My name is Lauren Drain Kagan I am a New York Times Best Selling author, NASM cert personal trainer, fitness model, wife and an RN of 10 years. I specialized in cardiology while also working the night shift float pool for several years all meanwhile I was building out my fitness career & training for multiple fitness shows, working on my personal transformation and much more.
I’m calling on all nurses and medical personnel! For years, many of us nurses and medical staff have been at the beck and call of our patients and families, sacrificing our own daily and hourly needs in order to tend to the care of our patients. Over time, this prioritizing our patient’s needs over ours may cause us to completely lose focus on our own self-care and health goals. At the relatively young age of 28, I found myself in that exact spot having worked as a cardiac step-down nurse for over seven years in several different major teaching hospitals. Working full-time nights at one hospital and per diem nights at another, I found myself sacrificing my personal health and fitness needs because I was so tired, stressed, overworked, and only focused on patient needs 36-48 hours a week, leaving only my days off to rest and recover.
One night, I decided I did not want to let this pattern of self-neglect continue – even though it is so common in the nursing culture to sacrifice our simplest needs, such as getting a proper meal break, bathroom break, stress break or any time to think of ourselves during work. I noticed the veteran nurses on my unit often complained of the same things after having worked 20-30 years on my unit; saying they were stressed, tired, overworked, overweight, suffering from back pain problems, and many other health related issues. As a younger nurse, but still somewhat experienced, I refused to accept this reality: that nurses will ALWAYS sacrifice for their patients, and never have time or energy to dedicate to their own health and youthfulness.
I made a promise to myself that I would find a way to incorporate lifestyle changes into my daily routine so that I would be healthier, more fit, less stressed, and less prone to injury, pain and other things our veteran nurses are often subject to. I dedicated a full year of my life to learning new lifestyle habits, nutrition, workouts and ways to ensure I took care of my health first, before entering my shift.
It has been four years since I made that life altering decision and it has propelled my passion into promoting a fit and active lifestyle to everyone I come in contact with, including my fellow nurses/co-workers. I have since become a certified personal trainer, training thousands of females and males in custom weight loss and muscle building programs, built out balanced nutritional meal plans, and became the strongest and most energized I’ve felt as an adult, now at age 31. I have successfully helped people achieve their dream bodies, attain personal fitness goals, and drastically reduce health problems by introducing nutrient dense foods an eliminating processed foods from their diets, thereby improving quality of life tremendously. You do not have to take my word for it, see the testimonials for yourself on my website (www.laurendrain.com).
So, in honor of all my nurses out there, I have developed a bunch of simple lifestyle tips and tricks to start incorporating into your daily and weekly routines, both at work and on your days off that should truly change your health, energy, body and lifestyle for the better. Take a moment to read through these health tips for days you are working:
- Pack your lunch. (I suggest packing 2-3 small meals daily or 1 meal and 2 hearty snacks) Meal prep will save you time (more time to relax on breaks), money, and hassle. Some people prep once a day, some people only 1-2x/week.
- Pack proper portions for the meals (30% low glycemic carbs, 30% healthy fats and 40% lean protein sources)
- Take your designated breaks! Most facilities and state laws allow at least one 15-minute break and and 30-minute break per 8 or 12 hour shift. Find out your work’s policy and take the break you deserve! Eat your snacks/meals on these breaks.
- If you didn’t have enough time to take the designated breaks, try and snack in a safe non-patient area while charting to keep metabolism running high.
- Take the stairs (or partial stairs) whenever possible. You may find them heading to and from work, or if you leave the unit, walk up or down a few flights, then take the elevator for the rest.
- Wear a Fitbit or stepometer to track your steps and see the actual amount of steps taken or calories burned
- Both day shift nurses AND night shift nurses should be eating 2-3 times during their shifts to keep their metabolism going, mental alertness, and energy levels stable.
- Try to eat every 3-4 hours (4-5 small, frequent meals/snacks as opposed to 2 or 3 large meals).
- DO NOT SKIP MEALS! This is a big one that leads to a stalled metabolism.
- Try and limit carbs and fats for your last meal of the day.
- Cut back on dairy – it causes a build up of mucus, which leads to indigestion/bloating/constipation, sinus pressure, congestion, and even infections (only exceptions include: nonfat Greek yogurt or nonfat cottage cheese a couple times a week).
- Avoid fried foods for 6 days a week – may eat one cheat meal once a week.
- Avoid concentrated sweets 6 days a week- may eat sweets during cheat meal once a week
- Do not neglect healthy fats! 30% of each meal (except for dinner) should have healthy fats.
- Examples of healthy fats: 1 oz nuts, 1 tbsp of any nut butter, ¼ avocado, 1 whole egg, 1 tbsp oil (coconut/grapeseed to cook veggies or protein in), 1 tbsp olive oil (over salads), 1 tbsp MCT oil to put in coffee or protein shakes)
- Eat most of your carbs at breakfast until the afternoon, not at the last meal of the day
- Limit coffee to 2 cups a day
- Avoid milk and creamers – use almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk or hemp milk
- Avoid sugar or syrups – use stevia, Splenda, or tiny bit of raw honey
- Drink coffee AFTER breakfast and lunch, not before – that way it curbs your appetite, but doesn’t kill your hunger to eat a meal.
- Bring a gallon or half gallon water bottle to work to increase hydration.
- Don’t forget to take potty breaks as needed! You will need them with increased hydration.
- Avoid constant snacking on sweet treats brought into the break room daily!
- Bring sweets alternatives to work in your purse or locker: Quest protein bars, any low carb/high protein bar, such as Think Thin or similar macros, works to kill the sweet tooth and not kill your diet. (140-200 cals a bar, no more than 25 g carbs, no more than 8-10g fats, and around 20-30g protein per bar).
- Bring sugar-free gum or candies to work for sweet tooth moments like donuts and cakes brought in by families and doctors.
- Bring zero-calorie drinks or powders to work (such as Dasani squeezables, Crystal light on the go, Spark, etc).
- Avoid drinks with any calories! This is such a waste of calories and causes blood sugar spikes and drops leading to low energy/alertness.
- Try to incorporate more water and hot and cold teas into your daily liquid intake.
For days off from work try incorporating some of these habits:
- If starting from zero workouts, try adding in 3-4 days of light cardio (speed walk or jog for 30 minutes).
- If starting from zero weights, try adding in a couple core workouts a week (20 minute ab circuits, pilates class/DVD or youtube workout, yoga class/DVD/youtube workout) to help increase core strength and reduce back pain/injuries so many nurses are prone to.
- If new to weight training, start with 3x/week weights at about 45 minutes (3-4 workouts) to start to build strength, energy, speed up the metabolism, sleep better at night, and burn fat.
- Incorporate 1 stress-reducing activity at least once a week: take scenic walks/hikes, go for a mani/pedi, get a massage, try a yoga session or meditation
- If you do zero workouts a week, try to maintain 1400-1600 calories daily
- If you do 1 hour of weight training, keep calories at 1600-1800 calories daily (when you train, you get to eat more! Yay!)
- If you do 1 hour of cardio that day, you can eat 1600-1800 calories that day.
- Start to make some of these habits become a lifestyle and enjoy the benefits of increased energy, reduced stress, improved quality of life and mood, and feeling younger/stronger/less prone to injury/pain.
For more tips on how to get and stay fit, or blogs on how to become a fit and active nurse/service personnel, check out my website www.laurendrain.com or follow me on Instagram @LaurenDrainFit. I also offer weight loss and fitness challenges with amazing transformations occurring in as little as six weeks. The challenges give out thousands of dollars in cash prizes for incentives as well. Are you ready to take back your life and health? Don’t let the daily and hourly stresses of the nursing culture and profession steer you down a path of settling or giving up on your health, body and energy. Start your health and fitness journey today, and let me help you! I know the struggles that you face and have strategies and suggestions that really make a difference! See my website for more details, past client testimonials, transformations and much more www.laurendrain.com