Obesity

Copyight puuikibeach, Flickr.com

Today’s #HAWMC writing prompt inquires why I write about my health. I do write about my health – specifically my journey towards a healthy BMI. My physical activity and nutrition are night and day difference from nearly two years ago. When I look at pictures, it is hard to believe I was ever 65 pounds heavier. Yikes! As I’ve seen my weight stall at a numerical value I am honestly not always happy with, I keep reminding myself I continue to lose inches. My body fat percentage is decreasing, and I do feel better than ever. Unfortunately, BMI doesn’t capture that. Drat.

Still, my story is similar to many nurses, yet there’s not a lot happening around the topic. Sure, there are smatterings of programs and initiatives, but where is the uproar about this? In light of nursing shortages, an aging workforce, and increasing patient acuity and long shifts requiring physical stamina, where are the nursing health evangelists? We talk about safety and horizontal violence and compassion fatigue and…hellloooo? Nurses’ poor health is an issue. No one is talking about it, though.

I don’t mean we need to keep obese nurses from the bedside or any other position. Not at all. I’m saying we – a concentrated, powerful, profession-changing “we” – need to recognize the concern within our profession and work to correct it – bettering ourselves and the millions of people we collectively serve.

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The Nurse Oncology Education Program, or NOEP, is helping one of the unhealthiest populations in the U.S. – nurses – track and change seven cancer-related health behaviors: fruit and vegetable consumption, red meat consumption, tobacco use, sugary-beverage consumption, screen time, physical activity, and alcohol consumption. The program – AvidNurse Tracker- released about seven months ago, and as a user myself, it’s clear the free service is picking up new, engaged users. It is definitely a fun accountability tool nurses can easily utilize.

A visual explanation of AvidNurse Tracker from NOEP's home page, www.noep.org.

Primarily focused on Texas nurses, nurses from anywhere in the world can create a free account and immediately start tracking health behaviors, including weekly weight and BMI changes. Users earn points and electronic trophies for tracking health behaviors, entering weekly weights, participating in fun, weekly polls, and referring Texas nurses to the program. AvidNurse Tracker provides immediate feedback and encouragement on progress, and users’ points give them the same number of entries into the monthly random drawing for sweet little prizes like mini-fridges and DVD players (to watch and conduct at-home fitness programs, of course). I’ve heard that larger prizes and a mobile version of AvidNurse Tracker are in the works. Very, very cool.

Full Disclosure: I am a former NOEP team member, and I helped develop AvidNurse Tracker. Due to my own struggles with getting and staying fit, I still use AvidNurse Tracker daily. I did not receive money for this post; my opinions are my own.

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The rare Nursetopia self-photo...A much healthier me - twelve months in the making and still enduring.

Today is a milestone for me. I have been working toward health for exactly one year today. For the most part that has meant losing weight. As I continued on my health journey, I found that I was not alone. The nursing profession struggles with unhealthy lifestyles leading to obesity. My posts about obesity within the profession and my struggles remain some of my most read posts to date. I have connected with many nurses working to improve their own health and that of others.

I have achieved numerous personal goals over the past year. Most noticeably, I am down 55 pounds and three dress sizes. I have decreased my BMI from a whopping 37 to a toning 27.5 (and still dropping!). I’ve moved from “obese” to “overweight,” and I am strongly moving in to the “normal” category. I’ve been working towards a healthy BMI for one year, and I am almost there. I not only feel better physically, but I have much more mental clarity, pushing my body to match my mind. In fact, I completed two half-marathons – one in San Antonio and one in Dallas – over the last twelve months. They were great experiences, proving so much to myself.

I still have days that I do not want to exercise or I want to eat an entire chocolate cake, but the fact that I still exercise anyway or walk past the chocolate cake are tremendous victories for me, and I celebrate them everyday. Looking back over the past year, my life is so very different than it was in 2010. My family’s life is different, as well, which makes me even happier. So, today is a lovely day – a reminder of where I have been, what I have accomplished, and where I am going. It all started with one day.

Today might be your day, too.

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Rocked A Personal Goal: Part 2

by Nursetopia on March 29, 2011

 

Ready to run!

I never thought I would ever run a half-marathon, but I did. Sunday I ran my second half-marathon. Okay, “run” is used loosely. I ended up walking quite a bit, which I am chalking up to my oh-so-recent kidney stone trouble. Still, it was a great day at the Dallas Rock and Roll Half Marathon.

 

The course started near Dallas City Hall with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, bands, and a parade of pink as the race benefited Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which calls Dallas home for its global headquarters. We ran past the grassy knoll and through the Turtle Creek neighborhood and picturesque Highland Park. Needless to say, rock bands were scarce through the miles spanning this third wealthiest city in Texas per capita, but the houses, many included in the 2011 Historic Home Tour, and the vibrantly lush annuals and perennials more than made up for the lack of blaring music.

The Highland Park Fire Department encourages the runners.

 

 

It was not long before we ran down Mockingbird Lane, right across Highway 75. Pretty cool, I must say. The race ended in Fair Park – complete with amazing Art Deco buildings, the Cotton Bowl stadium (which even boasted a smattering of the Longhorn Band playing The Eyes of Texas, making me feel right at home as I threw up a hook’em! a half mile from the finish line), and the Texas Star® Ferris Wheel, which the race medal mirrored. To top off the completion, Bret Michaels was there to rock, as well.

While a cold front dropped the daily temperature, the sideline high school cheerleaders, bands, encouragement signs and high fives from complete strangers lining the course pushed me on. My oldest sister also helped tremendously, running with me the entire way. Even though I had to walk a bit, I still set a new personal record, beating my first half-marathon time by 14 minutes.

My friends and family, many of whom also ran, joined me in celebrating the day at Twisted Root, which was absolutely fabulous. It was weird enough to make me think we were in Austin, but it was only cool enough for Deep Ellum.

I am sure there were many nursing professionals running alongside me. I only personally knew one other – Chip LeDuff – who blew the race to pieces with his amazing time. It was great sharing that connection with him, as well. So, who wants to join me next time and rock their own personal goal?

Dallas Rock & Roll Half-Marathon race medal

 

 

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Musings of Management & Maintenance

by Nursetopia on March 15, 2011

I learned in nursing school that nursing management and nursing leadership are not the same. Indeed, they are not.

I have the opportunity – yes, opportunity – to work in both roles in my current position. I must say, I much rather prefer leadership to management.

Along the same thought, I have worked hard over the past nine months to reach a healthy BMI. I am still working towards my goal, but I am not looking forward to the “maintenance” phase after I reach that goal as much as I thought I would.

Management. Maintenance. They are very similar. It is about the routine, working through the minutia, making sure everything continues on. Give me the brainstorming and the visioneering and risk. You can have the payroll tasks and report creation and the status quo. Let me step on the scale and see a two-pound loss. Don’t waste my time with a zero week after week.

Yet, management gets a bad rap, often viewed as less than aspirational. Who wants to be a manager? Why would you want to be a manager? Well, someone needs to do all the “routine” things. Someone needs to be concerned with efficiency. Someone needs to create reports so others know what is happening in regards to programs, staffing, satisfaction, and funding. Someone needs to review files for accuracy. Someone needs to evaluate programs for effectiveness. Someone needs to facilitate meetings to make sure groups are working in harmony. (I didn’t say they had to be deathly meetings.) Someone needs to calculate, check, and submit payroll. (Believe me, screw up payroll and you’ll be hearing about it as the manager.) On and on and on.

Maintenance is definitely not a sexy topic, either. No one ever talks about maintaining a healthy weight. It is an afterthought, if even reached. No one says, “Once you reach a healthy weight you are going to continue to exercise for five days a week and still think about everything you put in your mouth. You won’t lose any more weight, but you will continue to look and feel great because your body was designed for healthy nutrition and physical activity.” No!

Why is this true for management and maintenance? Because they both lack final gratification; they are continual processes. There is no limelight. There is no risk-taking adrenalin rush. Do the job once, it will be there again the next day, week, or month. Great managers make this mundane stuff look easy – like anyone can do it. But don’t be fooled. Management is a skill, a learned profession. I admit – I always looked up to proclaimed nurse leaders more than nurse managers. Until I became a manager myself, that is, and noticed my own managerial deficiencies.

I still love the leadership aspects of my position more than the management requirements, but I respect the management functions much more now. I hope the same is true in a few months when I hit my personal health maintenance phase. Continuing on…

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I Hope I Am the One & You Are the Two

by Nursetopia on January 19, 2011

While reading through The New Your Times Picture Your Life After Cancer site, I came upon Tyler’s picture and post. Tyler points out that, according to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in their respective lifetimes. Those are pretty high statistics for all of us, but it was Tyler’s closing sentence that struck me.

I hope I am the one and you are the two.

It’s not fair. The odds are stacked against us, it seems, in regards to carcinogenesis. It’s inevitable. No, no it’s not. The American Cancer Society also reports that nearly two-thirds of all cancers can be prevented – stopped entirely before they occur – via tobacco cessation and changes in nutrition and physical activity (to reach a healthy BMI). For perspective, approximately 1.5 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. alone this year. 1.5 million people will hear, “You have cancer,” for the first time. 1.5 million lives and families’ lives will be changed forever. Yet, if all two-thirds of those cancers could be prevented by doing what we know works, close to 990,000 people this year would likely never experience cancer related to lifestyle behaviors. In addition, numerous cancers have high survival rates if detected at early stages, and it seems like we are still pulling, pushing, and persuading people to complete routine cancer screenings.

While I don’t know the specifics of Tyler’s diagnosis, I doubt the cancer was related to lifestyle behaviors or even screenable per today’s various cancer screening guidelines. Still, Tyler’s picture and post remind me of my lifetime relative risk of cancer which then leads me to think about prevention and early detection. I want to do everything I can so that I am “one of the two,” and I want to do everything I can so that there are no more “ones” like Tyler.

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Rocked a Personal Goal

by Nursetopia on November 29, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010, marked a significant day for me. I attained a personal goal of mine. I completed my very first half-marathon.

It was an amazing experience, completing the 13.1 miles with some family members and watching my husband complete his first full marathon. The day was not without challenges. It was cold. (Thank goodness it didn’t rain!) My music didn’t work (technology! pfft!). And most of the “Rock and Roll” bands set up at each mile marker were taking brief breaks as I ran by them. There were a few bands and one turntable station, that got me pumped, though, which I greatly appreciated.

Yes, it was an amazing experience simply because I finished something I never thought possible, but it was wonderful in other ways. It was inspiring just to run with 27,000 other people. Of varied backgrounds. As I ran behind them, beside them, and past them (on occasion), I imagined their stories. Where did they come from? Is this their first race? Are they nurses? Why were they running? Was it for themselves or for someone else or an organization, perhaps? I awed at the number of causes right in front of me. It seemed every disease had a runner representing the fight – numerous cancers, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, autism, cerebral palsy – you name it, someone was running for it. I was brought to tears several times – reading memorial t-shirts of loved ones, contemplating “survivor” plastered across a runner’s back, seeing a marathoner push a jogging stroller made part vehicle and part medical cart with an adult, disabled woman inside throughout the race…in front of me. It was overwhelming at times, and since I wasn’t thinking about music, I thought a lot about health – and gave thanks many times for my own – while I ran. It was a great three hours and 17 minutes.

Not only did I set and break my own personal goal, a few of the race finishers helped set a world record, too.

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Food Insecure States

by Nursetopia on November 10, 2010

Have you ever worried about from where your next meal was coming? As a child, I remember a handful of those moments – seeing the concern in my parents’ faces. Now, as an adult knowing how much they earned, I’m amazed at how my parents provided everything they did for our family of six on their salaries.

With three children of my own now, my family has been in tight financial situations before but nowhere near the desperation of not knowing whether or not we were going to be able to eat for the rest of the day. That’s why I was shocked to hear that 25% of all children in Texas, the state in which I reside, do not know where their next meal will come from. It’s hard for me to imagine. It’s unacceptable.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity varies widely throughout the nation. If you’re interested in the U.S.’ food security compared to our northern neighbor, Canada, the USDA also has that info. Global food security reports indicate over 900 million people live with food insecurity.

 

Food insecurity within the U.S.

 

 

Food security is correlated with poverty as well as healthy nutrition. Therefore, it’s clear that the most food insecure states are also the states with the largest prevalence of obesity. And these aren’t the stereotypes you might be picturing. No. The people having difficulty putting food on the table are our neighbors and colleagues. The USDA reports almost half of the households with the greatest food insecurity included at least one employed adult. With our average salaries, some of those working adults may even be nurses.

Hunger is a nursing issue, too. As nurses, we learn Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs within the first week of nursing school. Food is at the base of the pyramid, right along with breathing.  How can you help? Assess patients for food security. Ask plainly – Do you have food at home? If not, contact your nurse case manager or social worker to help. One of the easiest ways to reduce food insecurity in your local community, though, is to connect with your local food bank. Nurses make a difference. Even with hunger.

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Update: From Obese to Overweight

by Nursetopia on November 9, 2010

I’ve had my struggles with weight loss. This time, though, I’m taking control.

I’m thrilled to report I’m down 40 pounds, which moves me from the BMI obese category and well into the overweight category. Normally, the label “overweight” would discourage me, but looking where I started from, it makes me smile. I now know my changes are not a fluke. I’ve made progress toward numerous lifestyle changes that not only benefit me but my entire family, as well.

I’ve been working toward my first half-marathon, which is this Sunday. A myriad of thoughts and emotions are swirling around in my head and heart right now. I know I’m ready for the race. I know I’m ready to continue my change.

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Food that Doesn’t Biodegrade Isn’t Really Food

by Nursetopia on October 12, 2010

This is gross.

A New York City photographer and artist has kept (and photographed) a McDonald’s Happy Meal since April 2010. It has remained relatively unchanged over the past six months, and she has the pics to prove it. Little did I know someone has also done a longer project, keeping a McDonald’s hamburger since 1996.

It’s a Happy Meal! A Happy Meal! We feed millions of these things to our children throughout the year. Well, I don’t…anymore. I admit I used to love McDonald’s. On occasion I find myself craving their Cinnamon-Melts and a large caramel iced coffee. Aaaaand then I remind myself that’s roughly 660 calories (of high energy-dense calories), which takes about a 6-mile run to burn. Uhm. No, thank you.

Back to the point, though. We are consumed with…er…we consume processed food like it’s gold. It’s cheap, fast, easy, and oh, yeah – it’s also killing us. Next time you think about scarfing a Happy Meal-esque food, just remember food that doesn’t decompose isn’t really food. Still need cheap, fast, and easy? Pick up a banana.

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