2016-03-24 / Front Page

He’ll keep on truckin’ to a healthier diet

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – A lifelong Biddeford resident, former school board member, certified integrative holistic health coach, organic farmer, adult ed teacher and operations and food safety specialist at Hannaford Supermarket has added another title to his lifetime accomplishments: author.

Robert Cyr, who wrote, “Zombie Truckers,” released by Page Publishing last fall, said an even bigger accomplishment was the inspiration for the book – turning his life around with healthy habits and a new diet.

Cyr said he had an epiphany 13 years ago when a close friend died of a stroke and heart attack. The friend was overweight and had a similar build to Cyr, whose own children were calling him “Fat Bob Stretch Pants.”

“I never realized food actually affected you, I just figured it was there to eat,” Cyr said. “I was fat, sick and dying. At his funeral, I realized I needed to do something, but I didn’t know what … I looked over to my right (at the funeral), my daughter was crying.

“He was a very big man, he left three young boys. I knew needed to take personal responsibility but I didn’t know what to do.”

Cyr described his weight struggles as confusing.

“One day this food is good for you, the next day it’s bad for you,” he said. “I was a yo-yo guy, I’d lose 20, gain 30.”

After saying a prayer under his breath, Cyr went into work the following Monday, where he worked with truckers in the transportation department of Hannaford, and was approached by a human resources manager.

“She says, ‘Bob, I need your help. I need 20 drivers to do a Weight Watchers program inhouse. Or 19, hint, hint.’ That was the beginning of my journey,” Cyr said.

Although Weight Watchers opened his eyes, Cyr said he began to realize there was more to it. Cyr read every book about nutrition and dieting he could get his hands on.

“Then it became more confusing because this doctor says that and that doctor says this and they contradict each other,” he said. “I needed to get down to the bottom of this. For some reason, I was possessed … I needed to know the truth.”

Cyr, also known as “Truckin’ Bob,” then enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City.

Now in his 60s, the former 275-poundman lost more than 100 pounds, and began helping other truckers to adopt healthy habits, whether walking with them during breaks or substituting fruit and vegetables in the office for doughnuts.

“I eliminated soda from my diet and started drinking water. Instead of grabbing a jelly doughnut, I grabbed an apple,” he said. “At 60 years old, I got more energy than I did in my 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.”

At the institute, Cyr said he was one of the only males. Teaching adult ed healthy cooking classes at Old Orchard Beach High School, Cyr said he noticed that most of his students there were also female.

“I wanted to get the word out to truck drivers that the health style they choose is a very unhealthy one,” Cyr said. “There are 50,000 truckers who are disqualified medically (from being able to work) and a lot of young people don’t want to get involved with trucking. It’s a tough job, they work nights, weekends, don’t eat well and spend a lot of time away from home.

“They spend more time thinking of what additive they are going to add to their fuel, or replacing a wheelnut, but don’t think twice about what they’re eating.”

Cyr said he was inspired to write the book while attending the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where he was encouraged to “tell his story.”

“I catered to drivers, using analogies they can understand, not using medical terms, but using language they can understand.”

Cyr said processed foods are killing people and the important habit to adopt is a diet of fresh foods, including vegetables, fruit and raw nuts.

“It’s as simple as this: If you pick up a package of whatever and turn it over, and if there are two words that you don’t know what they are, it’s processed food.”

In his book, Cyr uses real examples of real truckers he knows and their struggles with health, but instead of using their real names, he uses their CB handles.

Originally titled “Truckin’ Bob’s Journey to Hell,” Cyr said he got the idea for “Zombie Truckers” one night when a snowstorm sent a number of stranded truckers dragging their feet like zombies into the office.

“I saw guys coming up, like ‘Walking Dead,’ walking down the street, dragging their asses, lethargic like they ran a marathon,” Cyr said. “These guys are coming up the stairs, their ass is dragging, they’re tired and beat, and I thought, ‘What I got on my hands is a bunch of zombie drivers.’

“It wasn’t a dis on the drivers. If you look at society in general, we’re all a bunch of zombies. Everybody’s on their cellphones … We got zombies all around us.”

Cyr said because he’s worked with truckers for 33 years, he understands their lifestyle and can relate to them in ways that other nutritionists can’t.

“I’m a little bit of an authority on these things even though I don’t have a medical degree or nutrition degree,” he said. “I went to the school of hard knocks. I learned the hard way and want to make it easy for these guys. They don’t eat breakfast, they have coffee, then they just eat easy things or pull into a fast food place or truck stop.

“I know, I’ve done it. I’m not saying you can never do it, but the majority of time, you need to be conscious and mindfully thinking about what you put in your mouth just like you think of what you put in your fuel and your truck.”

On the cover of “Zombie Truckers” is an image of a large trucker facing a fleet of European trucks. Cyr said the cover art uses European trucks by design.

“They’re foreign trucks. See what that guy’s looking at? They’re foreign to him,” Cyr said. “Apples, grapes, kale, fruit – those are foreign to them … A lot of them don’t eat a lot of vegetables.”

Cyr said he hopes his book will convince more people to get rid of their SNACKs – an acronym for sugar, nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and chemicals.

“‘I’m going to die of something anyway’ is a favorite line, but I’d rather have a life with more years in it,” Cyr said. “Do I want to be needing an oxygen tank, when I can’t even go anywhere? I want to live to be 100.”

Cyr hopes his book will help save truckers and others by inspiring them to turn their lives around.

“This is my mission. It’s given me a task and purpose in life,” he said. “It healed me and now I want to give back and heal others … Maybe I can talk to trucking communities and I can help to inspire them.”

“Zombie Truckers” is available through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Google, iTunes and in select bookstores around the nation.

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