If Bobby Anderson didn't change his eating habits, he would not only lose his driving job but probably his life.
"I was afraid I would lose my job," says the 45-year old driver who has been on the road for 20 years. "I hated myself. I was just absolutely miserable. I was depressed. I have been overweight for a long time, and I'd go up and down. I'd lose weight and then gain weight; lose weight, gain weight, just like everybody else. But when DOT gets after you because you're fat, that becomes an even bigger issue. I'm a truck driver, and I don't want to do nothing else. With the issue of sleep apnea and them getting tougher on physicals and blood pressure, I knew I had to do something."
His health was so bad, that when he went for his DOT physical, all he could get was a one-year card because of high blood pressure – even on medicine. "I would have to lay in a dark room on my side and be quiet for a while, and they would come in and gently take my blood pressure, so I could get it down low enough to get my card."
Anderson had tried all the usual diets, weight loss regimens and pills touted on late night TV that promised to melt away pounds. Everything he tried either didn't work or he couldn't sustain them.
Now, one year after starting what he calls a 'plant-based diet," the driver has lost 65 pounds, no longer needs his blood pressure medicine and his blood work levels like triglycerides and cholesterol are excellent.
But Anderson isn't just eating salads, a diet that he tried but couldn't keep up because he always felt hungry. He outfitted his truck with a pressure cooker and loads it with vegetables, grains and everything else he wants except for meat, fish and poultry. His company, Acco-GBC, an office products maker, is supportive of his efforts. "They let me do what I want inside my truck, even allowing me to take out the passenger seat so I can put my cooking gear there." He also has a microwave.
Is he a vegan? "I don't consider myself vegetarian or vegan, or anything like that. I don't want to put myself in a box. I eat a plant-based diet. I'm not an activist, but I think I'm doing the same thing vegans do except that I'm not promoting against animal cruelty - although I am against it. The more I eat like this, the more I am against eating animals."
Anderson makes up most of his recipes, and you can see some meals on his Facebook page dubbed the Plant-Fueled Trucker. "I just throw stuff together," he says, but he does get recipes from books and the web as well. "Sometimes I'll take somebody else's recipe, and I'll adapt it to what I need."
A really important factor for him is that he feels full. He eats loads of vegetables and grains (grains are filling) and says that he would probably lose more weight if he didn't stuff himself. "I'm still overweight," he admits. "I've still got more weight to lose, and I could have lost a lot more weight if I didn't overeat. I eat way too much of some things and not enough of other things, and it does cause my weight loss to slow a little bit."
As for the other pillar of weight loss, exercise, Anderson says that he's not as dedicated as he should be but he's working on it. "One thing at a time. I'm getting better at it. I have a weight bench, and I do a full-body workout right here in the inside the truck. I also carry my bicycle with me. I stow it in my sleeper. I got a big regular bicycle, a road bike, and I carry a mountain bike sometimes, too, depending on where I'm going. And I run. Last year at this time, I couldn't even run around my truck once, and now I'm running up to five miles."
Anderson keeps away from truck stop eateries because the temptations are too great. "I'm a food addict. I'm addicted to processed food. It is almost like a drug, and when I see it, I want it - especially pizza." In his opinion, truck stops don't make it easy to eat well. "They sell pizzas that are the size of your steering wheel, and you can get two gigantic slices for $5.00. Right below it they have fresh fruit – which really isn't fresh. They have grapes, pineapple and stuff like that in little containers. These little bitty containers - one cup of grapes - costs $3.00. Who's going to spend $6.00 on two small cups of fruit, when they can buy two gigantic slices of pizza for less money?"
While he's driving and the pressure cooker is making his meals, Anderson listens to a lot of podcasts to learn more about eating and nutrition. He does it not only to quell his constant search for knowledge but so he can answer questions from other truckers who want to lost weight and be healthier. And what does he tell other drivers who long for weight loss but see it as too much bother or hard work? "I tell them the typical thing that everybody says: 'If I can do it, you can do it.' I was a fat, lethargic, lazy, truck driver, that didn't want to do anything. It's all you. You don't even need the equipment that I got. Most trucks can have a microwave in them. And if not, there are several machines that plug right into your cigarette lighter. The most difficult part is staying away from the food that you don't need to be eating. That's the hardest part."
Anderson's trucking lifestyle is giving him some notoriety. He's been on radio, television, The Today Show for instance, and his Facebook page has 22,000 Likes. He has almost 5,000 followers on Instagram, but he downplays the media attention. "Sure, it's exciting, but I still got to go to work every day and drive this truck. It really doesn't affect me at all."