Stress plus long hours usually equals unhealthy food choices and nearly nonexistent exercise. That, in turn, equates to putting on pound after unwanted pound. But as these four RNs have clearly proven in the Fall 2010 issue of Scrubs, beating the battle of the bulge is entirely doable.
Setting a Healthy Example
By the time Erin Smith, 27, had a beautiful baby daughter, she also had 40 extra pounds. She knew she should do something about her weight, but between throwing herself into motherhood and managing a full load of nursing school courses, she just couldn’t make it a priority. When she became pregnant with another daughter, taking care of herself literally fell to the bottom of her to-do list. It wasn’t until she was looking through family photos that she realized just how big she had become. “I barely recognized myself,” she remembers of herself at 232 pounds. “I knew I couldn’t put myself on the back burner anymore.”
Since Smith had never dieted before, she needed a plan. That’s where LA Weight Loss came in, helping her revamp her eating habits while keeping things easy and familiar. Instead of relying on frozen meals or takeout, she began making weekly trips to her local market to stock up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. On her days off, Smith flipped through cookbooks and found healthier recipes for her family’s favorite foods, such as turkey chili, sweet-and-sour chicken and meatloaf. She kept a food journal to document everything she ate and checked in with her weight-loss counselor on a weekly basis to ensure she was on the right track. “When I started eating the right things, I never felt like I was dieting—I was full and didn’t feel deprived.”
Smith toted healthy meals to Rapid City Regional Hospital in South Dakota, where she’s a staff nurse and usually works the night shift. She learned about moderation and the importance of regular eating. “I brought a stash of fresh apples and oranges, plus protein bars, so I ate something every two to three hours,” she says.
By her third week, Smith was amazed to find out she had already shed 10 pounds. A few months later, a friend encouraged her to start exercising. She signed up at Curves because they offered half-hour classes that were easy to sneak into her schedule. “It was near my daughters’ school, so I left home half an hour before I had to pick them up. With exercise built into my day, there was no way to skip it.”
Six months and 50 pounds later, Smith happily had to buy a new wardrobe. “Once I got smaller scrubs, people really started noticing. They were stunned when I told them I just started eating more healthfully and exercising.”
Now Smith is a fit and healthy 165 pounds and feels great. “I used to be wiped out at the end of my night shift. No more—I feel good, regardless of how brutal it is.” At home, Smith is a positive role model for her daughters, now ages three and eight. “They see their mom eat healthy foods, so they do the same,” she says. “And my husband loves the new me—he calls me his model wife.”
ERIN SMITH STATS
Has Kept Weight Off
The Workout that Worked
Smith always has a backup plan for days when it’s too cold—or she’s too busy—to get outside. She works out with Wii Fit, and her daughters often join in, making it a family affair.
• Wii Fit (combination of cardio and weights): 20 to 30 minutes, 3 times a week
• Brisk walking with dogs: 30 minutes daily
• Hiking: 30 minutes, once a week
Light key lime yogurt with ground-up almonds
Keep temptations out of the house until you feel you can avoid them. Out of sight is out of mind.
You will hit plateaus and there will be weeks when the number on the scale won’t budge. Stay relaxed and don’t get discouraged. The weight will come off.
Practicing What She’s Teaching
You’ve heard it, and perhaps lived it, before: Work and kids can make for a hectic life of takeout and no time to take care of yourself. That was certainly the case for Dianna Renée Johnson, 42, whose scale topped 215 pounds when she was in her mid-30s, her knees literally buckling under the stress. She had always been a little on the heavy side, but the nearly impossible balancing act of her day-to-day life had steadily and stealthily added 10 to 15 pounds to her small frame each year. “I felt like a hypocrite teaching nursing students about healthy living when I obviously wasn’t following my own advice,” Johnson says of her job as vocational nursing program training coordinator at Hill College in Cleburne, Texas.
Finally, a wakeup call came during a routine checkup after her third daughter was born (her kids range in age from 4 to 21, and she has a 15-month-old grandchild; everyone lives at home). “With borderline high blood sugar and blood pressure levels, I knew I was in line for diabetes and heart disease,” she says. “How could I not do something?”
Johnson signed up for Jenny Craig, which provides one-on-one counseling and pre-packed meals that not only made dieting doable, but taught her important lessons about proper portion control. She brought the meals to work along with vegetables and other healthy snacks that helped her avoid fat traps. She also ate the meals at home while preparing her family lower-fat versions of their favorite recipes.
That first month, Johnson lost 20 pounds through diet alone. She was on a roll! Then her husband Ben, who had exercised throughout their marriage, introduced her to the gym. “He had always made an effort to get out and exercise, while I was too busy with work and family obligations,” she says. That changed. “He started me on the elliptical trainer because it was easy on my knees. After five minutes I was out of breath, but I promised myself I would do it again the next day.” Johnson was true to her word, working out a little longer each session. She gradually added weight training to her routine and kept dropping 5 to 10 pounds a month.
Today, Johnson is a healthy 120 pounds. “I can wear my 21-year-old daughter’s jeans,” she says proudly. She still struggles with chocolate cravings, although she handles them much better than in the past. But more importantly, her test results are all in the healthy range. “I feel like a better wife and mom because I’m in shape. And as a nurse and health educator, I can stand tall and proud in front of my class of nursing students since I’m living what I’m teaching.”
DIANNA RENEE JOHNSON STATS
Has Kept Weight Off
One and a half years
The Workout that Worked
Johnson’s routine includes strength training as well as cardio since muscle burns more calories than fat.
• Weight training: 60 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week
• Elliptical training, running and speed walking: 30 minutes, 3 times a week
• Jenny Craig Dream Bars (favorite flavors: Chocolate Chip, S’mores, Yogurt Dream)
• Hot chocolate mixed with sugar-free hot chocolate
• Weigh food until you get to know a proper portion—if you don’t have a scale, use your fist as a measure.
• Save eating out for special occasions—and no more than once a week!
• Keep a picture of yourself at your heaviest close by. When a craving hits, take a look at how far you’ve come, then reach for a piece of sugar-free gum or some fruit.
Becoming a Fitter and Better Nurse
As a nurse with a family history of heart disease and diabetes, Bowick knew losing weight was essential, but as a single mom with a busy career, concern for her own well-being fell to the wayside…until there was more at stake. “My 16-year-old daughter weighed nearly 300 pounds, and I realized a lot of it was my doing,” she recalls. “I never set a healthy example for her. I was digging us both into early graves.”
Bowick joined a Weight Watchers group at work where she’s a day program nurse coordinator for the Arc of Monroe County program, which provides health care to the disabled in Rochester, N.Y. Step one was a good breakfast—such as oatmeal and fruit—which set her up to eat healthfully throughout the day. She nixed fried and fast foods altogether, instituted baking and broiling, and shopped for whole grains, lean meats and fresh produce. “My schedule at work was unpredictable, so on the days I couldn’t cook, I relied on low-fat frozen entrees or soup,” she says. At work, she kept healthy foods in the fridge to sustain her through her shift.
Even though she was on her feet all day, Bowick joined her local YMCA, where she walked on the indoor track three to five times a week for 30 minutes. “I got there at 5 a.m.—no one needed me at that hour, so it became ‘me’ time.”
When Bowick saw she was steadily losing one to two pounds a week, she realized her diet-and-exercise program was actually working, and vowed she’d wear a bikini. Now 160 pounds, Bowick has not just one bikini, but an entire collection.
She also noticed that as she became more fit, she became a better nurse. “I wasn’t winded after moving a patient and I wasn’t tired and grumpy all the time,” she says. One of her biggest thrills was going to the White House as a slender woman to accept an award for volunteer nursing from then-President George W. Bush. “I love that I got my photograph taken with the President wearing a size 10 nursing uniform instead of oversized scrubs. “I wouldn’t have had the confidence to meet the President if I were still heavy.”
Although her daughter still struggles with the scale, Bowick is confident that one day she will be able to conquer her weight problem. “From seeing me, she knows that by changing one thing at time and setting small, attainable goals, it’s possible to lose weight,” she says. “Small changes equal big results.”
THERESA LOU BOWICK STATS
Has Kept Weight Off
The Workout that Worked
Bowick likes to set a new fitness challenge each month to prevent boredom and ensure she stays active. She switches among cycling, running and dancing.
• Walking: 45 to 60 minutes, 5 to 7 times a week
• Pilates: 45 minutes, 3 times a week
• Chin-ups: 50 to 55, 3 to 4 times a week
• Post a photo in your kitchen of someone whose body you admire, like Janet Jackson in her rock-hard abs days. Every time you reach for an unhealthy snack, it’ll help you rethink your choice.
• Don’t give up all your favorite foods. Indulge once a month, not two to three times a week.
• Plan your meals two to three days in advance so what you’re eating is one less thing on your mind.
Taking It One Pound at a Time
Nothing beats hospital stress for causing unhealthy eating, and Joni Farrington, 37, knows that better than most. Not only is she a NICU nurse at Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford, Ore., but she spent years in hospital waiting rooms relying on junk food from vending machines and cafeterias after two premature deliveries left a daughter, and then a son, with serious medical problems. When she topped out at 212 pounds, she ran out of excuses. “I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. I’ve got to do something about this.’ I knew I was finally going to get serious.”
An Internet search turned up SparkPeople.com, an online weight-loss community. “The site had successful weight-loss stories about people like me,” she says. “I thought, ‘If they could do it, so could I.’” Farrington logged onto the free site and set up her profile. Then she started to take advantage of the site’s many weight-loss tools to create a plan that would fit into her life.
Convenience foods like pizza and boxed pasta were out, along with processed foods, high-fat mayo and cream sauces. In were chicken, fish, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dressings and mustard. “I realized that by making the right substitutions, I could still eat my favorite foods. In my family’s favorite pasta dish, I cut back on the amount of pasta and replaced it with vegetables, and no one even noticed.” To keep her portion sizes in check, Farrington bought a food scale. “I was shocked. I was eating two or three servings at one time!”
Since the SparkPeople plan encouraged exercise, she dusted off the elliptical that was sitting in her garage and began using it while her third child napped. She also started walking around the neighborhood with a new jogging stroller. Each day Farrington added more time to her workout. It wasn’t long before she was doing 30 minutes of exercise each session.
A year later, Farrington had lost nearly 65 pounds. To reward herself, she threw out her size 16 jeans and XL scrubs and replaced them with size 10s and mediums. “I love that I no longer have to hide my body under a layer of clothing,” she says. Her next goal is a marathon. “My husband runs with me and it has become our time as a couple,” she says. “Plus, he has lost 50 pounds himself.”
One of the many lessons Farrington has learned is to take things one day at a time. “If I tell myself I have to lose 50 pounds, I get overwhelmed and quit before I even start,” she says. “But if I take it one day at a time, one pound at time, I know any goal is achievable.”
JONI FARRINGTON STATS
Has Kept Weight Off
The Workout that Worked
Farrington invested in a heart rate monitor and downloaded free iPhone apps such as RunKeeper and Couch to 5K. She found it to be a great way to track her progress, plus she liked the instant feedback.
• Running or elliptical training: 60 minutes, 4 to 6 times a week
Greek yogurt with nuts and/or dried cranberries
• Use a baby spoon to eat foods like Greek yogurt or fat-free pudding. It will take longer to eat and you’ll be more satisfied.
• A healthy lifestyle means balance, which requires that you make time to exercise and eat right in the same way you find time to spend with your family.
For more Healthy Eating pick up the latest issue of Scrubs magazine, available at a retail store near you!