Nurse Loses 75 Pounds After Lifestyle Change
Bringing health back to the bedside
As nurses we’re often focused on our patients’ health, often to the detriment of our own. According to the World Health Organization, “Obesity is a major risk factor for chronic diseases, accounting for an estimated 2.5 million deaths per year.” Although the nursing community is aware
of this factor for our patients, perhaps we should also look inward to see what we can do to make ourselves healthier?
I was made brutally aware of my obesity every time I stepped on the scale, and it kept moving in the wrong direction. Rationalizations and excuses led to more and more poor eating decisions and a lifestyle that did not prioritize any meal planning, exercise or managing my breaks.
Louella Chapman, a licensed psychotherapist in Torrance, Calif., states, “One must experience enough pain or dissatisfaction with the status quo to desire to change.” As a nurse, some of the obstacles in my way were very real to me, such as the long 12-hour shifts, working on my days off, eating whatever was available in the break room, or consciously justifying that the sandwich machine was the new gourmet cuisine of the evening.
My inner voice would scream, “Hey, it‘s only a bit. I will burn it off after a busy day’s work.” Unfortunately my metabolism didn’t quite hear my inner voice and I found my body objecting to the fats, carbohydrates and rich substances I was plastering on my hips, thighs and abs.
As happens with most changes of life, I was struck by a moment one day when I stepped on the scale and it read 222 pounds. What did my inner voice say then? Nothing. It was a silence so loud it rattled my head. I didn’t hear any rationalizations. I didn’t hear any excuses.
As the tears began flowing, I felt my heartbeat quicken and blood rush to my head; I was immediately hit with a rush of anxiety. It was in this moment that I knew I had to refocus my lifestyle or I too would ultimately become a patient.
Dr. John J. Murphy, a clinical psychologist in Beverly Hills, maintains that stressors can influence eating patterns, as can habitual behavior. Eating as an addiction can result from emotional factors such as boredom or a reward system. Lack of sleep is another factor that increases the hunger signal.
Dr. Murphy suggests there are methods to overcoming an eating addiction such as exercise and eating a high-fiber diet. Properly fueling one’s body is a priority for success, and when to fuel is just as important. My first dietary lifestyle change happened when I would think of what I would be doing in the following three hours and eat appropriately to fuel that function. If a long shift were approaching, I would consume food to maintain a stabilized blood glucose level.
I also prepared and packed small “meals” (snack-size portions) and brought my cooler to work. This became my lifeline to proper nutrition and kept me on track with consuming whole grains, lean proteins, plenty of green veggies and fruit. I would be able to address my fat portions by adding items rich in Omega-3 fatty acids to my meals.
This rather simple refocusing stimulated a more positive approach to eating and portion control. It reduced the complex web of temptations to one very basic rule: “If it isn’t packed, it isn’t on the menu!” I also introduced exercise three to four times a week. This had to be done on a regular basis for it to be a commitment. By making the time, a refocused routine was created, thereby making this a new habit.
I began to employ many of the same techniques from my diet into my exercise routine. Setting new challenges and goals, like increasing my workout times and intensity levels, kept me from getting bored. I hired a personal trainer who not only motivated me but also supplied the needed support system, which is critical when taking on such a new endeavor. I also sought nutritional counseling to maximize my progress.
There were setbacks, but one important factor in dealing with these was to accept that they are part of the overall scheme. Acceptance and immediately resuming my refocused healthy lifestyle was the main concentration instead of succumbing to the “all or nothing” approach, which could allow for a weak moment in will power. Once a setback occurs, it can be used as a crutch to allow more of the same bad habits to creep into play. Many times I had to ignore my inner voice telling me, “Oh well, I’ve blown it so let me just eat the rest of the day and start tomorrow.” It is truly best to accept the indulgence up front and continue the path of healthy eating. Like any event, the more I practiced my lifestyle the more it became part of me, and over time I found myself performing these refocused habits without thinking about them.
There was another reward that came as a result of this refocusing: I began to drop in size and shopping became enjoyable again. I found out quickly that not only was healthy eating and exercise good for you, but it also makes you feel and look stellar! When I hit a plateau or any obstacle, I continued to persevere. I adjusted my time goals and allowed my body to adjust and understand what was happening to it. I also began to feel an obligation to set a positive example for my patients. I felt they were more enthusiastic about adopting a new set of refocused goals as well once they began to see my improvements.
As nurses we have the ability to make a profound impact on the lives of our patients. When we lead by example with our own positive lifestyle habits — like proper nutrition, adequate sleep, exercise and lowering our stress levels — our lives become more balanced. People, including our patients, gravitate to the realness of how we live in balance and moderation.
And I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a solid support system. Making changes are challenging, however, when you have the encouragement and backing of family and friends, the journey becomes more worthwhile. I couldn’t have accomplished my goals without a support team. My family and friends were a tremendous source of encouragement.
Going through my own process, I can say with confidence that I understand how it feels to need to lose weight, from 75 pounds down to those last five. My own success inspired me to become a certified fitness trainer, because when I saw firsthand how exercise and good nutrition programs were helping people to not only lose fat but also reverse type 2 diabetes and hypertension, I knew that I could help to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Debbi Mouradjian is a certified fitness trainer through the International Sports Sciences Association and has been a licensed vocational nurse since 1987. She speaks on topics such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and enhancing lifestyle choices to reduce obesity.
This article is from workingnurse.com.