Strategies for healthy habits

In November 2023, Trucker's Health8 MinutesBy Laura HulleyDecember 16, 2023

There’s no better time than now to cultivate good habits. Here are some starting points.

Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I’ll start on Monday?” Though you may see no harm in giving yourself a deadline to start your healthy lifestyle, this often leads to binge eating and an all-or-nothing mentality.

I can recall countless times where I uttered those four words. I would eat what I liked right up until Sunday night, going to bed over-full but confident that overnight I would flick a switch and magically be a health fanatic by morning. Unfortunately, this was never the case. I would get three or four days in, cave into my overwhelming cravings, then feel immense guilt because I hadn’t lived up to my newfound health goddess status.

The reality is, there is no perfect time to work on your health and fitness. If you wait until you’re less busy at work, the weather gets warmer, the weather gets colder, or Jupiter aligns with Mars – you will never start the process of trying to improve. Wouldn’t you rather your ‘one day’ became your ‘day one’?

Life throws all sorts of unexpected hurdles at you that you need to learn to navigate, tackle and pivot while staying on your path to better health. Right now I have a two- week-old baby. There are many reasons why I can’t eat healthily or exercise – but I am doing my best and taking things day by day to try to improve my health and recover from giving birth. While having a baby is not relatable to the male truckers out there, it is an example of how life goes through phases and cycles and you just have to adapt as best you can to stay on track with your health and fitness goals.

Here are some of my current strategies for at least attempting to create some healthy habits.

1. Prioritise mealtimes
If you can get into a rough rhythm with your meals you are more likely to achieve consistency and not let yourself get ravenous and binge eat. It doesn’t mean that you must have strict mealtimes – it is more about creating mealtime windows to follow. These will vary from person to person depending upon their work commitments and schedule. For example, breakfast between 6am and 8am, lunch between 12pm and 2pm, afternoon tea between 3pm and 4:30pm and dinner between 5:30pm and 7:30pm. This will help regulate your hunger cues and prevent overeating and undereating cycles.

2. Keep up your water intake
I make the effort to keep my water bottle full and with me at all times. Staying hydrated is important for everyone and can also help with your hunger cues. Sometimes we mistake hunger for thirst, so if we are hydrated we aren’t eating more to overcome that dehydration. If you don’t have access to taps or water sources throughout the day, you can always pack a large drink bottle – choose a brand that has an insulated bottle to keep your water cool.

3. Get some fresh air
If you get the chance, head outside for a walk or cycle. The exercise is good for our physical health, but more importantly, it is good for our mental health. Getting enough vitamin D can be extremely challenging, especially for truckers who spend long periods of time behind the wheel and may only get the sun on their driving arm. If you get the chance to pull over for a lunch stop or break, take the opportunity to have a stroll, even five or 10 minutes to stretch the legs and give the mind a break from driving. All of these small active sessions add up over a week and slowly improve our fitness level.

4. Sneak in your fruit and vegetables
Even if your nutrition isn’t 100% and you’re having a ‘treat’ or two throughout your day, it’s really important to get in your greens and your goodies. This doesn’t mean prepping for hours; it can mean packing fruit as a snack, some carrot sticks with hummus, or putting lettuce and tomato on your sandwich or wrap. Sometimes healthy food gets a bad rap for being complicated to prepare, but if you keep it basic, it can be extremely easy to fit in throughout your day. I aim to have fruit or vegetables with each of my three main meals and also as a snack if I’m feeling that way inclined. Fruit and vegetables have so many nutrients that our bodies need, and together with drinking enough water, they can help you feel good throughout the day.

5. Remember your macros
Don’t hear the word macros and zone out thinking it’s a complicated nutrition lecture; it is actually quite simple. Macronutrients are the building blocks of our meals (carbohydrates, proteins and fats). If you can aim to have food from each of the three macronutrient groups, then you will have a balanced and satisfying meal. For example, breakfast could be oats with yoghurt and kiwifruit, lunch could be a sandwich with lettuce, tomato, ham and avocado, and dinner could be steak with potato and broccoli. You’re ticking off your three macronutrient groups as well as including fruit and vegetables with each meal. If you feel like you haven’t had enough goodies in your three main meals, you can always throw more into your snacks.

6. Cut yourself some slack
If you’re going through a busy or more challenging season of your life, your intended nutrition and exercise regime may not always go 100% to plan. It’s important that you give yourself some leeway and take each day as it comes and do your best to be active, stay hydrated, and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Alongside managing stress levels and getting enough sleep, these three things are the backbone of good health and wellbeing.

Set yourself realistic goals and be honest about what you think is doable. For example, I have a baby to look after so I can’t go to the gym six days a week. Instead, I plan to do three walks each week with the baby in the pram and slowly build up. You don’t have to move mountains, you just have to start!