Fortunately as my years have gone by in the Chemical Plant work environment I've noticed things have indeed become easier for me and operators in general. Of course there are still some places which are not modernized and operators still slave away hour after hour, but I think I can safely say that many of us have grown soft and spend more time sitting on our duffs, than we do climbing ladders, walking up countless flights of stairs, or truthfully – breaking into a sweat performing our duties. My apologies to those who do not fall into the category I am about to describe.
From walking, to the everyday use of the two-wheeled bicycle to get from point A to point B, today's larger Plants are rife with Kawasaki Mules and other ATV-type scooters. Radios have replaced the stationary Squawk boxes and that means a person doesn't have to move an inch to talk to anyone. My brother-in-law Ray Tallant, a long time operator at DuPont summed it up perfectly when he commented that "the only thing that changes in an operator's day to day routine these days is the lunch menu".
Huge breakfasts and extravagant lunches now grace many control room break areas with doughnuts and kolaches on a regular basis and everyone knows the best way for management to boost morale or reward a shift is to host a catfish or crawfish catered lunch.
Automation and technology, plus redundant alarm systems have taken the place of extra bodies and the need for those bodies to dash through the Unit, double stepping stairs and scampering up ladders. Man-lifts and personal elevators allow us to go to the top of a structure without breaking a sweat and to be truthful; the job of operating a chemical plant or refinery is nowhere as physical as it once was. Not even close.
Thirty years ago an operator had to be physically fit to do this job. It was an absolute. Climbing multiple ladders and hundreds of steps in the performance of duties was normal activity and quick response necessitated going up stairs and ladders over riding a mechanized device. Strict operation guidelines and poorly functioning control systems kept operator and maintenance people in "the field" and many times lunches were carried home at the end of a shift.
I guess what I'm trying to say is many of us are already on easy street and don't even know it. Evidence is in the extra pounds we have around our waists, higher blood pressure than is healthy and because of our adoption of motorized transport and vertical lifts, we only climb a ladder, stairs or walk when there is no other option. Our knees can't take it, our bellies won't allow it and dadgumit, we are falling apart one doughnut at a time.
All this automation, lack of physical exertion and food is killing us. Caught up in the lethargy and fog of complacency I struggled with the obvious, which of course was breaking out of the stranglehold of easy street. I had the startling revelation that if I was going to remain mobile in my advanced years, I was going to have to get mobile now. I was going to have to get off my backside and start doing the things that would build muscle and restore me to a trimmer and healthier person and turn this into a lifelong habit.
Convention told me to join a gym, take up cycling or jogging and at some point in my busy day, become faithful to these activities. Of course convention mentions nothing about changing my behavior while at work and this is the problem and the answer.
So, I decided to solve this problem in my day to day activities in the most logical way possible. First and foremost I was going to eat healthier and I was going to eat less. I am going to drink my one gallon of water each day. I came to the astounding realization that if I was able to reduce just 500 calories a day from my diet and everything else remain the same, I was going to drop 4 real pounds of fat each month.
Next week, I'll tell you how I've developed a system to reverse the ravages of time on your body and a new method which outlines how you can double your weight loss. Until then, eat less and healthier, drink your water and I'll see you in a week…one pound lighter.