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How to stay healthy during the NOC


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Dear Sean,

Weight loss is the hardest thing I have ever not accomplished. I too have been in healthcare for 15 almost 16 years. I work the 12 hr night shift and when I am not at home I eat as though I am at work. This is definitely not working. I have tried lots of things but get easily discouraged. I also have hypothyroidism, which makes it a little tougher. Any suggestions?

Dear Discouraged,

I don’t think there is a nurse out there that doesn’t feel your ‘pain’. I for one have the greatest respect for anyone that works nights and can find the energy, drive and motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Even with the odds against you it IS possible.

A healthy LIFESTYLE is at the very essence of losing weight. It’s not about the numbers. It’s not about the food. It’s not about the exercising (or activity). It’s not about that celebrity’s success story (or anyone’s for that matter). It’s not about what hasn’t worked for so-and-so. It’s about you. Just you.

It’s the will and want to change. I have said this once, and I’ll say it again. “Stop doing what you used to do, and start doing what you need to do.

It’s no secret. We all know deep down inside ourselves what our weakness is. We know what we can’t say no to. We know our own ‘bad’ habits. We know our own ‘rituals’. We know what we like to do and not do. Let’s face it, we all are ‘creatures of habit’ aren’t we?

It’s finding the will and the courage to change what needs changed. In the meantime, here are some useful tips that could help you get on the path you very much desire:

  • Avoid the checkout line

Maybe it’s just me, but many, many, many times I would work nights the crew I would work with loved to order ‘take out’. Do I really need to explain why this is a bad idea?

  • Eliminate the cheat

Get rid of any food that you know isn’t healthy for you. If it’s not there, you won’t be tempted to eat it. There is nothing wrong with a little indulgence now and then, but lets be brutally honest with what we eat.

  • Eat smaller portions, smaller meals and eat more frequently.

This goes without saying. Start small. The age-old thought of 4 square meals went out the door years ago. You should be eating at least 6 smaller meals a day (24 hours). Your blood sugar will thank you for it.

  • On the nights you are working stay away from heavy carbohydrates

I don’t believe in the Atkins mind-set of ‘no-carbs’, but too many carbohydrates, or the ‘heavy’ carbs will definitely bog you down (and make you tired). Steer clear of the breads and buns, no pasta or noodles.

  • Exercise when you and your body agree it’s time to get up and be awake.

When I was on nights, I was on permanent shift. So my body was always ‘awake’ during the wee hours of the night. So that’s when I exercised. Don’t take anyone’s advice on when you ‘should’ exercise. Your body will let you know.

  • Drink plenty of water

Wake up to water and drink water during your shift. Anything else is just a stimulant.

  • Fruit is your friend

A great stimulant, good tasting – and heck is healthy for you! You need a snack? Stack up on fruit – any and all kinds!

  • Stop drinking fluids 2 hours before your shift ends

This way you won’t be up all ‘day’ getting rid of all the fluids you drank!

  • Coffee or Tea (insert your stimulant of choice)

Moderation. That’s all I’ll say about that.

  • If you can, do some exercising while at work.

During your break do some brisk walking around the unit, or floor. How about walking (running) some stairs for a set amount of time or total steps? Get your heart rate going. There is no wrong answer here – do what you enjoy

  • Get the proper amount and quality of sleep

This is a toughy, but it is the most important tip. Get your sleep. A well rested body is ready to exercise, and ready for change. Why do you think your body aches down to your bones when you don’t get your sleep? (It’s your body telling you something)

I hope at least one of these tips helps. Best of luck on your journey!

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