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2014 Healthy Driver of the Year Award: Melissa Fort

By on November 11, 2013

Melissa Fort was named Female Healthy Driver of the Year by the Healthy Trucking Association of America, and she did it after completing Driver Health Editor Siphiwe Baleka’s 13-week program at Prime Inc. She lost 18 pounds — 10 percent of her body weight — in that first 13 weeks. Six months later she had shed another 10 pounds, reaching her goal weight. Baleka spoke to her about her accomplishments.

Baleka: Many female drivers tell me they don’t exercise because they don’t want to get out of the truck and have people — mostly men — watching them. They feel embarrassed or ashamed, so this is a real obstacle for them just to get started. Was this something you felt and had to deal with?

Fort: Absolutely. You get the looks from women as well — kind of like “who does she think she is?” because you are exercising. That was a real problem for me. As far as the men went I just turned my CB off so when I got back to the truck I wouldn’t hear anything.

You have to know there is nothing embarrassing about getting healthy. You are the one who will suffer in the end if you don’t take care of yourself out here.

Baleka: How has leading a healthy lifestyle affected your day-to-day experience on the road?

Fort: I am a better person in so many ways. The workouts help with stress on the road. I sleep better. I am a more positive person and see the glass as half full instead of half empty. I’m very proud of myself.

Baleka: When you are exercising outside of the truck, do other drivers, specifically other women drivers, come over and talk to you?

Fort: Yes, and the No. 1 question is how I find time to work out. I tell them that 15 minutes of vigorous activity a day is all it takes. One day I was talking to a guy and he actually joined me in my workout. That was awesome.

Baleka: This question may seem weird, but it is a real issue. How did you deal with hygiene and laundry with all that working out?

Fort: I got in a routine to work out, shower, eat and drive everyday. My husband and I make sure we find time to put our feet under the table and enjoy a meal and some conversation at least every other day, which gives us time to do a quick load of laundry, so I never really had a problem with that.

Baleka: Last month, the American Medical Association declared obesity “a disease requiring treatment.” If national statistics are accurate, that means the 57 percent of truck drivers who are obese have a disease. What role does the industry have to play in this?

Fort: Obesity is a disease that leads to several other diseases. It saddens me greatly to see these drivers out here with their ankles swollen over the top of their shoes from diabetes and they can barely walk.

I know sometimes it can’t be avoided but in most cases this can be controlled with diet and exercise. Prime is doing a great thing with the Driver Health and Fitness Program. It creates habits that last a lifetime for drivers, and I would like to see other carriers have similar programs. Everyone in the industry can play a part in healthy drivers, especially truckstops. Most of them offer healthier options, but many can do even better.

Dispatchers also play a big role. My dispatcher is always supportive if I need a few minutes between reloading. He never has a problem with it.

Baleka: What would you like to say to all the other female drivers out there, and in particular, the obese female drivers?

Fort: I would like to tell them they are worth it. Getting healthy is more than what you see in the mirror. It’s inside you. It’s how you feel when you open your eyes in the morning.

To anyone who feels embarrassed: There is nothing embarrassing about getting healthy. Just know you’re not the only one who’s overweight, that you would be motivating others when they see you out there working out. You can change your life and someone else’s. Just set a goal and do it.


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