for about 100 bucks at walmart, a microwave, and a george forman grill. Of course, considering my husband is Italian, we had something called a pasta boat. Pasta, canned goods, microwave hamburger helper, and things of that nature were easy to stor, but not good for my condition. Fresh meats and vegies were impossible to store for any time with the miniscule freezer, and the ability to just pull in and purchase fresh food on a daily basis was nonexhistant. Needless to say controling my condition by diet was, if not impossible, darn close to it.

As for exercise, well that was an issue as well. Most places dont want passengers to get out of the truck, and to be honest it was the norm for us to pull into a truck stop sometime after 1am with my husband so tired that all he could do was grab something quick to eat and then off to bed. As a woman, I was not about to walk around a truck stop parking lot at 1am by myself, and we'd have to leave soon after he would wake up, usually around 6am or so. We got a dog, a German shepherd, to be my walking companion, but even still at 1am it basically was take him out to do his business, then back to the truck. A morning walk just long enough for him to do his business because we had to get moving, and maybe a couple of quick 5 minute stops at rest areas during the day. Not much exercise honestly. If I could get out of the truck at the shipper or consignee, Id walk a few laps around the truck, maybe do a set of standing push ups against the trailer, a set of standing pull ups, but not much. About the only exercise I got was the fact that the hubby parked at the far back of the lot to force me to walk as far as possible to the building to get dinner or go to the bathroom.

I have to be honest. I tried to watch what i ate, get what exercise I could. I'd had a gall bladder removal a couple years before I was diagnosed with type 2, which gifted me with a chronic bowel issue, and adding metforman to that only made it much much worse. I'd sit in a resturant looking at the menu, starving to death, and cry because there were only a very few things on it that I COULD eat, none of which I WOULD eat. I gave up. I got tired of not finding anything to eat, craved the sodas which were so much easier to store in the truck the tea, and got seriously tired of the diarrhea, having to worry about if we were going to find a place for me to go in time for me to make it to the restroom before I messed myself.

As I stated earlier, we were in a serious accident recently, Nov 8, and as a result we are at my daughters home so I can cook better to a point and take a bit better care, as my body lets me. Between the knee, hip and back issues its still not easy but I try. At the emergency room we were taken to after the accidnt I informed them I was a type 2 diabetic, and they took my blood sugar (the first time it had been tested in probaly 6 to 8 months) and I was at 278. They told me it was quite high, said that it was probably higer then it normally was because of the stress of the accident, we were flown in by air rescue, but even so it was too high even considering the situation. I have since seen my general practicioner who has made some medication changes, putting me on Junivia to help with the bowel issues, and it has… greatly. However I am still running BG levels of 176 to 145. I had BG levels of 160 to around 120 back before I gave up and honestly didnt notice the medications doing much. I still dont see the meds doing much to lower the BG levels. It is very discouraging.

Some may look at this, well essay, as being full of excuses. Maybe so in some ways, but it is what I have had to deal with out on the road, and while we are not out there currently, we will most likely be back out there again in the very near future. Me staying home is not really an option as I have no intention of having a marriage that is basically 24 hours every 2 weeks and the rest of my time at home alone. A month ago, we basically should not have survived the accident that we are currently recovering from. We did only by the grace of God and his decision to give us the chance to go on. It was, however, quite a wake up call, so now I need to find a way to take care of my health, and be with my husband at the same time. I dont have a clue how to do so or where to start.


3 replies

GabbyPA 2011-12-14 18:00:27 -0600 Report

My brother was a truck driver and type 2 as well. His clue was boils, similar to your was hard for him too. He was only 25 or so when he got that news.

When he was single, he lived much as you do, but once he go married and had his first child, he ran rigs so that he could be home ever day or at least every other day. That helped him a lot! He lost weight, was in much better control. It is hard on the road. Even if you do cook for yourself. But at least you have that going for you.

Do you own your rig or are you contracted with a company? Maybe you can change to do something closer to home to be with the man you love? It might not be as much money, but your health is far more important than that.

I miss my brother. He was not as lucky as you, his accident was not recoverable. But he loved what he did. He would have had it no other way. I am glad he was able to be with his family more before it happened.

Cyneca 2011-12-14 15:26:25 -0600 Report

Thank you Mickey for your reply. I actually did get with a nutritionist shortly after I was first diagnosed. We worked on ideas and she gave me lists of food that I could eat, and a diet plan to follow with some variations that I could hopefully use in my situation. It did not take long to discover how big a difficulty it really was.

Breakfast was easy, easiest meal of the day. Eggs, no potato, slice of ham, no toast, cup of tea. Lunch was a tuna or chicken salad sandwich, either on wheat bread or wheat crackers, snacks of fruits or nuts, cheeses, carrots and such when I could get them. Dinner is where it became really difficult with the issues I discused before.

Walmart, like Meijer has veggies, and fruits in small easy to keep packaging and is usually the only place you can actually pull a full 18 wheeler with trailer into. You have to realizem that an 18 wheeler is about 10 to 12 feet of actual tractor, and 48 to 53 feet of trailer. Most places anymore have height barricades that prevent tractor-trailers from even geting into the parking lot. Seems tht they dont mind the large campers and busses but a 13 foot 6 inch height appears to be more and more unwelcome. We'd get in to a walmart to get fresh food when we could.

I eventually sent copies of the menues of the truck stop resturants to the nutritionist in an attempt to see if she could come up with a diet that would be ok. After a couple weeks, she told me she couldnt find anything for me to eat on those menues either. She could find certain things that were ok, but the diet would be the same thing over and over again with little to no variety and she knew that I would not continue eating the same things over and over and over for any length of time.

Life on the road is certainly not easy, and it is so surprising that these truck stops dont provide healthier food. The incidence of type 2 diabetes in truck drivers is seriously high. As a rule truck drivers tend to be over weight, and very unhealthy so youd think they would offer more then one somewhat healthy meal. Problem is, truck drivers are meat and potatoes people and pretty much refuse to eat healthy. Truck stops wont stock what they cant sell.

Mickey/CCHT 2011-12-14 08:14:27 -0600 Report

Wow, that is quite a tale!! First, let me welcome you to DC, an excellent place for support, knowledge and friendship. Or a place to vent, if that is what you need!

This is quite a predicament! And one I don't know if I'm qualified to answer! I don't know what I would do!!

Just some thoughts here…Is it possible to see a diabetic nutritionist before you head back out on the road? I think that is going to be a big help to you. I would strongly suggest doing that.
As for things to eat, that's a tough one. I know that places like Meijer offer veggies already cut up, that would be something that would not take up a lot of space. They also sell hard boiled eggs already cooked and shelled. You would be able to eat those, or mash them up for egg salad? String cheese is a good one. And one of my favorites that does not spike me personally is Tostinos Artisian Garlic and Black Bean tortilla chips and hummus. My favorite treat that does not spike me. You can also use the hummus for dip for your veggies. Also nuts are a great source of protein and very tasty.

I know these are more snack ideas than anything else, but that's all I got right now. I'm sure other members will have a lot of good ideas for you also. That's the nice thing about this site, lots of knowledge to pull from! I wish you the best of luck, and don't give up! Please join us here and be a warrior against diabetes!!

God Bless you, Mickey

Next Discussion: Thoughts for Rick. »