"Big John" Drury is dancing his way to health, and doesn't care who knows it. He's on a mission to help other drivers lose weight and get healthy by dancing anywhere he can, even in the middle of truck stops.
"There's no shame in my game," he says. "I'm on a mission. I'm not afraid to get out there and dance and be an inspiration to other truck drivers who want to lose weight." Although he encourages other drivers to join in at truck stops, he rarely gets any takers willing to strut their stuff in public. "Truck drivers are very nice people. They’ll talk to me all day and we get along, but they don't want to dance in public… but I keep trying."
He posts many of his truck stop dance sessions on social media where they were spotted by representatives of Progressive Commercial Lines who asked him to be the campaign spokesperson for their Health Awareness Program that debuted at The Great American Trucking Show in Dallas. Drury and back-up dancers performed his unique steps for the crowd.
"These are my moves that I made up myself in my basement. This is my choreography that I can do and that other people my size can follow. They're easy steps to do. It's is a form of dance that was created back in the early 1900s. This is my passion. I love to dance, absolutely love to dance. It’s a freeing feeling to me. I’m alive when I'm dancing, and I want my enthusiasm and happiness to rub off on other people."
He also wants drivers to understand the health risks of being overweight. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control over two-thirds of truck driver respondents were obese (69%), as defined by a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, and 17% were morbidly obese (BMI of 40 or higher). In comparison, only one-third of U.S. working adults were reported to be obese and 7% morbidly obese. "Obesity increases the chance for type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease, cancer, joint and back pain, and stroke. These health conditions can disqualify a driver from receiving their commercial driver’s license and essentially take away their livelihood," the report noted.
"The trucking industry has a huge health problem when it comes to drivers," says Drury, who has been driving for about 13 years. In 2011 he lost 100 pounds mostly by dancing and insists that others can do the same if they're committed. "First and foremost you have to be ready mentally to do this, to take this journey, and that’s the biggest step there is. There’s a barrier in many truck drivers’ minds. They have to believe in themselves, that they can do this, that they can take this journey, that this will happen if they put in the effort and if they’re determined and disciplined. It's not easy. The easy way out is to do what the hell you want, right? Eat what you want. This takes work, dedication, but once you’re ready to do that and commit to it then you’re on your way. It's not that complicated to get healthy; you just have to make your mind up to do so.
"I can relate to big people like me, in the 300 to 400 pound range, and this can work for anyone." He says that people also have to commit to eating right along with the exercise. "Get off the sugary drinks and drink more water. Be conscious of what you’re eating. Keep a journal; write down what you eat. I try to eat 2,500 calories a day, and keep track of that. Then, find an exercise that you're passionate about. I enjoy dancing. I've been doing it all my life. Maybe you like walking. That's great exercise. You don't have to run or dance to lose weight."
Drury drives for Baltimore-based Cowen Systems who are supportive of his efforts to lose weight. "I'm pretty much dedicated out of Coca-Cola in Cincinnati, and I run to Louisville, Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky a couple times a day or wherever they send met but it's usually in the tri-state area - Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky." He's fortunate to be home every night, which makes it a little easier to eat well at night. "That said, my days are long and I'm out there 60 hours a week. It's a difficult thing to eat well on the road, but it can be done."
He adds that when he lost the 100 pounds he was working for an LTL that kept him out two or three nights at a time. One of his tricks was to walk while he was backed at a dock. "That was my exercise. Instead of sitting around, I got out and walked."