Over the past 4 years of nursing, one thing has become very clear to me: It is HARD to stay healthy as a nurse! We work crazy hours. We rarely get enough sleep. And if we’re lucky, we wake up in time to make coffee at home instead of grabbing it on site! If anyone was like me, I had to have that cup of coffee in the morning in order to function! Notice I said “was” and not “is.” Let me let you all in on a little secret. My life and health as a nurse has been radically changed by kicking these 5 unhealthy habits that I am about to share with you! Everything in life as a nurse is full-speed ahead. I always made the excuses that I didn’t have enough time or that “I just can’t do that” when it came to healthy habits. It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom and then sought out on my own personal healthy journey. Here are the 5 unhealthy habits that I kicked to regain my health and happiness!
Not Drinking Enough Water!
- I never drank enough water! I HATED water. I would rather drink nasty unsweet tea than drink plain water. As nurses, it’s so easy to opt for a soda or a sugary coffee for a pick-me-up. Little did I know that I was setting myself up for failure an hour or two later! (Total sugar coma and then the cycle starts over)! I was always jealous of those nurses that brought their cool water bottle to work and were sipping on that liquid gold throughout their day. I later learned the POWER that water had not only for hydration, but for energy and weight loss! All muscles and cells in our body NEED to remain fueled with water. Just like plants need water to grow, so do our muscles and cells to live! Water helps maintain cellular function that helps all of our organs to perform and do what they need to do: filter, digest, pump blood, etc…. It also helps aid in metabolism function to break down fat and use for energy (which also helps aid in weight loss)! Not only will water help you stay full, it will also reenergize you! I try to always be sipping on it, and I now LOVE putting lemon in my water which naturally detoxifies! I challenge you to try drinking only water for every meal for 7 days, and see if you feel a difference in your energy level!
Making Poor Food Choices
2. I will be the first to admit that I ALWAYS made the excuse “I just don’t have time to make my food or eat healthy!” I was convinced that my body was stuck how it was, and there was no point in living a life being deprived of sugary and fatty goodness! That stuff made me feel great in the moment, but later on I felt like a complete Twinkie! Yup, outer cake layer with a hydrogenated oiled sweet filling! I was married and it was “for healthy or for not healthy” right? I think that was in our vowes. Just kidding! I went on my own health journey and discovered how stupid easy this “eating healthy” thing was. I realized I just didn’t understand what types of foods were truly “healthy.” If it didn’t say “ low sugar” or “low fat” then it wasn’t good for me. WRONG! What I realized is that eating CLEAN WHOLE FOODS (Lean Protein, Healthy Carbs: Fruits and Veggies, good fats: nuts, coconut oil, avocados, and olive oil, was what it meant to eat healthy! I needed to eliminate or minimize the processed crap that I ALWAYS turned to!
I want to make a GIANT announcement: FAST FOOD IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU! So even though I know it’s quick and easy, it’s TOTALLY slowing you down in life, contributing to weight gain, lack of energy, anxiety, and depression. Even the dressings for the “healthier salads” are packed with crappy ingredients! When you feed your body the foods that it needs to survive and thrive, it WILL respond in a way that you will benefit from: weight-loss, mood, MORE ENERGY, and HAPPINESS! Stock up on the greens, veggies and fruits ( Low carb is not the way to go if you ask me! Eating balanced, well rounded WHOLE meals will keep you energized and nourished and make you feel less defeated and restricted). Eat as much as you can from home. Don’t be fancy, just be healthy. Tuna and Turkey and not hard to prep. In about the same time that it takes you to leave the floor at work and grab lunch, you can prep a healthy meal at home! Remember, it’s not about the number on the scale, its about reducing systemic inflammation and giving you more LIFE!
Eating Breakfast Too Early!!!
3. Bet you didn’t know this one!? Many people will argue that you should ALWAYS eat breakfast no matter WHAT time it is and that it’s the most important meal of the day. Guess who started that saying? CEREAL COMPANIES! And when do you eat cereal? FOR BREAKFA$T! Don’t get me wrong. Some people are actually hungry at 6am when they wake up. By all means, eat breakfast at 6am if you are truly hungry. But for me, I’m never hungry until about 11am. I never skip a meal, but I do have a not-so-normal schedule. I eat at about 11, 3:30, and 6. One mistake nurses make is eating at terrible times and NOT enough protein! Protein is what will hold you over longer and keep you feeling full. Waiting longer to eat breakfast in the morning (if you truly aren’t hungry), your body will still be in the same mode that it is while it sleeps and will still function that way! It feeds off of the fat in you! When it feeds off of fat, that is a good thing! It’s getting the energy that it needs and you’re, well…..burning fat!
Never eat if you’re not hungry! You’re throwing off what your body is already doing behind the scenes! You will make it worse if you force breakfast! It’s not going to hurt you to push back a few hours until your body is ready and hungry. Getting on a healthy time eating schedule and eating WHOLE meals is REALLY going to help your over-all health. Our schedules don’t have to work against us, we just need to listen to our bodies. Eat when you’re hungry, not because “It’s breakfast and I must eat!” I’ve run plenty of 5 K’s on an empty stomach. Not because I had to, but because I’m just not hungry that early. We are created to use the fat stores when needed. You’re body will let you know when you’re hungry and need food for all function! Listen to it!
Not Getting Enough Sleep!
4. Holy Cow, this one is HUGE! Okay okay, I get you. You have kids. You have laundry. You have responsibility. We ALL do in some way, shape, or form! But hear me when I say this loud, “WE NEED SLEEP!!!” Cortisol levels become JACKED UP when we don’t sleep! Cortisol affects insulin, which affects leptin (the hormone that tells us when we’re truly hungry or not) and ultimately it affects inflammation in the body and how we hold on to FAT! When we don’t get enough sleep, it is PROVEN that cortisol levels are higher in our blood! I need at least 7 hours to call it a “good nights rest.”
Some things that are important to remember is that melatonin is the “sleep hormone” that helps us rest at night. It is influenced by laying down at night in the dark. (Way back when cave men slept, melatonin rose because day light went down). Any type of light can alter melatonin and rest! So if you’re staring at your cellphone screen or on your computer right before you go to sleep, you are confusing your brain and might not be able to let down as easy! Eating late can also affect sleep! My rule of thumb is to cut off food by 7pm! Sometimes it’s hard with my schedule, but I truly do try! All of these “tweeks” have made a WORLD of difference with my quality of sleep! GOTCHO SLEEP ON!
5. Okay. So I know you probs could have guessed this was going to be on the list, but I have to make a statement. YOU DO HAVE TIME FOR THIS! Listen. I work 3, 12’s every week, sometimes 4. On my days that I work, I make a point to take the stairs ALWAYS, keep moving constantly, and when I get home, I do some pushups to strengthen my arms. It’s hard to start this out, but it gets easier as you build strength! On my days off, I work out MAX 30 mins a day! I do “bursts” at the tennis court, where I sprint for 30 secs, and rest….sprint and rest. Doing that for 20 mins will burn more fat and build more strength than long distance running.
Ever notice how sprinters are always built and muscular and long distance runners are thin and almost gangly? It’s because short “burst” workouts build muscle, and that muscle burns fat continuously, up until the next day AND when you sleep! Why do you think you see results “later on?” It was a game changer for this girl, who would calorie count on a treadmill and run for AN HOUR! How boring!!?! Short, strength building and burst workouts are the BEST for you AND for your schedule! I’ve never been a gym person! I don’t obsess about exercise anymore. I uust get out and move! Go hiking, go swimming, enjoy the sunshine! Nature will make you happy too! It’s not rocket science!
So to rap this all up, drink more water, make better WHOLE food choices, don’t eat breakfast too early, get more sleep, and MOVE! We as nurses love to use our schedule as an excuse for why we we can’t be healthy. Well coming from the girl who typically works 4, 12’s a week, I make it work because it’s IMPORTANT to me! If something is worth it to you and you want it bad, you make it work: with kids, with animals, with a family…..you make it work! Ultimately, kicking these unhealthy habits are going to make family life, personal life, and work life a HECK of a lot easier! Aligning all of these principles with your life WILL lead to a better, leaner, healthier, less anxious, and LIVELY YOU! It’s not about the weight. It’s about finding balance and true health and wellness! YOU owe this to yourself!
Your Heart Is Mine,