Since starting Nursing I feel I have been unintentionally gaining unwanted weight and with each academic year I promise myself this year will be different. And we all know how New Year resolutions turns out (sad, but true). I use to be great at meal prepping and avoiding junk food. After my night shifts and the ridiculous long hours I started to feel tired, stressed and would skip meals or ate whatever was easiest at the time (most of the time it was junk food *sigh*). I stopped cooking (which I love to do), I did not stick to my usual routine of eating (big breakfast, medium lunch and smaller dinner), instead I would skip all meals and eat one large meal when I got home at 9PM (yes, very unhealthy eating at that time) and that meal could sometimes be just toast (once i ate 8 pieces of toast within a 24 hour period *ashamed*). Then in the morning I would be so HANGRY (hungry & angry) because I want to eat but don’t have time to eat. At times I would come home from a long day, knowing I have a 04:30am start the next day I would make a decision: to eat, to shower, to sleep? and most of the time it was to sleep.
But this September I decided enough was enough and did something about it. These are my five tips to eating healthy/better and working a 12 hour shift (night shifts are the worst for eating properly- its so easy to eat nonsense, especially when staff bring in quick food to munch on).
#1 MAKE LUNCH: During first year I use to cook lovely delicious healthy meals and bring in nutritious snacks and occasionally a cheeky chocolate bar. I bought a new lunch box, wrote out a meal plan for the week and stuck to it. (most of my time is spent thinking about what to eat). Plus I get to use my half hour (if that) to actually sit and eat properly rather then going to a shop to get a sandwich (that I do not want) and eat quickly in ten minutes.
#2 ALWAYS MAKE LUNCH THE NIGHT BEFORE: you will never wake up early (earlier rather) to make your lunch. I have lied to my self more than I can count, I’d rather sleep then eat (as we have already established :-p). You are always to tired before work to cook anyway. I suppose for night shifts it is a little easier.
#3 DRINK WATER: I keep a 1 litre of water with me all the time. I am continuously drinking. This not only keeps you hydrated but also stops you from snacking on biscuits/chocolates. To be honest, water is my answer to everything! It reduces my headaches, my cravings and keeps me focused. Not to mention how great water is for your skin. It keeps you less stressed through the day as you are hydrated and makes you feel full (so you don’t get HANGRY).
#4 NEVER SKIP MEALS: As I have mentioned I have a huge tendency to do that. It is easy to skip meals when you are in a busy working environment. Make time to eat, you owe that to yourself. If you can not got for a lunch break, keep fruits, granola bars with you and munch on them as you write your nursing notes. If you skip meals, you go home hungry and feel you can eat your whole fridge.
#5 AVOID JUNK: Easier said than done, I know. But if you remove junk from your household and do not buy them when you are out then you will avoid the excess sugar and fat. I’ve started to buy lots of fresh fruit and veg, from continuously eating such food you can change your cravings and habits. I really believe that the more your eat healthy the more your body wants healthy food. Once I was addicted to carrots and hummus, I would keep a bag of carrot sticks and a pot of hummus with me all the time because I craved it.
Bottom line. You can eat healthy whilst being a nurse. Bring healthy snacks with you to munch throughout the day. Try to have your lunch halfway through your shift (I know that can be difficult). When patients give the staff chocolates to say thank you, be careful with your hand because it will have a mind of its own and you will end up eating one to many! I truly believe that a healthy nurse is an efficient nurse, it will allow you to be always on your ‘A game’ and you will feel great!
Please share any tips you have to eating better on a 12 hour shift.