Trying to maintain some semblance of a healthy weight, and more importantly trying to feel great, can be a difficult task to achieve when you are a nurse. The 12-hour unnatural shift alone can reek havoc on your body, mind and soul. Breaking the cycle of “I’ll just grab something from the cafeteria” (cheeseburger and fries) is hard when you just worked 12 hours the night before and you’re making the decision between showering or packing a lunch for work. However, when the scrub pants become a bit snug, and when doing compressions and your first thought is “I hope my muffin top doesn’t creep out,” it might be time to take control.
I personally have struggled in the past with weight control, and a lot of it I contributed to poor eating habits at work. Nursing break rooms are where diets go to die. There’s always a birthday cake, a retirement celebration, a drug rep, everyone’s leftover Easter candy. The list goes on and on. The temptation, compiled with the fact that you won’t have time for a break this shift and with all the stresses day-to-day nursing involves, make these treats harder to resist.
My strong desire to lead my patients by example is what got me on the right track a few years ago.
Several years ago, I was working the night shift, I was overweight and I was unhappy. Night shift didn’t agree with me, and neither did my 3 am cheeseburgers and fries I always seemed compelled to purchase (but lets get real, the microscopic “salad” that had been sitting around for 18 hours wasn’t exactly a compelling argument to eat healthy.) I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror, and I hated the XXL scrubs I was wearing. I mostly hated that I gave discharge instructions such as “remember to drink lots of water and eat healthy,” and in my mind these patients were inwardly rolling their eyes and thinking “yeah right lady, like you?” So that’s when I decided I would lead by example. I ditched pop for water, packed my lunch for work, and started exercising daily. I no longer said to my self “well I worked today, I’m not going to work out tonight.” Being a nurse is tough, but I could squeeze in a 45 minute walk when I got home.
My lifestyle changes added up. In one year I lost 90 lbs. I went from XXL scrubs to a plain ole’ L. I felt better, and I swear I feel like I started a revolution at work! Before I knew it people were watching what they were eating, counting calories, forming groups for after work gym sessions. Beyond all that, I was able to give my patients discharge instructions and I know that that inward eye roll was gone.
Lots of little things added up for me. For starters, I just said no to the cafeteria. I left my wallet at home and brought a lunch from home for every meal. Yeah, it wasn’t fun on “create your own pizza day” when everyone was scarfing down their deluxe pizza with extra cheese and I’m munching on a salad (with toasted almonds!), but eye on the prize! I was focused! Next, I had to have will power to say no to all those goodies in the break room. I know Brenda the secretary makes awesome peanut butter cookies, but I just had to tell my self “only for special occasions” That’s another key. Don’t completely deprive yourself. I told myself I would allow myself a break-room treat for special occasions. Drug rep from Panera? Heeey!! Brenda bringing in her second batch of cookies this week? Stop it girl, put the cookie down!
There’s a lot you can do as a nurse to eat right and keep a healthy and active lifestyle. I encourage you to not use your schedule or work load as an excuse. Start making your lunches from home, and avoid the cafeteria at all costs.
Nursing can be an inspiring lifestyle by exemplifying great attitudes, hard work, dedication, caring and a healthy lifestyle. If you’re interested in joining the elite ranks of nursing, check out Utica College’s Accelerated Second Degree Nursing Program.