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Fostering better health in a high-risk profession

Updated: Jul 14

Dave Letele tightens the belt on obesity in the transport sector

If you can only do one thing to look after your health, stop drinking fizzy drinks. That’s the advice of Dave “The Brown Buttabean” Letele, a former professional boxer, ex-rugby league player, and founder of life-changing community weight loss programme BBM.

Once clocking in at 210kgs, Dave knows first-hand the risks associated with obesity, and he is urging Aotearoa New Zealand’s truck drivers to heed his call.  Truckie health has been a longstanding industry issue, exacerbated by long sedentary hours on the road, tight deadlines, lack of exercise and limited access to healthy food when on the road, but Letele is on a quest to change all that. In a recent episode of The Depot podcast hosted by Grey Murphy and brought you by AutoSense, he says the solution is surprisingly simple.

“People overcomplicate health but it all starts with keeping it simple,” Letele explains. “It’s about being healthy, happy, and drinking and eating the right stuff most of the time. Everything else will take care of itself. Stop drinking rubbish, stop eating rubbish, and go for a walk. That’s the secret!”

Letele has worked with a multitude of truck drivers, many through his ‘From the Couch’ initiative, a free 12-week health programme providing wrap-around support to people with long term health conditions.

“I’ve been into people’s homes, some of them are truck drivers, and they can no longer leave the house because they are immobile. You need to be very careful because things can easily get out of control; you think it’s not going to happen to you – until it does. You drink more crap, eat more crap, do no exercise, and it happens.”

Letele says it all starts with nutrition, and drivers who need to shed some kilos to improve their health should “start small and build a solid foundation”.

“For a start just focus one thing, don’t try and change everything at once.”

Fizzy drinks – including energy drinks and juice - come top of his list.

“A lot of drivers are driving line haul and they’re smashing down the energy drinks. Not only are they full of sugar but they’re also filled with chemicals. The very best thing truckies can do is stop drinking fizzy drinks and start drinking water. Straight away you’re going to achieve results, just from that.”

Letele finds that once people start seeing the results, their motivation naturally builds.

“You start having some pride in yourself and you want to do a bit more. If you’re at a truck stop and you want to have a burger, don’t have the fries, have water, and maybe take off one of the buns. Then after you’ve had dinner go for a 10-15 minute walk before you get back in the truck. Those small things will add up to big results.”

If ditching the fizzy and fries sounds like a step too far, Letele understands. He’s a fan of treats and says you can still have them occasionally.

“Having a healthy and maintainable lifestyle is about having treats – but if you are treating yourself every day, that’s no longer a treat, that’s the way you eat. I didn’t get to be 210 kgs by having a bad meal or a treat just every now and then!”

If you slip up? Be kind to yourself.

“Understand that it’s hard, and if you do have a bad day, forgive yourself. If you have a bad meal, don’t follow it up with another bad meal. Follow it up with a really healthy meal, and back that up with a walk. Do that and you’ll feel amazing.”

While many would argue that eating healthy is an expensive luxury these days, Letele won’t have a bar of it.

“You can’t use that as an excuse with me, because when I started my weight loss journey I had no money and was living in community housing. It’s not about having a six pack; it’s not about eating chicken and broccoli so you can look good for an Instagram post. It’s about living a healthy maintainable lifestyle.”

So what are the steps drivers need to take to start their weight loss journey? Letele shares these four simple pillars to getting healthy:

  1. Start right now; don’t over think things.

  2. Be consistent. When you get knocked down, get back up.

  3. Surround yourself with positive people.

  4. No excuses.

To find out more about staying healthy on the road, listen to AutoSense’s full-length The Depot podcast discussion between Greg Murphy and Dave Letele: 

Or to check out the BBM Program, visit

Dave's Health Hacks for Truckies
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