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When her pup lost its pep, a driver realized she had to make some changes for both of them

By on July 1, 2015

While she could shrug off her own lack of energy and the extra pounds she had put on over 13 years of trucking, Elizabeth Aud couldn’t stand to see the same thing happening to her dog, Bella Donna. The beagle/mountain cur mix has been a devoted traveling companion since her birth on the truck nearly 10 years ago, but the road has taken its toll.

“I’m seeing what the sedentary life is doing to her and that’s not okay with me,” Aud says. “She’s the main reason I’m making changes.”

For the past six months, driver and dog have upped their activity, making long walks a habit at home and on the road, and taking breaks in the day to run around and play. Both now feel a bit more spry, and have dropped some weight.

A prehistoric menu

But Aud knew that to truly feel better she needed to make changes to her diet also, so she looked to one of the most popular — and intense — eating plans of the moment, based on the foods that were available in the days of the cavemen.

“I am trying to go 100 percent Paleo,” she says. “That means no processed foods, grass-fed and grain-fed meats and fish, no dairy products, no beans. It’s food the way God intended it.”

Even in the best-controlled circumstances, sticking to that type of diet is difficult, but on the road it’s even more challenging. Aud keeps a good supply of food to prepare on her own in her truck, and when she dines at a truckstop she makes very careful choices. She’ll order a grilled burger wrapped in lettuce rather than a bun. She picks out unadorned, fresh vegetables at a salad bar, and makes her own salad dressing — a mixture of balsamic vinegar and coconut oil. She watches what she drinks, too.

“I used to drink soda like it was going out of style,” she says. “I started feeling much better once I stopped guzzling a 12-pack a week. Now I stick to water or coffee and I dropped about 10 pounds.”

Food sleuth

Aud always makes an effort to understand what is in the food she will eat. When grocery shopping, she reads the labels on everything, watching out specifically for high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener that is used in numerous products. At restaurants, she asks about ingredients and food source.

“I was tired of feeling lethargic and tired,” she says. “My ultimate goal is just to feel better. I’ve found a healthier alternative to what I was doing, started losing weight and have so much more energy.”

Meals and wheels

Registered dietitian Lynda Maschek on Aud’s approach to food — and what other drivers can learn from it
Lynda Maschek drove a truck for 12 years before earning her credentials as a registered dietitian. Knowing the difficulties that drivers face in making healthy choices on the road, she holds a monthly conference call with members of Real Women in Trucking. She’s not a big fan of the Paleo diet that Elizabeth Aud is trying to adhere to, believing that it eliminates many good foods, like beans and grains.

“The good thing about the diet is that there are no processed food and no sugars. But in our everyday, busy American lives, it’s hard, especially for a truck driver, to completely avoid those foods,” she says. “Instead, we can be knowledgeable enough to make the healthier choice at a burger place or restaurant when we are not fixing our own meals.”

Some other advice:

Read the Label

Why: You’ll avoid empty calories that lead to weight gain and have no nutritional value.

“The first five ingredients listed on a label are the highest amounts. So if sodium or sugar are listed in that group, you want to take that into account. But you should also look at the nutrition label, which lists the calories, fat grams, carbs and more. Watch the sodium level. The limit for someone with high blood pressure is 1500 milligrams a day and you may get that in one prepared sandwich.”

Drink Water

Why: It will quench your thirst without adding calories and keep you hydrated.

“Drivers tend to drink colas or caffeinated drinks to stay awake, but caffeine dehydrates you. The brain is the first organ to suffer dehydration, so to stay sharp and alert on the road drivers need to stay hydrated.”

Eat Throughout the Day

Why: Your body needs the fuel to function properly.

“A lot of drivers, focused on time, only want to eat one big meal a day. That is doing your body a disservice. It’s like putting a log on a campfire — it just smolders without catching fire. Your body can’t metabolize all that food at once. On the other hand, small frequent meals or small meals with snacks in between will rev your metabolism.”

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