Everywhere he goes, trucker Dave Cathcart commands attention. The 56-year-old is a walking billboard for clean living and working out, with a physique that makes him look at least 10 years younger.
You’d never know that just two years ago he was lying in a hospital bed, fearing for his life and wondering what was next.
“I came home on a week off, and I was having heart palpitations,” he said, describing the events that led to his hospital stay.
“My wife is a nurse. One of the things about me and my wife is that we never lie to each other about each other’s health. If I’m feeling bad or she’s feeling bad, we don’t lie,” he said. “So, I told her exactly how I was feeling, and she goes, ‘I don’t like it. If it happens again, we’re going to the hospital.’”
Eventually the palpitations eased, and Cathcart went about his business — but not for long.
“About two weeks later, I came home, went to the gym and got on a treadmill. I got dizzy and my heart started palpitating,” he said. “I got back in the car, and I called my wife. She goes, ‘We’re going to the hospital.’ That’s when the change started.”
Despite being a lifelong athlete and even spending time as a physical trainer, he had let those habits slide until his body started to shut down. Tests revealed he was borderline for type two diabetes, and his blood pressure was through the roof. In addition, doctors suspected he had experienced a heart attack.
“I wanted to see my grandkids again. It scared me, and I’d never been scared about my health,” he said. “When I got out of the hospital, I decided I was going to change my life.”
Adopting a strict carnivore diet, intermittent fasting and dedicated time in the gym, Cathcart made amazing strides in a short time. From a top weight of 285 pounds, he shed 40 pounds in three months. To the amazement of his physicians, he also rid himself of the need for the medications that had been prescribed when he was at his most unhealthy.
Cathcart has maintained that remarkable transformation while continuing his job as an over-the-road truck driver.
As commendable as his personal transformation has been, it pales in comparison to the his goals for helping others reach their own personal bests, particularly among his trucking brethren.
“What really motivates me is if I can help somebody else,” he said. “I believe that if I help enough people, karma always wins.”
To that end, Cathcart has launched a line of supplements and written a book, “From Fat to Fit,” in which he details his journey back from the brink. But what separates Cathcart from other would-be fitness entrepreneurs is the way he takes his message to the field, giving away as much advice and pointers as people care to listen to. He’s a regular on social media, where he’s built up quite the following, especially on TikTok (davefat2fit), where 15,000 followers tune in to hear his motivational messages.
The most significant impact he has on the lives of others, however, is through one-on-one interactions with drivers as he crisscrosses the country on his runs. He’s constantly engaging other drivers at truck stops and posting videos of himself doing on-the-spot workouts during breaks, dispelling the idea that it’s impossible to maintain a fitness routine when you work behind the wheel.
“Here’s something I ask every driver: ‘How many times do you get out of the truck?’ And they’ll say, ‘Well, I get out to fuel up, and I have to walk around the truck,’” he said.
“OK, you’re driving a 53-footer; if you walk 41 times around that truck, that’s a mile. The DOT requires us to do a 15-minute pre-trip and a 15-minute post-trip,” he continued. “So, if you get your ass out of that truck and you do a pre-trip, which does not take 15 minutes, if you just walk 10 times around that truck in the morning, that’s a quarter mile. If you walk 20 times around that truck in the morning, that’s a half mile. Then at night walk another 10 to 20 times around.”
Cathcart says an excuse he often hears drivers give for poor health is that it’s impossible to eat healthily on the road. To this excuse, he offers some simple points to remember.
“If you cut out three things — sugar, processed foods and carbohydrates — any diet will work, whether you want to be a vegan, a vegetarian or a carnivore,” he said, noting that sugar is a particularly insidious food foe.
“In 1940, we were eating only 50 or 60 pounds of sugar; in 2023, we’re eating upwards of 175 to 225 pounds of sugar per person per year,” he explained. “Sugar is almost as addictive as cocaine. When I went off of sugar, I went through withdrawals for about a week and a half.”
Understanding this challenge, Cathcart stresses the importance of taking “baby steps” to the people he talks to, breaking down a big job like changing eating habits through a series of smaller victories.
“There’s 46 grams of sugar in a Big Gulp,” he said. “The national average says that a male is supposed to have 34 to 40 grams of sugar in a day; a woman between 28 and 34. If 46 grams of sugar is in a Big Gulp, I’m asking you to do one thing; replace one Big Gulp with water. Then after that, let’s cut out two Big Gulps.”
Most of all, Cathcart warns against looking at health or fitness products as a “magic bullet,” his own included.
“The people I get to see know I care about them. I’m not trying to sell them anything,” he said. “In fact, I give them my card and I tell them, ‘If you’re going to buy my supplements and think it’s a magic bullet, you’re an idiot.’
“That approach has opened a lot of doors and minds, because who tells people not to buy their own product?” he continued. “I’m honest with people, and I teach people to use what they have and be where they’re at, and not get down on themselves. You can always change your life if you are alive. That’s pretty much my message.”
Follow Cathcart on social media (dave fat 2 fit).
Dwain Hebda is a freelance journalist, author, editor and storyteller in Little Rock, Arkansas. In addition to The Trucker, his work appears in more than 35 publications across multiple states each year. Hebda’s writing has been awarded by the Society of Professional Journalists and a Finalist in Best Of Arkansas rankings by AY Magazine. He is president of Ya!Mule Wordsmiths, which provides editorial services to publications and companies.